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Sick of Your Boring Concrete Slab? Here’s How to Give it a Facelift

Sick of Your Boring Concrete Slab? Here’s How to Give it a Facelift

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If you want to give your outdoors a quick and simple makeover without spending top dollar in the process, your concrete patio is a good place to start! So, can you stain a concrete patio to give it a richer color just like wood?

Staining patios is a relatively easy process and doesn’t cost much money. While it doesn’t hide cracks and imperfections (it actually makes them show more), it turns a lackluster concrete slab into a more vibrant surface!

If you want to learn more about the process and how to do it, keep reading this guide as we walk you through all the steps and necessary tools. Let’s dive in!

How Hard Is It to Stain a Concrete Patio?

Staining a concrete patio is a fairly simple project that doesn’t require any special tools or advanced skills.

While it’s not a particularly fast process, it won’t take a considerable amount of time to get it done as long as you’re working with an average-sized concrete patio.

With that being said, staining concrete is not suitable for all patios out there. For instance, if your patio has some large or obvious cracks, they’ll actually stand out after staining the concrete.

This also applies to discoloration and blemishes in the concrete. Since staining only increases the contrast of the concrete surface, these flaws can show right through the stain.

How Does Staining Concrete Patios Work?

Concrete stain is simply a product that you apply to clean and fully-cured concrete surfaces to give them a lustrous and vibrant shade.

Unlike wood stains, which are mostly oil-based, concrete stains are mainly water-based. This allows the stain to seep through the porous surface of the concrete to create its colorful effect.

These stains use acrylics as the main ingredient, which allows them to come in a wide variety of color options.

On the other hand, there are also acid stains. These work by having an acidic base that reacts with the minerals on the concrete surface through etching, creating the exterior permanent coat.

While they’re very easy to use, they’re quite limited when it comes to color options, including a few shades of tan and brown.

When to Stain a Concrete Patio

As previously established, staining is ideal if you have a dull and worn patio that has already lost its “fresh” finish. Since it’s mostly aesthetic, it’s not always ideal for an already damaged concrete patio.

However, you can always go for a darker finish to hide minor imperfections as much as possible.

If you have a new concrete patio and you want to stain it, you shouldn’t do it right away. Instead, you should allow the concrete to fully cure before going ahead with the process.

This usually takes anywhere between 3 to 5 weeks, depending on the weather where you live.

How to Stain a Concrete Patio

Now that you know more about the process and how it works, here’s a brief guide that shows you how to do it yourself in a simple step-by-step format.

Tools and Materials Needed for the Process

Before starting your project, you have to make sure that you have all the necessary materials and tools for the process. This also helps you save a lot of time and avoid unnecessary back and forth during the project.

Remember, concrete stains are permanent, so you have to start by choosing a suitable color and type of stain. Here’s a quick look at the items necessary for the job:

  • Concrete stain of your choice.
  • Stiff-bristle broom and a mob to clean the surface (or a pressure washer if you have one)
  • Powerful concrete cleaner (with degreaser)
  • A piece of cloth to clean smudges
  • Paintbrush for hard-to-reach areas
  • Masking tape
  • Paint sprayer
  • Paint roller and roller sleeves
  • Shoe covers

Step 1: Clear the Surface and Inspect It Carefully

Always start your project by uncovering the concrete surface and removing all items in the way. Remember to wear clean shoes or put on shoe covers to protect both the shoe and the surface.

You should also sweep the whole surface with a broom and a mob or a pressure washer. This helps in removing all the dust, dirt, and debris that could accumulate in cracks and hide them.

If the surface is clean and has no obvious blemishes or cracks after a close check, you can go ahead with the prepping process. But if it has some imperfections, here’s what you can do:

For Cracks

Apply a concrete crack sealant using a caulking gun and skim it so that it’s even with the surface (check the product’s instructions for proper use), then allow it to cure for 12 to 24 hours.

For Stubborn Stains

You can scrub down with some degreasing concrete cleaner and a hard-bristle brush for the process. The degreaser is also great for removing any oil or grease residue on the concrete floor.

avoid abrasive brushes with metal bristles so you don’t scratch the surface. You can also use a pressure washer for a quick and easy process.

For Paint and Glue Residue

Depending on the thickness of the layer and how stubborn it is, you can remove it with simple paint/glue strippers alone or with the help of a buffing machine.

Avoid using any strong acids while cleaning concrete patios because they can react with the minerals necessary for acid etching, making it difficult to stain and reduces the final finish quality.

For Concrete Wax and Sealant

Ideally, you should pick a floor sealant remover with xylene as the main ingredient (also goes by Xylor or Toluene), as it can remove both wax and sealants.

If you only have a layer of wax applied on the floor, you can use a floor wax stripper to remove it.

After applying a coat of the wax remover, let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then scrub it with a brush, and apply an extra coat if necessary.

Step 2: Prepare the Concrete for Staining

Now that you’ve cleared the concrete patio for staining, you should start preparing the concrete surface for the process.

Cover all nearby walls with masking tape to avoid splashes and prevent the stain from seeping into them.

If your concrete is too dense to react with the stain, you might need professional mechanical processing of the surface.

Start by preparing the stain and adding to an airless sprayer. You can also test the stain on a small conspicuous area to make sure that it’s the right choice for you.

Step 3: Apply the Stain Coat to the Whole Surface

Once everything is ready for staining, dampen the surface concrete with little water (you can use an airless spray painter for that too), then apply a base coat over it. Keep this overlapping process while working in sections.

Allow the initial stain to cure, which takes around 6 to 8 hours. You can repeat the process again if you want a darker shade.

If you’re skilled enough, you can also use a saw cutter to cut kerfs and create an elegant faux tile effect.

Step 5: Finish with a Sealant (Optional)

Lastly, when the final coat of stain cures, you should finish by applying a sealant coat.

This one is optional but highly recommended because it keeps the concrete stain more vibrant for longer by protecting it from the elements.

How Much Does It Cost to Stain a Concrete Patio?

The final cost depends on the type of stain you use and the size of the patio.

If you’re doing it yourself, you should pay around $2 to $5 per sq ft of concrete stained. This covers the stain and other necessary materials.

Most stains usually cover 200 to 450 sq ft of concrete per gallon (water-based stains have slightly better coverage of around 250 to 500 sq ft).

While you can dilute the stain to get more coverage, it’ll reduce the intensity of the final color.

Is It Better to Paint or Stain a Concrete Patio?

Unlike indoor concrete, patios are subjected to a lot of harsh elements that will quickly strip away the paint and make it fade, such as UV light, rain, wear and tear in addition to dust and debris.

For that reason, staining the concrete is usually the way to go because it provides a more permanent and a longer-lasting solution.

Final Thoughts

This concludes today’s guide about staining concrete patios and how to properly do it.

As you can see, staining a concrete patio is a fairly easy process once you prepare the surface. Remember to take your time with every step for a cleaner and more vibrant finish!


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