Concrete acid staining

This article describes how we stained our concrete floors using acid stain.

When we moved into our house in 2001 there was carpet in every room except the bathroom and the kitchen.  We wanted something different, but couldn’t afford much. We found left over carpet from a commercial job and got the carpet for a real deal. We paid to have the carpet installed in the three bedrooms and then had a piece cut for the living room. We measured it about 18″ short all the way around and then had it bound.

We wanted a hard surface floor for the rest of the house and this is where the acid stain came in. In theory, it’s easy. Just paint the stain on, seal it and wax it, but the devil is in the preparation. Jeff spent countless hours stripping and preparing the concrete floor.  Let me tell you that there must’ve been 4 or 5 layers of vinyl in the kitchen and at least 2 in the bathroom.  This is what the process involved.

  1. Pull up carpet and tack strips, or linoleum… whatever it takes to get all the way down to the concrete.
  2. Strip any glue, paint or sealant from the floor.
  3. Patch any holes in the concrete (like those left from pulling up the tack strips). We didn’t bother filling small cracks. It’s part of the charm.
  4. Grind down the concrete patches.
  5. Clean all floors one more time with a really strong cleaning agent. 
  6. Stain all floor with a chemical acid stain from Lithochrome (which comes in a plastic jug, not a paint can).  We used the Dark Walnut color and applied it with rags.
  7. Stain a second time.
    …at this point the floor looks really chalky and not at all like you want it to. Don’t panic.
  8. Seal with a special seal that is the same brand as the stain… Lithochrome (which came in a paint can, not in a plastic jug).  This made it the deep rich color that it is now. I think this was applied with a roller.  Check the instructions for appropriate installation instructions.
  9. Wax with a product from Waxie called that says “Floor Star Finish” in big letters and then “Maximum Gloss” in small letters.  It is in a white plastic jug and I think it was installed with a roller. Check the instructions for appropriate installation instructions.

We bought the stain at a professional building supply company White Cap, since the standard home improvement stores didn’t carry Lithocrome, but I’ve heard that Home Depot has since purchased White Cap so they might carry the stain now. 

concrete floors - finished product

The faint tile like pattern is from the tile we scraped off of the floor. Remember also that this concrete was over 40 years old at the time the stain was applied. If it is applied to new concrete it will proabably be darker. Because this acid stain is akin to staining wood as opposed to painting wood, results will ALWAYS vary.