Concrete stains fade overtime usually because they are not maintained with a sealer (unless you used an interior stain for exterior).
If you leave concrete unsealed and as people continuously walk on the surface, the concrete will erode overtime. You can see this by looking at very old concrete and noticing that you are unable to see the broom finish that was once applied to the cream surface, instead you see the aggregate in the concrete.
When the concrete has been stained (which colors the cream of the concrete), and the cream of the concrete starts to erode, so will that stain. To prevent this from happening we apply a surface sealer on top of the concrete. Then the sealer will become the wear surface instead of the concrete, protecting the stain.
Once the sealer has been eroded, it is important to apply another coat of sealer to protect the concrete. If you don’t the concrete along with the stain will erode or fade.
For interior stained surfaces, it is easier to prevent the stain to fade because you apply the sealer to protect the stain, but then you apply multiple coats of wax to protect the sealer. You should never have to re-seal the concrete in this situation because all you have to do when the stained floor look dull is apply more coats of wax, which are easier to apply then the sealer.
When ever you are completed cleaning the concrete, it is always a good idea to test a small amount of acid stain on the actual concrete that is going to be stained, before you start staining the whole concrete floor. We recommend using an area such as a closet or an area that cannot easily be seen, because you cannot remove the acid stain from the concrete.
This is the time you can play around with different dilution ratios to get the color you want. You can dilute the acid stain as much as 1:15 if you are wanting a very light color. You can also mix colors to create custom colors.
When you are all finished with putting the samples down, you want to get a wet towel or mop and go over the sample areas. This will mimic what it will look like when the floors are sealed. Most of the times when you apply the sealer to the stained concrete floors they will darken up dramatically, so don’t stain the floors too dark if you are wanting a lighter color. Sometimes you wont even be able to notice the floors have been acid stained until you put the sealer down.
Expansion joints are those big joints in concrete that typically have either a piece of wood or have an asphalt fiberboard. When pouring the concrete driveway or sidewalk they place these expansion joints to allow the concrete to expand and contract and are also places they have stopped pouring the concrete for the day. Typically there is a piece of rebar going through the expansion strip to prevent the two concrete slabs from moving away from each other.
The problem with these expansion strips is that they allow water to migrate down through the joint causing the rebar to rust. Eventually the rebar will break and allow the two concrete slabs to move independently. Another problem with these joints is that they can collect dirt and provide an area for weeds to grow.
There is a solution to these problems; you can have a joint sealant placed over the expansion joint. This will help prevent water migrating down causing the rebar to rust and will also prevent weeds from growing in the joint. The material used is a polyurethane caulk that bonds to both side of the concrete slab creating a complete water seal. Other products such as plastic or foam that are placed in-between the joint do not create that watertight seal like the polyurethane caulking.
If you have the concrete driveway acid stained you can color match the polyurethane caulk to the color of the acid stain. There is the standard grey and sand color available readily and also over 20 other colors that can be costumed made and ordered. There can also be sand sprinkled on top of the wet polyurethane to make it look more like concrete.
Take a look at these photos of an expansion joint that was sealed with sand sprinkled on top of the wet polyurethane sealant.
Staining concrete with an acetone dye is a great alternative then using an acid stain to stain the concrete. Using an acetone dye gives the user more control over the final color, because acetone dyes do not react with the concrete to produce the color like acid stains; instead the fine particles of the dye penetrate deep into the pours of the concrete.
Acetone dyes are transparent and have a very similar look to acid stains. The main reason we typically use acetone dyes opposed to acid stains are because they are very fast to apply and can be sealed immediately after the concrete has been dyed.
Acetone dyes also have over 20 different colors to choose from and can be custom mixed to produce even more colors. There are 12 colors for exterior concrete applications.
Acetone dyes are the way to go when wanting to stain concrete that needs a fast turnaround time, a closer color match, and are wanting to custom make a color. They are also great for using with polished concrete.
Acid stains can be manipulated to create special looks; whether you are trying to achieve a consistent color or a very blotchy look. It all depends on how you apply the acid stain.
Acid stains are best applied by either using an acid resistant pump sprayer or by using a sponge. Other methods such as using a roller tends to leave unwanted roller marks that cannot be removed.
Using a pump sprayer to apply the acid stains will give you more of a blotchy look; especially if you puddle it more in certain areas. To give more of a marbling affect you can use two pump sprayers each filled with two different colors; you start by spraying an area with one color and then while that area is still wet you spray the other color around the wet area.
To have more of a consistent color you can sponge the acid stain on the concrete. When sponging the acid stain on the concrete you have to make sure you use enough acid stain so you wont leave any streak marks. You also have to make sure that you keep a wet edge or you will leave a line where the acid stain dried. When using this method be sure to wear safety mask and goggles and acid resistant gloves.
There are a lot of cool things you can do with acid stains by manipulating the way you apply them. You just have to be daring and experiment. Majority of the times the floors will come out looking beautiful and unique.
Just like every other flooring, stained concrete floors need to be maintained. They should be able to last 10 – 20 years with the proper maintenance.
Daily and weekly maintenance should include dust mopping the stained floors removing any small pieces of dirt that has the capabilities of scratching the sealer protecting the stained floors. You should also wet mop the floors with a ph-neutral detergent to remove any caked on dirt.
The sealer protecting the stained floors will eventually wear away due the traffic eroding the sealer away. The good news is that in interior areas their can be a wax applied on top of the sealer. The wax is a very easy and cost effective way of protecting the sealer from wearing away. Waxing should be done at least once a year possibly more if it is in a commercial area.
Waxing the stained floors is not a hard task it is just like getting your carpets clean every so often. The large pieces of furniture do not need to be removed from the areas that need to be re-waxed, just small items with legs such as chairs.
A great low cost alternative to acid staining concrete is to use a tinted sealer.
Tinted sealers are opaque, so any exterior surface stains that can not be removed from the concrete will be completely covered up with a tinted sealer.Tinted concrete sealers also waterproof the concrete which helps prevent surface spalls. They can be used on any exterior concrete surface.
The most important part of having a tinted sealer last, is prepping the concrete surface before applying the sealer. We always acid etch and pressure wash the surface so the sealer will have a rough surface soak in and bond to. The sealers don’t last forever, they typically have to be re-sealed every two years depending on traffic.
There are over 50 colors to choose from when using a tinted sealer and can have a matte finish or gloss finish.
Here is a photo of a recent concrete patio we sealed with a tinted sealer.