Concrete Staining

This job was a floor replacement job. The customer had asked for a concrete floor stain and I usually don’t do this type of work except for situations where I know the customer and its being used in a more industrial application.
Whenever I stain, seal or polish concrete I tell every customer the following things;

  1. Although I am experienced at installing these types of products I cannot make any guarantees about the appearance and finish you will receive. This means I will not even attempt to match pictures of jobs I have done in the past.
  2. You, the customer, cannot be picky or trying to create a certain look. If that is the case please contact another contractor. You must accept the results without exception.

These two caveats may seem like a lot. But you have to remember that most of my work is commercial or industrial. Often concrete staining contractors will charge 3x to 10x the amount that I charge. The only real difference is that sometimes they have more experience color matching.
So when a customer comes to me asking for a stain or a seal or both I tell I ask them the color or colors they would like in a very general sense or let them pick from a list of products. Because of my policy I tend to avoid homeowners, retail customer and others who are all about the finish and achieving some certain look. I focus on industrial customers who aren’t super picky and need a cost effective way just to “punch -up” their office bullpen, lunch room or product showroom.
In fact some light coloring or even just cleaning and sealing the concrete in a warehouse can really make a big difference.
So on this job my caveats where exactly the same. No promises but fair work at a far price.
We started with a VCT floor. Only a single tile or two was missing and the concrete below appeared to be in good condition. So we began to demo.

If you look closely you can already see the problem we would encounter. But as I was just going through the motions we began prepping the floor with the diamond blade floor prep tool. This tool is attached to a floor maintainer and will remove any coating as well as eat away concrete itself if left in one spot for too long.
After cleaning the floor this is what we were left with.

floor prepped for concrete stain

To my disappointment the floor was installed sometime way in the past as a stamped and stained floor. Not only that but its was covered in patch job, skim coats, epoxy/floor paint, utility trenches and even one spot where we found pipes coming through the floor. Notice how the floor looks foggy or dirty. This is not the case but its a sign that the prepping machine has properly scratched through the top layer of surface material. If this was regular concrete, for example, the color would go from a gray to a chalkier gray/ white. This floor has been mopped clean though to make sure it was ready.
Of course I called the customer who is the landlords representative and told him this was a worst case scenario and we should consider other options than floor stain. However he instructed me to move forward. I did some minor patching and left the stamp lines per their request. The owners agent said it would be office use and would just need to be durable.
So, per my instruction I continued, and waited a week for the floor to dry out before continuing. Its important that all the new patches have time to cure as well as letting the moisture in the floor escape so it doesn’t block the absorption of the staining material.
In order to hide or create the illusion of a uniform appearance I applied the stain in a circular motion with varying amounts of stain. This created a very randomized coloring effect which is similar to sparing texture on drywall. The goal is to hide imperfections by distracting the eye.
applying concrete stain

The picture above is the application. The color the customer chose was brown and I used a high quality hudson sprayer frequently used for this application. After letting that product dry for a day I went back and applied a satin sealer over the entire surface.
I was anxious because about how the floor would turn out because I had already spent extra time attempting to fix all the problems we were encountering when we prepared the floor.
I was pleased with how the end product appeared considering the budget and the floor we had to work with.
finished floor worst case scenario
finished floor worst case scenario

finished concrete stain close up

Of course when I went with the customer to collect my check they told me that they changed their mind and wanted gray and that this would now be used as a showroom.
So now you know why I rarely do concrete stains!

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