Prepping concrete for acid staining before getting started is critical to success but how this is done can make or break a project. Here to discuss how to and how not to prepare concrete for acid staining is Shawna Turner, General Manager for Direct Colors.

Amie Nolen:  It seems like surface preparation is the most important step of the process. Can this be a big problem for customers if they don’t do it right?

Shawna Turner:  Absolutely.  Not all concrete can be acid stained but most can if the concrete is properly profiled using the correct product or method before staining. Determining which method or product is best can be the biggest challenge.

AN: Could you explain what it means to profile the concrete?

ST:  Sure. Profiling the concrete simply means to change the surface texture to allow for better acid stain penetration. Profiling can be accomplished by either a chemical or mechanical means. Chemical profiling using an acid stain approved etcher such as our DCI Hard Trowel Floor Prep will open the pores without interfering with the later acid staining process. Mechanical profiling would involve a concrete sander or grinder which might be used on extremely smooth or heavily contaminated floors. For example, floors with glue, paint and drywall mud over most of the concrete should probably be mechanically profiled using a grinder because the cost of a chemical strip would be greater than the cost of renting the machine.

AN:  What products should not be used to profile concrete?

ST:  That’s a pretty easy question to answer. If the etcher is intended for use with anything other than acid stain, don’t use it. That would include water based stains, sealers, epoxy coats, paint and anything else not specifically called acid stain. Acid based cleaners and etchers used in conjunction with other coatings actually dissolve the minerals in the surface of the concrete necessary to support the reaction between an acid stain and the concrete. Without those minerals, the acid stain will sit on the surface and be washed away later in the cleaning process. So if you have previously cleaned your concrete using a muriatic acid and water solution, the slab will either not stain at all or stain very unpredictably depending on how the solution was originally applied and how strong it was. I really can’t emphasize enough that you’ve bought a concrete etching product from a local big box store, don’t use it if you want to acid stain later. Really that’s the bottom line.

AN:  Ok. That is straight to the point. How would a customer know aside from obvious surface contaminants that their concrete needs profiling in the first place?

ST:   Most indoor concrete and some outdoor poured in the last 10-15 years was likely finished using a machine trowel. We discuss this in some detail on the first page of our How to Guide for Applying Acid Stain. A simple water test will often reveal whether water will readily absorb into the concrete or bead on top. If beading does occur, the surface needs to etched using our DCI Hard Trowel Floor Prep before acid staining. Basement and garage floors are generally the smoothest floors in the house and will more likely than not require etching prior to staining.

AN:  So what happens next for customers that have used an acid based etching or cleaning product on their concrete?

ST: I would recommend either Tinted Concrete Sealer or a Tinted Concrete Sealer and DCI Concrete Dye combination to create more color variation and movement on the floor similar to an acid stain finish. If you’re working with outdoor concrete, I suggest our Liquid Colored Antique and Sprayable Satin Finish Sealer. We have a wide color selection and it is extremely easy to apply. I’ve used this product at home on my walkways and patio and have been very happy with it.

If you are in some doubt as to whether your concrete will stain or not, try an acid stain sample bottle and make sure. It’s always a good idea to test the quality of your concrete regardless and it never hurts to try. You’ll find acid stain samples and samples of all our products on our website at http://www.directcolors.com/samples-and-kits/.

AN: Thank you, Shawna, for setting us straight on prepping concrete for acid staining. No doubt this will help a number of homeowners avoid a costly DIY mistake. For more information on acid staining floors and outdoor concrete, visit the blog and featured projects pages of our website, www.directcolors.com.

Listen.directcolors.net includes podcasts on many decorative concrete topics so visit our podcast library and check back frequently to see what’s new in the world of DIY decorative concrete! Thank you for listening.

More and more people are interested in pouring acid stain ready concrete.  Here with tips and recommendations to make that process easier and more successful is Shawna Turner, General Manager, with Direct Colors. Welcome, Shawna.

Shawna Turner:  Thank you.

Amie Nolen:  What’s the first thing a customer needs to do to get started?

ST:  The first thing to do is have a conversation with your general contractor (GC). Make sure he or she understands your plan to acid stain and what that means for the overall construction process.  Preparing to acid stain begins before the concrete is poured so it should be discussed with the general contractor in the planning stage.

AN: You mentioned preparing to acid stain before pouring the concrete. What does that mean?

ST:  Well, not all concrete is created equal.  Depending on where you live, concrete can contain additives and/or fly ash that negatively impact the acid staining process so it’s imperative that you know what’s going in your concrete BEFORE it’s poured.  How do you do that?  Either the homeowner or their contractor needs to call the ready mix company pouring the concrete to ask for the mix design details. The concrete should not include retarders, accelerators or more than 10% fly ash if it is to be successfully acid stained later. None of these additives are essential but are often used when temperatures are very hot or cold and to cut costs in the case of the fly ash. I’d also avoid using a topical curing compound unless it is self-dissipating and will evaporate within two weeks of application.

AN: That’s very helpful information. What about finishing the concrete?  I know that’s also an important part of the process.

ST:  You’re right. Finishing the concrete properly will yield better final staining results. The best option for indoor floors or patios is either a hand-troweled or light machine trowelled finish.  Stamping or texturing concrete is fine too if you’re working outside.  The objective is to avoid making the concrete so smooth that acid stain can’t readily absorb into the pores. If the stain can’t absorb, the chemical reaction will not occur and the stain will simply wash off during the cleaning process. No one wants that to happen. Overly smooth concrete can be corrected using our Hard Trowel Floor Prep product after the fact if needed.

AN: When should a customer plan to acid stain the concrete?

ST:  We usually don’t recommend acid staining until the concrete is fully cured or achieves a uniform light gray color. That could occur anytime after 20-28 days depending on weather conditions.  The concrete will need to be protected throughout the construction process. Overlapping cardboard works best to cushion blows and absorb spills should they occur. Spills and other contaminants on unprotected concrete only make the home or business owners job that much harder when it’s time to stain. Again, remind your GC to talk to every contractor about not marking the floor or making a mess. Covering the floor can make a big difference but nothing’s better or more effective than a conscientious contractor.

AN:  In the case of interior floors, at what point in the construction process would you acid stain?

ST:  The best time to uncover, clean, acid stain and seal the floors is after the dry wall has been hung but has not yet been mudded in. Dry wall mud is notoriously difficult to get off of concrete. Staining and sealing before that step is the better option for sure.  Once the floors have been stained, neutralized and cleaned, apply one coat of sealer. I prefer the Sprayable Satin Finish Concrete Sealer because it’s so easy to apply and dries quickly. Six hours after application cover again with overlapping cardboard and continue with construction.

AN: At what point should the finishing coats of sealer and wax be applied?

ST:  Just before the baseboards are installed, remove the cardboard, clean thoroughly and apply another coat of sealer. The second coat of sealer will repair most minor scratches on the surface and add additional luster. 24-48 hours later apply three coats of concrete wax and allow to dry for 24 hours before moving in furniture. A polyurethane sealer could also be applied after the second coat of sealer if desired. Wax would no longer be necessary in that case. I highly recommend our how to guide on care and maintenance of acid stained floors. Please give that a read before moving in to avoid unnecessary damage to the floors.

Thanks for this essential staining advice for new construction floors. For more information on acid staining, visit our blog or how to guides and videos page at www.directcolors.com. If you’d like a free design consultation tailored to your project, send us pictures and a description by email or call us at 877-255-2656. We’re ready to help!

Applying acid stain and concrete sealer in the summer months can be challenging especially if you live in a hot temperature climate. Here are a few tips from our own General Manager, Shawna Turner, for outdoor concrete and countertop projects that will help DIYer’s get it right the first time.

Amie Nolen: Welcome to the podcast, Shawna.

Shawna Turner:  Thank you.

AN:  What are some of the challenges homeowners face when acid staining and sealing outdoor concrete in the summertime?

ST: Concrete temperature and wind conditions often determine success or failure for an acid stain project. Hot, dry conditions can cause acid stain to prematurely dry before properly reacting with the concrete. But how hot is too hot? Concrete shouldn’t be more than 75-80F for best staining results. Dry, windy conditions can wick the moisture from the concrete leaving a “blotchy” appearance behind particularly when using both light and dark colors.

AN:  What can be with our outdoor concrete besides wait until Fall?

ST:  Well, it’s not quite as bad as all that. The most important step for homeowners applying acid stain either late in the evening or early in the morning when concrete temperatures are at their lowest. As the day heats up, so does the concrete and air begins to pass through the surface. When temperatures are cooling, the concrete contracts and is therefore a better candidate for staining or sealing. Keep in mind that direct sunlight and ambient temperature are not the same. Lay a thermometer on the concrete surface and cover with a towel. If after 4-5 minutes the temperature is greater than 80°F, do not stain.

Another valuable tip is to lightly dampen not flood the concrete before applying acid stain to add moisture and prevent premature drying. Premature drying can retard color development and isn’t helpful if you’re working with multiple colors outdoors.

AN:  What about sealing specifically? I know hot temperatures can really cause problems. What should customers be looking out for?

ST: Without question, DO NOT attempt to seal in the heat of the day. Colored concrete in direct sunlight, especially dark browns and black, could be several times hotter than the ambient temperature and just a few minutes of sunlight will raise the surface temperature very quickly. If the concrete is too hot, small air bubbles will often appear either during the application or just after. The air bubbles are formed by air rising through the concrete and becoming trapped in the sealer. The bubbles will eventually collapse leaving unattractive concave spots behind. Not very attractive, especially on outdoor kitchen countertops.

Finding the right time of day to apply concrete sealer during the summer months can be a challenge. Sealers, like acid stain, should be applied when the concrete is at its lowest temperature either early in the morning or late in the evening. East facing concrete should be sealed later in the day and west facing early in the morning.

AN:  What time of year do you normally do “maintenance” on your decorative concrete?

ST: Never if I can get away with it! No, I’m kidding. I usually do my resealing in the late spring when you can get a couple of rain free days and if that fails, before winter sets in. Because I live in Oklahoma where the summers are very hot, I seldom attempt to seal my exterior concrete during the summer months. It can be done but most of the time I don’t want to get up that early.

AN: Thanks for the summertime acid staining and sealing advice. For more information on outdoor concrete projects, visit our blog at www.directcolors.com. If you’d like a free design consultation tailored to your project, send us pictures and a description by email or call us at 877-255-2656. We’re ready to help!

After investing a great deal of time and effort into your countertop project, you want the last step to go smoothly. You may not realize that there are differences between successfully sealing indoor countertops and sealing outdoor countertops but there are and here to tell us all about it is Shawna Turner, General Manager for Direct Colors. Continue reading

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