Concrete is usually seen as a muted grey tone that doesn't hold much appeal. It appears cold and hard, which is why many people decide to use a concrete stain in order to give their concrete a different appearance. There are acid and non-acid stains. An important point to keep in mind, though, is that acid stains are slightly more time-consuming. On the other hand, non-acid stains can be accomplished easily on your own and can be done for a cheaper price.
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How Concrete Stain Works
Concrete stain works on all concrete surfaces regardless of what state they are in. The elements within the cement, such as limestone or clay, are factors in how dark the color will become or how rich the color will look. The pigmentation comes from metallic salts that react with calcium hydroxide. When it comes into contact with the concrete, it becomes a permanent addition to the concrete.
There is not a wide range of colors available for concrete stains, and the most popular are more neutral colors such as black, brown and blue-green. It is not advised to stain outdoor concrete with vibrant colors, such as the blue-green, because of the natural elements the stain will encounter over the years. The constant contact with the sun, rain and other elements will make the dye fade. Eventually, the color fade as well, turning it brown or black as time goes by.
Making a homemade acid-based stain is not recommended. It is usually best to leave it to a professional. However, if you buy the stain already made, then the project is much easier to tackle. Before applying the stain, it is important to properly clean the surface to allow the stain to penetrate the concrete as much as possible.
When an acid-based stain is applied to concrete, it begins the staining process with the acid opening the surface of the concrete. The stain then seeps into the concrete and will bind into the material by finding lime deposits within the concrete. The reaction will continue for about one month, so it is possible to see the color of the stain deepen over the first few weeks after the initial application.
It is important to know that acid-based stains are not reliable if you are looking to have a completely uniform look. Since different composites make up the construct of the cement, the stain will react differently to certain parts of the concrete. After the stain has been successfully applied, the surface must be thoroughly washed to remove any acid residue that may be residing on the surface.
Stains for concrete that are water-based are much easier to deal with and come in more colors than the acid-based variety. What makes water-based concrete stains more appealing is that they have a more uniform finish because the stain is nonreactive to the compounds found within the concrete.
Instead of reacting with the concrete, the stain will simply reside in the natural pores found within the concrete. Another advantage is that you don't need to neutralize the surface by washing it after completing the project. If you are looking to avoid going to the hardware store to buy water-based stain, then a good replacement option is using watered down acrylic paint. This option is best used if you are only looking to paint a small surface or looking to do a touch-up job and do not have enough stain left.