4 BASIC STEPS FOR SUCCESSFUL CONCRETE STAINING
This morning stopped by a local thrift store to check out the furniture and to see if I could find any nice antique pieces. As I walked through the donated furniture section I noticed how age really showed the difference in the quality of the furniture items in the store. Items that were built well seemed to get better with age, while the cheaper furniture looked terrible after years of use. The wear and tear on the well-built items just seemed to add to the character of the furniture, but the older items looked worse with only as a simple scratch or scuff. This little trip through the store had me thinking about how most of the items we as consumers purchase are at their best on the day of purchase and continue to in value year after year until we end up throwing the item away and buying new. Why do we now seem to accept disposable products as the norm?
The flooring industry operates in the same manner. When you choose to install a carpet, laminate, VCT or another cheap flooring alternative then you choose the disposable route. These items never age well and continue to look worse and worse until it’s time to rip them out and replace leaving piles of flooring in landfills. It is flooring materials like real wood, stone and stained concrete floors that can develop a patina and character as they age which adds to their value instead of taking it away. Installing one of these flooring surfaces almost ensures a lifetime quality floor for your home.
When done well reactive stained concrete floors produce a floor that rivals the best in the high-end flooring market. At my company Dancer Concrete Design our concrete staining process consists of 4 basic steps that need to be taken to produce a nicely finished stained concrete floor. Here I will explain these 4 steps and show you picture of our team following this process for a project in Indianapolis.
Remove any sealer, paint, or bond breakers
This process is all about cleaning the concrete surface and preparing for subsequent polishing steps. The prep step typically involves removing contamination or bond breakers from the concrete surface such as paints, glues, mastics, sealers, drywall mud, removing rough trowel marks, etc. We complete this step by purely mechanical methods such as grinding or scraping. For this step we use a 3 head concrete polisher fitted with diamond abrasives for our preparation process. This step removes anything that is on the surface and leaves a bare concrete floor. We also maintain clean working environments while we work by hooking all of our equipment up to specialty concrete vacuum systems.
This picture shows how important proper preparation is. The left side is concrete that has been sealed. The right side is after our preparation pass. This pass removes sealer and other contamination from the surface.
Mechanically refine and smooth the concrete floor
After preparing the concrete floor we move on to polishing the concrete surface. If we are dealing with brand new concrete, free of sealers or contamination, we can skip the prep stage and start with the polishing stage. This polishing process uses additional diamond abrasive passes to refine the concrete floor and continues to make it smoother and smoother. This process is very similar to sanding a wood floor as we continue to move on to higher and higher grits to get a smooth surface free of scratches. When using a reactive stain on a concrete floor we found that the 200 grit level leaves a surface free of scratches and provides a soft satin canvas for coloring. We also provide options of 400 or 800 grit finishes that will add gloss and additional depth to the concrete.
The polishing process mechanically polishes the concrete to the desired shine. This must be done on the main section as well as the edges.
Impart a permanent color into the concrete surface
Now it’s time for the fun part…Staining! After all that hard laborious work of cleaning the concrete we finally get to add the stain. Reactive staining works by using a reactive solution that’s imparts mineral salts into the concrete. These minerals permanently change the color and produce floors with variegated and marbleized coloring that brings a soft and subtle touch of organic color to a space.
Reactive concrete staining provides a permanent and variegated coloring effect to the concrete surface.
Protect and enhance the surface
The sealer chooses for your stained concrete floor will greatly impact the depth of color and how the floor performs long-term. Our sealing system consists of a two-step process using a concrete densifier and stain guard application. The densifier works by penetrating into the porous concrete and increases abrasion resistance by 400% and decreases the permeability of the surface. A stain guard is then applied and burnished to provide additional shine and stain protection. This sealing system is very resistant to scratches, scuffs, and stains, creating a surface that is very durable and easy to keep looking great.
The finished product results in a floor that looks good the day of install, as well as continuing to gain character and patina over time.