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.

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Tommy C: You’re listening to LISTEN.DIRECTCOLORS.COM podcast episode number 27, How-to Successfully Acid Stain Side by Side Concrete Slabs Poured at Different Times. If this is your first time listening, then thanks for listening.  I’m Tommy Carter, Sales Manager and Technician with Direct Colors. It may sound odd that concrete poured at different times would not acid stain the same but if you’ve added on to your patio, interior floors or driveway, this podcast is worth the time spent listening! Here to tell you more about why and how to get the best results from your next DIY project is Shawna Turner, General Manager with Direct Colors. Welcome to the podcast, Shawna.

Shawna T:  Thank you.

TC:  Let’s get started. So why does it matter if side by side concrete slabs are poured at different times if you’re planning to acid stain?

ST: Acid Stain is a chemically-reactive stain not just a topical colorant. The stain relies on the minerals available in the concrete surface to react properly and develop the variable, rich color acid stain is known for. Concrete is not mixed exactly the same way every time and the mineral content can vary substantially from one batch to another.  Concrete finishing, especially if a machine trowel is involved, can alter acid staining results dramatically from one floor section to another as well. Keep in mind that exposure to the elements can impact color development on older outdoor concrete slabs. In addition, concrete patches will also stain differently from the surrounding concrete and should be given special consideration before beginning a project. More to this subject than you thought, I suspect.

TC:  For sure!  What recommendations would you make for indoor floors poured separately or patched due to plumbing problems or for carpet tack holes for example?

ST: For indoor floors, making sure the profile is the same across the slab is important. Whether you choose to mechanically profile the floor using a sander or chemically profile with our Hard Troweled Floor Prep, do the same thing everywhere. I recommend reading over page one of our How to Acid Stain Concrete Guide to determine what process will yield the best results for your concrete before beginning. As for concrete patches, they can be tricky particularly if they are in a conspicuous area of the floor. Patches should be sanded flush with the floor before staining. For best results, I would stain and neutralize the rest of the floor first leaving the patch to be stained afterwards so it can be more easily color matched by carefully controlling the stain’s activation time.  Once the patch achieves the same color as the floor, neutralize the stain and move on to the cleaning step. Spray both the patch and the floor with water from a handheld spray bottle to determine when the matching color has been achieved prior to neutralizing.  Keep in mind that we offer topical stains, such as DCI Concrete Dye and Liquid Colored Antique Concrete Stain, to touch up or further accent any difficult areas so don’t worry, there’s more than one path to a beautiful floor.

TC:  That’s good news. What about outdoor concrete?

Many homes have patio and driveway slabs poured at different times. If you want the concrete to be as close to the same color as possible, I suggest applying the stain to the older slab first and leaving it to process for up to 10 hours for maximum color development. The longer concrete is exposed to the elements, the more surface mineral erosion occurs. For this reason, older concrete needs more processing time to achieve optimal color results than a newer slab. After the processing time is complete, neutralize the concrete and rinse so you can get a good look at the color. At this point, apply the stain to the newer slab and leave to process for 2-3 hours.  Using a spray bottle of water, dampen a small area of the old and new concrete and compare.  If it looks like a good match when wet, great. Neutralize and clean the entire slab in preparation for sealing. If not, let the new concrete process for another hour and repeat the test until a color match is achieved. Remember to look at the concrete only when it’s wet not dry. Dry, acid stained concrete does very little to reveal the final color as it will appear when sealed.

TC:  What happens if a color match can’t be achieved with the acid stain? What else can be done?

ST:  As I mentioned before, we have several topical stain options for indoor and outdoor use. I most frequently recommend our Liquid Colored Antique Concrete Stain for patios, driveways and other outdoor concrete. It can be used as a stand-alone concrete stain and often is or as an accent for acid stained concrete. If a satisfactory color match isn’t achievable, Liquid Colored Antique can be applied to blend the colors and create a more uniform final result. Customers often use this to color match on existing stained outdoor slabs where repairs have been made. It’s really an excellent, easy to use product that can renew color, fix problem areas and save customers a great deal of money by avoiding unnecessary tear-outs and refinishing.

TC:  That’s great to hear. Everyone likes to save time and money on home improvement and want to successfully acid stain concrete slabs. Thanks, Shawna, for the helpful tips on how to get the best results when acid staining interior floors and outdoor concrete. I’m sure this will useful information for many of our customers.

LISTEN.DIRECTCOLORS.COM DIY Home Improvement podcasts are produced twice monthly for your enjoyment and show notes can be found at LISTEN.DIRECTCOLORS.COM. Feel free to add the podcast to your favorite RSS feed.  You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram. I’m Tommy Carter and thanks again for joining us!

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

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, 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 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!