The Internet is filled with do-it-yourself tutorials showing beautifully stained concrete patios, driveways and walkways. You don't have any experience with this type of project but think, "How hard could it be?" The answer is that the work itself isn't necessarily hard – it's the prep work that requires the most attention. This holds particularly true if you're doing the staining as concrete repair for an aging slab.
Here are two key questions you need to ask yourself before you undertake a concrete staining project.
How Will You Make the Design?
Do you want to simply give your gray concrete slab an even spray of a different color stain to change things up a bit? Or do you want an intricate design that's going to include multiple stain colors, stencils, sponges and require a bit of artistic talent?
Answering these questions will first let you know what type of stain you will need. If you only want an even one-color wash, and your current concrete isn't newly sealed, then you might be able to get away with adding a powder pigment to a high traffic, waterproof sealer. You can then paint on the dyed sealer for two-in-one color and protection.
But if you want multiple colors, or an advanced design, you will need to invest in actual cans of concrete stain. You also need to either find a large stencil or create your own using cardboard and a precision knife.
Note that if you need to try to hide some ground-in stains or other signs of aging, it's better to use a multi-tonal effect or simply a dark wash of stain. If you need to hide some areas of concrete needing repair, such as small cracks, you can attempt to replicate a marble pattern if you have some painting skills.
Where is the Concrete Located?
This matters for a couple of reasons. First, ask yourself if you really want to go through the hassle of creating an intricate faux marble stain pattern – for a garage floor that no one is going to see. Likewise, do you really want to just do a one-color wash over a concrete patio that's visible from the street?
But the location of the concrete also determines the type of stain you'll need and the prep work involved. For older concrete patios, the surface is likely not perfectly smooth. These scuffs make the staining process easier since the surface is already optimized for stain to adhere to the imperfections. This also means that you can get by with using a simple water-based stain.
For smooth concrete floors, such as an older floor in a rarely-used garage, there likely isn't a porous enough surface to soak up the stain. You will instead need to use a process called acid etching that essentially creates a custom marble look due to a chemical reaction between the etching fluid and the concrete. This is far harder to use for advanced designs than traditional stain.
For more information about concrete, contact Osco Mudjacking & Shotcreting Ltd concrete repair or a similar company.