Concrete Staining: Do it Yourself

If you are thinking about upgrading the look of your patio or driveway by using concrete staining, do it yourself can be the way to ensure that the job is done well and inexpensively. As you will be the one doing the labor, you can be sure that it will be done the way you want it to be. Plus you won’t have to pay someone else to do it for you.

Staining concrete is a relatively simple project that is well within the skill-set of most home improvement enthusiasts and even those who are somewhat new to improving their own homes. It is however a project where any mistakes will likely stand out, or need to be covered with a rug, and so it’s imperative that you understand what’s required in the process as well as to test out your plans on an out-of-the-way area or a disposable piece of concrete before trying it out on your patio, living room, or driveway ideas for real.

Outdoor Staining Concerns

Given how an acid stain will “melt” the top layer of concrete to bond to it better, it may be surprising to know that acid stains are still susceptible to one of the more constant outdoor elements … the sun. The ultraviolet rays that make up part of the sun’s light spectrum are known to degrade many different types of dyes, and the dyes in acid stain are no different.

Because of this, stained concrete needs to have a UV treated seal coat applied to maintain it’s looks over the years. This isn’t solely a concern to outdoor concrete stain either, as even indoors UV light can degrade the stain over time. This happens most commonly under skylights and near windows where direct sunlight can enter into the home. In some ways this is a more damaging problem, as it will result in rather spotty degradation of the coloring due to most of the area being protected from direct sunlight.

Water Based Concrete Stain

The type of stain you choose can have a big impact on the durability and longevity of your staining project. While concrete, when protected well, will last just about forever, the stain applied to it may not last very long at all. This is especially true if the stained surface isn’t sealed, or isn’t sealed with an ultraviolet resistant seal. The UV light from the sun can degrade the dyes in the stains, fading the colors over time.

Water based concrete stain is often incorporated into a sealant. This is because the stain resides in a top coat, and to protect that top coat from degradation it needs to be protected from ultraviolet light. Also, to keep it from flaking off, it needs to be water impermeable. This leads to the logical conclusion that a water based concrete stain should also be the sealant that protects the concrete and the dyes.

Other Types of Concrete Coloring Agents

Adding color with the sealant isn’t the only way you can do it. Planning ahead can allow you to color your concrete in a much more durable way, by adding concrete dyes to the mix you are working with. This way the dye is throughout the concrete and so won’t chip or peal off like surface treatments can.

For already existing concrete, a more durable solution than water based stains would be to use acid stain on your concrete. With acid stain the acid in the solution will eat away at the top layer of concrete, allowing the stain to actually become a part of the concrete much like the dye does. However, the stain won’t permeate very far into the concrete, and so can still chip or flake off if the concrete is damaged. Since it is only a thin layer of the surface that gets stained, this would lead to unstained concrete being exposed as the top layers are broken off.

Protecting the New Look

These dyes and stains are still vulnerable to the damage from UV rays. This means that the concrete needs to be protected against the sun. Since the concrete also needs to be protected from the damaging effects of the water, a sealant that has UV protection is once again a good choice to protect your investment.

While you might think that you can get away without sealing concrete indoors, consider what happens when spills or leaks happen. Concrete is a porous material, and so particles in the fluids can be deposited in those pores, causing staining. While freezing isn’t much of a concern indoors, the stains can be much more damaging. Not to mention that the general wear of water seeping through your concrete can degrade it over time.

Also, even though you are indoors, that doesn’t mean that there is total protection against UV light. Sunlight coming in through windows or open doors, or even skylights, can still degrade the pigments in the stains you apply. Worse yet, this fading effect will only affect certain portions of the concrete. This means that portions of the concrete will fade and cause unsightly patterns to form.

You can have UV treated windows that will help to reduce this type of damage, but it won’t help if the windows or doors are left open. Also it doesn’t do anything for the water permeability of the concrete. So to be safe, it’s best if you seal your concrete even indoors.

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