Acid stained floors are dramatic, unique, interesting, long-lasting, so easy to maintain … and available to homeowners now, too!  Concrete stains have been around a long time but it has only been recently that they have been incorporated into the designs and styles of today’s homes.  There are many interior and exterior applications – driveways, basement floors, patios, laundry and bathrooms, garage floors, sidewalks and front porches.


Generally, there are two categories of concrete stains:

  • Reactive chemical stains (water based acidic mixture) contain metallic salts that react with the lime content in the concrete.  When the stain is applied, it forms a permanent bond with the concrete and won’t peel or chip since it is integrated into the concrete by the process.  The result is dramatic, variegated, and translucent color tones.
  • Nonreactive water-based acrylic stains don’t rely on a chemical reaction for the color.  Nonreactive stains penetrate the concrete surface and the color pigment is deposited into the open pores of the concrete.  The result is a more opaque and uniform surface finish.


The category of stain you choose depends on the following:

  • Condition of your concrete – If your concrete is new, it’s a great candidate for reactive chemical stains since the surface hasn’t been contaminated with dirt and debris.  If your slab is older, has had a lot of traffic and possible surface damage (paint or oil spills, glue remains from prior flooring materials, etc.) you’ll want to select nonreactive stains that are opaque and more uniform, thus hiding those imperfections.
  • Colors – Reactive stain colors are limited to earth tones – reds, browns, tans.  Nonreactive stains have a lot more colors from which to choose.
  • Impurities or contaminants in or on the surface – Old carpet glue, holes from carpet tack strips, stains, etc. will define the end result.  Grinding the existing surface can help to mitigate some of the effects, however, whey won’t entirely disappear and will add to the interest of the finished product.  So, if you like a lot of interest and character in your floor, reactive stains will certainly accomplish that.  If you prefer a more consistent and subtle finish, you will want to select a nonreactive stain.
  • Toxicity – If you have the slightest issue with having a nasty chemical in or around your home, the choice here is simple – nonreactive water-based acrylic stains.


There are other factors, over which you have no control, that will affect the outcome of the look of your stained concrete floor – the amount and properties of the cement used in your concrete, the type of aggregate used, the age of your concrete, moisture content, etc.   Should this prevent you from staining your concrete floors?  Absolutely not!  A significant part of the charm of stained concrete floors is the fluctuations in the finished product, the imperfections from one piece to the next, and the artistic end result caused by how your particular piece of concrete uniquely absorbs and processes the color of the stain.  Stained concrete floors are functional, full of character, and beautiful!


Concrete stains revitalize boring and lackluster concrete.  With minimal upkeep, stained concrete floors will last for years and years and years.  And since it is concrete, the surface cannot be torn or gouged … and because it’s properly sealed, it can’t be damaged by water or mold.  After years of normal wear and tear, the surface can be brought back to life with some stain touch-up and a fresh coat of sealer.