Sealing Acid Stained Concrete

You’re listening to Direct Colors podcast Episode 34:  Q&A  Customers Ask Top Acid Staining Questions If this is your first time listening, then thanks for listening.  I’m Shawna Turner, General Manager with Direct Colors.

ST:  We talk to thousands of customers every year about their projects. Because acid stain is one of our most popular products, we receive the most acid staining questions about the process from start to finish and application techniques. Here are a few of the questions we thought would be helpful to DIYer’s interested in acid staining their floors or countertops.  Let’s get started!

Customer Question:  Do you get a different result when you apply acid stain to white versus gray concrete or overlay?

Acid Staining Questions

Azure Blue and Coffee Brown Acid Stains on a White Concrete Countertop

ST: Yes, you do get a different result but the difference might not be what you expect. Applying acid stain to white concrete tends to create a more “true” color than would be the case on gray concrete.  For example, Azure Blue and Sea Grass are more robins’ egg blue to sea foam green on white concrete while the Malayan Buff and Desert Amber can appear richer in color and more orange. English Red and Cola are considerably more red-orange on white concrete which might not be part of your plan. Our acid stain color chart is based on stain applied to gray concrete so take that into account when selecting a stain color. If you’re pouring white concrete, I recommend testing the acid stains before moving on to the actual project to make sure you get the result you’re looking for. We’ve tried whenever possible to identify which overlay –white or gray – has been used for a project but testing is always the best bet.

Follow-up Question:  Does the acid stain perform differently on poured concrete as opposed to concrete overlay?

ST: Unlike a concrete slab, DCI Overlay has been specially formulated to produce the richest acid stain color possible.  More often than not, slabs poured in the last 5-10 years contain a cement substitute called fly ash. Ready mix concrete companies as well as concrete mix manufacturers use the additive to reduce costs. It doesn’t affect the overall strength of the concrete but if it’s more than 10% of the cement volume, it can affect how the concrete ultimately acid stains. DCI Concrete Overlay contains no fly ash so our customers can significantly cut the stain with water and still expect great results. The stains can also be left on the surface for a shorter period of time with the same rich color outcomes. I think the overlay gives our customers the opportunity to be more creative and really push the envelope with their project.

Customer Question: I’ve noticed that an acid stained floor looks really different when it’s wet versus dry. How do I know what the concrete will look like when it’s sealed?

Acid Stain Sealed Unsealed

Acid Stain Driveway Unsealed and Sealed

ST:  That’s a common question but an important one. Our how to apply acid stain guide is provided with every purchase and outlines all the steps for applying acid stain, neutralizing and cleaning concrete. Once you’ve completed all the recommended steps, evaluate your concrete color while it’s wet AND clean. Residue from the acid staining process can often be misleading as to the final color and dry acid stained concrete can be dull and unattractive unlike the finished appearance.  Wet concrete will approximate the gloss level of a solvent based sealer so it might be slightly less glossy if you’re using a water based sealer, particularly if it is a satin or matte finish sealer. Sealing makes all the difference in the world to the color and overall appearance of the concrete. Like night and day in some cases.

Customer Question:  What can I do to avoid tile ghosting on concrete floors after removing laminate, vinyl or ceramic tiles?

ST:  This is a tricky question. Tile ghosting occurs on older concrete slabs where the tile has been down for many years. As people walk on the floor, an impression is made over time in the concrete itself that is difficult to remove even with sanding. Because acid stain is chemically reactive, it can pool and stain darker along the edges of the tile as if it were still present. I’ve seen floors where that looks great and is exactly what the homeowner was after but if that’s not the case, here are a few options to consider.  You’ll need to remove all the tile and tile glue. Scrape everything off you can before either grinding the floor or using chemical stripper. If you run into black tile mastic, stop right there and read over our Bean-e-doo Mastic Remover product page. You definitely do NOT what to use a machine to remove black mastic.

You can at this point do a small test area to determine if the acid stain is taking a you’d like it to or if not, you still have options. First, you can use a tinted concrete sealer or tinted sealer/concrete dye combo. Acid stain isn’t the only option.  Many of our customers use these products in basements, commercial floors or anywhere in the house because it looks great, is much faster to complete and affordable.  If the acid stain look is really what you prefer and the pre-application test wasn’t what you hoped for, I’d recommend a concrete overlay. In most cases if the floor as been ground down in advance, 1 or 2 coats of concrete overlay will address tile ghosting problems. Using concrete overlay will provide a fresh surface to acid stain eliminating problems with exposed aggregate or sand revealed in the grinding process or other issues stemming from a poor quality slab. Acid staining will be breeze from that point!

Reagan:  Thanks, Shawna. That’s sound advice and we hope your recommendations will help homeowners decide how to best proceed with their next DIY remodeling project. If you have acid staining questions, call one of our expert technicians at 877-255-2656 and we’ll help you select the best products and technique for your needs.  If you prefer email, visit https://www.directcolors.com/resources/design-consultation/ and send in a free design consultation. We’ll get back to you within 24-48 hours.

Direct Colors DIY Home Improvement podcasts are produced twice monthly for your enjoyment and show notes can be found at directcolors.com/listen.  Feel free to add the podcast to your favorite RSS feed.  You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ , YouTube and Instagram. I’m Reagan Smith and thanks again for joining us!


The LISTEN.DIRECTCOLORS.NET podcast is produced every week for your enjoyment and show notes are found at LISTEN.DIRECTCOLORS.NET. Come back often and feel free to add the podcast to your favorite RSS feed or iTunes. You can also follow us on Twitter (@DirectColors) and Facebook. Thanks for joining us!

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2 comments on “Episode 34: Q&A Customers Ask Top Acid Staining Questions

  1. Martin Feb 15, 2018

    Is solevent based sealer better than water based sealer?

    • Shawna Feb 19, 2018

      Thanks for your comment. Solvent based sealer is best for exterior use but water based is preferred for interior applications because they are typically low odor, low VOC. For countertop applications, I prefer the 500 Polyurethane for outdoor countertops. Please let us know if you have any further questions.

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