Stained & Polished Concrete Guide

While concrete is a mainstay in how indoor floors and driveways are constructed, it never absorbs moisture well. Without making sure the concrete is sealed, cracks will start to ruin the surface.

Many people let this go too long, hence needing new concrete put in as a subfloor before buying new flooring to go on top.

With stained and polished concrete, you get not only years-long protection for your concrete, but also a better aesthetic. Take a look at this guide covering everything from cost to removing/laying over options.

How Much to Stain & Polish?

The cost of staining and polishing your existing concrete all goes by how much damage already exists. An overly cracked concrete surface is more than probable if you haven’t done any repairs in years.

Be sure to have a professional check the concrete over if you’re not completely sure how much it needs fixing. If a lot of cracks are obvious, you’ll have to hire someone to do sealing. This is going to involve using epoxy, something you could do on your own. Regardless, it’s not always recommended if you’ve never done it before.

Most sources say this kind of work costs $2 per square foot, if not more if a complete resurfacing is needed.

How big the floor size is also determines how much you pay. However, the grinding involved to make the floor look polished could take the most time based squarely on labor costs.

old dining table painted of white in the mansard with concrete floor
old dining table painted of white in the mansard with concrete floor

What Do Concrete Stains Cost?

Your cost in buying stains and having them applied to your concrete varies based on how simple you want to make this task. A basic stain with one color is always the cheapest at around $2-$4 per foot.

Much of this depends on additional costs involved in prepping the concrete beforehand. Even so, going this simpler route helps prevent major slab prep. Plus, you’ll be able to get a final sealer coating to go over the stain.

Some other stains are a little higher end, but sometimes labeled “intermediate.” These cost a few dollars more and give you the same benefits of a basic sealer.

Other stains are available at higher expense and more elaborate. These might only apply to large homes and if you’re in the market for luxury flooring. Higher-end stains go for as much as $25. What makes them more attractive is you get more color varieties and complex patterns.

Exacting stencil work may become an option on the luxury stains, something taking more labor time and cost.

What Does it Cost to Polish?

If you just choose to polish the concrete, stains can be merely optional. Many people prefer a combination, though, since adding color to a concrete floor brings something unique in any scenario.

As noted, polishing is going to take the most time of all. That grinding process to make it shine may have to involve other labor, including possibly applying an overlay first.

Anyone wanting an overly glossy concrete floor should expect more professional work involved. Since grinding is often a laborious task, you have to know what you’re doing. Also, doing edging during the grinding process is often just as tedious as noted by many who’ve blogged about the experience.

Because of this, the cost of hiring a professional will be more than worth it. Since mistakes could be costlier to fix than hiring flooring experts, always figure you’re making the right decision when calling an expert.

Your Options: DIY vs. Professional

While we’ve touted hiring a professional to do the staining and polishing of your concrete floor, it’s still possible to do it yourself with the right tools.

Deciding whether to do the job on your own, or to hire someone, goes by your past experience working with floors. Anyone going into this for the first time would be better off with the hiring a professional route. These workers can even show you how things are done so you can learn to do staining/polishing on your own the next time.

No one should second-guess doing staining and polishing on concrete in their homes. At one time, it was usually only seen in businesses. Nowadays, it’s seen more often in private residences.

Being able to do this on your own can be a satisfactory experience, especially when working with fellow members of the family. Your only drawback is if you make mistakes, it might take extra time to get them fixed.

Applying Stains the DIY Way

With the proper gear, staining your concrete can be done in a few days. First, you need to scrub down the concrete surface to eliminate dirt and grease as just starters. Any type of concrete cleaner will work, though you might need to pressure watch to remove oil stains.

Etching your concrete with acid is the next step, something requiring proper safety gear (gloves, respirator, and boots). You’ll know the etching is occurring when you see tiny bubbles build up after applying the acid to the concrete surface. It only takes 20 minutes for the etching to complete before you sweep off the acid.

While this part is fairly simple, you have to wait two days for the concrete to fully dry. Once it is, you may have to do a little more cleaning before applying the stain.

When you apply the concrete stain, it’s fairly straightforward. Just use a long-handled roller. Time may extend if you need a second coat since the first coat has to dry overnight.

interior view of a modern bathroom with glass shower cubicle and

Polishing the DIY Way

As Bob Vila reminds, finding a concrete grinder to do the polishing yourself could be a grind on its own. The best way is to just rent one rather than spend all the money to have one on hand. Chances are small you’ll have to use that grinder very often during your life.

Using grinding discs and polishing pads are two accessories you’ll need to get the job done thoroughly. These are applied to the grinder, similar to placing sandpaper on a floor sander.

Let it be known that polishing with your grinder will take A LOT more time than sanding. If you have any experience with sanding floors, you already know how time-consuming it is. Expect to add a few more hours to polishing.

In-between working with the grinder, you may need to do some densification treatments to help make for a better polishing effect. Densifiers also help prevent moisture from building up. Still, you should use a sealer during the polishing process to make the polishing look more pristine.

In Favor of Hiring a Professional

Think back to that earlier reminder of making mistakes if you do this on your own. With careful instructions, you can stain and polish your concrete yourself. Just remember it takes a steep learning curve first before diving in.

A professional will always show you the right steps and get it done in less time than it might take you. Since staining and polishing also lasts many years on concrete (depending on foot traffic), what you pay a contractor is more than worth the money spent.

To save some bucks, you can always divide it up between doing some tasks yourself and others with the professional. Many people hire an expert to just do the grinding since that’s always the toughest task.

Products to Consider

The types of staining products and polishing tools you can buy are fairly wide-ranging to give you the best customization.

Stains come in numerous colors, not including adding aggregates or unique patterns before the polishing process begins. Even with the polishing process, you’ll want to think about buying the proper products since it involves bonding different elements to bring an improved appearance.

No matter if working with a professional, they’ll work closely with you to determine which products are best for your desired look and budget.

The Best Stain Products

Unless you have one basic color in mind, you’ll want to find stains with more diverse color charts. Water and solvent-based stains are becoming popular nowadays because they provide more diverse color choices.

Since the above stains also don’t have acid, they’re far safer to apply without having to wear protective gear. Either way, the quality of the stain matters because you want it to last as long as possible. At any price range, concrete stains are generally known for being extra durable.

Brands like Rust-Oleum and Behr are considered some of the best concrete stain products. You can usually buy these in 1-gallon cans, giving you plenty for an average-size room.

Determining whether to use acid or water-based stains all goes by what your plans are. Most acid-based stains offer additional natural colors. Water-based stains allow you to blend in other colors for a more unique palette.

Because water-based stains dry faster than those acid-based, many people are starting to tilt toward former as a product favorite. When in a hurry to get the project done, water-based would be your best bet.

The Best Polishing Products

When planning polish your concrete, you need to make a decision on whether you’ll do it wet or dry. Doing it wet will require more cleanup, though you can buy polishing products without much expense.

Eagle is a reliable brand to buy in buying liquid polish for concrete. It works well for hiding and preventing scratches if using your concrete floor in a commercial environment. Plus, this product is scuff and skid resistant, which is important if you have people walking your floors for long hours.

Using products like this also means a faster drying process. With one gallon of liquid polish, you can cover about 1,000 ft. of floor space and have it dry in four hours.

In the case of polishing dry, you’ll have to turn to the grinding machine again, something possibly necessary if you have excessive scratches and large rooms. If you plan to buy one, you’ll want to know the best brands, including rental price.

Popular Polishing Tools

Whether you want to call it a polishing tool or a grinder, investing in one of these tools is not cheap. At least they’re cheaper than buying drum sanders if you’ve ever looked into one of those for sanding hardwood floors.

General consensus says Makita is one of the best concrete polisher tools out there. On Amazon, you can buy one for $321.

Other good brands are Hardin, DAMO, Asia-Pacific, and Stadea. Some of these are wet polishers, including the Stadea connecting to a water hose for even water distribution during the polishing process.

Almost every polishing tool listed is ergonomic, so these aren’t back-breakers to use. Compared to drum sanders (that are very hard to control), you won’t have trouble using these tools.

Don’t forget about buying sealer products, densifiers, and concrete cleaners/restorers. Home goods stores sell these in typically 1-gallon containers at reasonable prices.

What About Concrete Grinders?

Grinders and polishers sometimes do have a distinction, if basically built the same way to smooth over concrete surfaces. Shopping for one might be out of the picture because of the high prices. One reason they cost a little more is they’re sometimes larger than a typical concrete polisher.

Places like Home Depot rent concrete grinders for $177 per day, which might be a little pricey. Renting will still be cheaper than buying one you may not use any more than once in a while.

The grinder will be an important tool to use if you have any high spots on your concrete. Of course, it’s also made to remove old sealers and paints as means to prep the concrete for new coatings.

Services Available

Finding the right company to get your stained and polished concrete done right should become a top priority. Doing your homework plays a large part in this before doing any hiring, or if doing some tasks on your own.

How you go about researching those services is why Google is still so useful. With reliable resources, you’ll be able to connect with professionals you can trust to avoid any potential cost overruns.

When hiring professionals, you may need to know a few things about what they expect of you as well. Helping them make the job easier will go a long way in making sure the job gets done faster.

What Should You Consider First in a Professional?

Before looking online, it saves some time to ask any of your local friends if they had their concrete floors stained and polished recently. Who did they hire to do the job?

Going by firsthand references can lead to better outcomes on who is the most reliable. Some of the best (and even the most affordable) contractors who do this type of flooring work get hired through word of mouth.

Nevertheless, you want to always make sure they’re fully bonded, something that sometimes causes confusion on how to research. Many people also get bonding confused with being insured.

With bonding, the contractor you hire gives you protection if the contractor happens to never complete the job or never gets required permits. The only official way to check for this is through the surety company where they were bonded. If they aren’t willing to give you this information, you might want to consider someone else.

Having the professional insured with contractor’s insurance helps protect you and them. Anything could happen while working on your floors, so make sure they have liability to cover everything.

Ask About Their Experience

How many times has the contractor done the job of staining and polishing concrete? The more experience they have, the better job they’ll do. Anyone who’s done this job at least several years will know all the things that can potentially go wrong. They’ll know exactly what not to do as much as knowing how to get the work done efficiently.

Most importantly, you want someone who has the experience of working with people and helping them find what they need. A reliable flooring contractor will stand by your side and help you make the right decisions about the type of stain styles you want.

Helping you find solutions is equally essential in finding the right contractor. The last thing you want is a contracting company leaving you in the lurch if mistakes are ever made.

Staying in close communication at all times while the job gets done should always be in the contractor’s background. Asking for references will help you research this a little further with their past clients.

 Turning Online to Find the Best Contractors

Just doing a simple Google search in your local area will turn up a lot of instant results. Thanks to Google reviews, you can usually find a list of professionals who rank at the top and who receives five stars every time for their work.

Not all the best contractors are found this way, though. You can turn to other services like Angie’s List to find the best concrete floor contractors in your local area.

Through their search services, you can narrow everything down to the finest detail on the type of concrete flooring work you need done. The site also asks you questions about what kind of stained and polished concrete work you want done to further refine your search.

Flooring companies can also help lead you to the right professionals as well. Sources like Floor City are available to help you find the best professionals available nationwide.

How Durable is Stain and Polished Concrete?

Whether you decide to just stain your concrete, polish it, or doing both, one thing you can count on is both are unquestionably durable.

How durable, though, might be a big question if you have heavy floor traffic. In a business, customers walking that newly stained and polished concrete floor every single day might make you worry about how many years the shine lasts.

No doubt the same worries apply to your home where you may have guests and parties on a regular basis. More and more people are choosing to use a stain and polished look to concrete floors in their homes as a result.

Learning more about why these options are durable helps you make a smarter decision on whether it’s the right choice of floor.

Why is Stained Concrete So Durable?

Stained concrete might be equally as durable as polishing, yet former doesn’t last quite as long. Concrete as a whole generally lasts for several generations, while stains usually require regular maintenance to hold up for decades.

Without that needed care, stains can begin to fade and look worn after only a couple of years of high traffic use. To ward this off, waxing and sealer will have to be applied to the concrete every year.

This is the compromise you’ll need to make to ensure the stains stay looking pristine. Going through the proper steps of care, your stained concrete may last for the rest of your life, and for your children.

With acid-stained concrete, you’ll get even more resistance to things like UV rays and general wear & tear. Acid-based is also flame-resistant, giving complete protection if you ever face the risk of a fire in your business or home.

What Makes Polished Concrete the Most Durable of All?

Restaurants, malls, and busy homes frequently choose a polished concrete option because it holds up under more challenging circumstances. You still need to give it maintenance as well to hold up for a couple of decades without needing another polish.

Doing the polishing, however, won’t require quite as much maintenance afterward to still hold up. A good scientific explanation for this is because polishing helps close up pores in the concrete. Moisture is then kept out, creating less chances of causing any cracking or other damage.

One drawback to polished concrete is it can get slippery when the surface becomes wet. Avoiding using it on outdoor driveways or places where someone might easily slip and fall is a smarter plan. Places like hallways, foyers, or even a living area are usually the more popular areas for it.

In these rooms, you won’t have to worry about having to polish again any time soon. Maintenance is also relatively simple.

Yes, maintenance is something you’ll need to think about next, if certainly easier than caring for hardwood.

Maintenance

Keeping up the maintenance of your stained or polished concrete floor doesn’t really interfere with life too much. During times when you have to do waxing or placing a sealer, it could take a day’s work. Such a scenario isn’t going to disrupt things if doing this two or three times per year.

As mentioned, doing the extra maintenance will only apply to stained concrete since it’s not quite as durable as polishing.

The rest of the maintenance you’ll need to do is mostly basic, if still requiring some careful attention to details to avoid any minor damage. While doing this type of maintenance, keep in mind you’ve already eliminated many other maintenance steps compared to if you had carpet or alternate types of floors.

Maintaining Your Stained Concrete Floor

Your most basic tool for cleaning is a mop for dry or damp cleaning. Most households already have one or both of these already available.

For basic daily care, using a dry mop is already necessary to pick up dirt. You may not even have to do this daily if floor traffic is minimal. In a business, though, it’ll likely have to be a daily routine.

Those who wonder if you can use floor cleaners on a stained concrete floor may need to do a little homework. Don’t just grab any floor cleaner and assume it’ll be good for your concrete floor.

A cleaner solution shouldn’t have acidic properties like ammonia. Placing this on concrete can create the etching effect you did when first preparing the concrete for your stains.

Prevention of dirt and debris is always a good idea if the stained concrete is in a busy walkway. Placing down mats or rugs will help prevent constantly cleaning those areas.

Using Sealers and Wax

All stained concrete needs to use a sealer to help give it extra protection. Doing so goes beyond the basic cleaning by adding a protective layer to ward off any water damage as just one thing.

Using the right sealer will also help protect from nasty stains or general dirt. Your only challenge is finding one that’s water-based so you don’t have to deal with wearing protective wear. Those oil-based usually require having to wear a mask.

Good sealers include ones from HydroHalt, Krysto, and Foundation Armor.

Keep in mind waxing should also be done, if even replacing the sealer if having to make a choice. Wax is better in many ways because it makes the surface smoother when or if you do any buffing.

Make sure the wax you buy is designed specifically for concrete. All labels indicate “concrete finish” so you know you’re buying the right thing. Most of these waxes are easier to apply than sealers as well, making it one of the maintenance essentials. For stained concrete, you may have to wax a couple of times per year.

Maintaining Your Polished Concrete Floor

Since polished concrete is easier to care for, the tools necessary are going to be fairly basic. Using a dust mop is all that’s necessary for weekly cleaning. It’s ok to use floor cleaners with a wet mop, just as long as it (once again) has no acidic compounds.

Sometimes buying a simple polishing product helps in making the floor look shinier if you notice some fading. In most cases, this won’t happen as long as you take the care steps above.

If maintenance is a part of floor care life, repairs are a separate issue possibly coming up at the worst possible times. Dealing with how to repair scratches and other damage may require turning to a professional again.

Dealing with Repairs

Having to face repairs to your concrete floor after it’s been stained or polished is not always a fun experience. Sometimes those repairs may have to happen to the concrete itself before you even apply any stains or do polishing.

Before those stains go down, you need to check over your concrete for potential issues like cracks or other wear. Fixing those problems could take a little time, if smart to fix them early.

Repairs done to worn stains or faded polish could take just as much work. Patch and repair products are also plentiful in home good stores.

Keep in mind when having to match a specific stain color during repairs, you might not always be able to get it perfectly close. In the case of repairing cracks, a lot of products are available to get a fix done without professionals.

Repairing Cracks in the Concrete

Inspecting your concrete floor for cracks already needs doing before you put down any type of coating. Cracks are usually noticeable, if sometimes being missed when small enough.

Hiring a professional floor inspector to look for concrete damage should always be done first prior to spreading any stains. Still, after a few years of enjoying stained concrete, you might encounter new cracks that can’t be just covered with rugs, mats, or furniture.

One of the biggest reasons for those cracks occurring is foundation settling. Sometimes the cracks can be fairly large when this happens, leading to water seeping in if moisture gets on the floor.

Don’t ignore this problem since moisture getting under the concrete will doom all the work you put in buying/applying new stains. Fixing those cracks is an easier job thanks to buying epoxy kits.

You’ll need a putty knife to make sure the epoxy is applied smoothly. Afterward, apply some new stain over the existing stain. It may require placing several new coats to blend it in correctly.

Fixing a Stained Concrete Job Gone Wrong

Maybe you ended up hiring the wrong professional and suffered through a bad stain job on your concrete floor. Or, if you did it yourself, mistakes might have occurred.

Repairing problems like this might take a little extra work and money. You can still get it done with a number of steps as basically a redo. You can start by renting a sandblaster and just sandblast off the bad stain job you had done. Then recoat with a higher quality stain, or letting a professional do it for you.

A fresh coating of wax made for concrete can sometimes fix bad areas like scratches. If the scratches are over existing wax you used earlier, a floor wax remover kit may be necessary to get the old wax up. Once stripped off, you can apply a new wax coating over the problem spots.

Sometimes just using paint with a brush can take care of small scratches over the existing surface. A little risk is involved here since you have to match the paint color perfectly with the stain color. Be sure to hold up a paint color sample to the stain color to make sure they properly match.

Repairing Problems with Polished Concrete

Outside of polished concrete being mostly durable, some damage could still occur. After some time, the polished look might start to appear dull from overly excessive floor traffic. Or, maybe you used some acidic floor cleaners by mistake.

Other times, damage might occur directly to the concrete. Foundation settling, once again, could cause cracking. Certain oils or acids could cause permanent staining as well.

All of these issues are fixable with specialized products or with professional help. In most cases, rebuffing may be in order to bring back the old shine. Rebuffing may mean having to rent another buffing machine. Regardless, it won’t take quite as much time to rebuff as it took initially.

Joint fillers and caulking help fill in cracks, not including the epoxy kits above. Larger cracks may require using a concrete trowel to fill in those gaps.

Removing Stains or Laying Over With a New Floor

We already noted how removing old stains is not an easy job. It may involve having to rent a sandblaster if a mistake was made.

What about removing stains on the concrete prior to laying down colored stains? A lot of nasty stains might be there and require some extra work to clean while prepping the floor.

In other cases, you may want to put down a new floor over the stained or polished concrete you already have. For instance, many might decide they want to put down tile or other flooring types over the concrete for a living area.

These cases involve some extra work again, if usually leading to good results so you won’t feel like you wasted time.

Natural Solutions to Removing Stains

As Bob Vila points out, using kitty litter is one of the best natural ways to pick up stains like oil on concrete. It usually takes an hour for the litter to absorb the stain before you sweep it up.

Something a little stronger, like trisodium phosphate, may be necessary to get the stain up completely. Mix with hot water and then brush off. Of course, some stains go beyond just oil. Paint may need to be removed, or even rust.

Paint strippers are available to get rid of the paint. You usually have to mix these with something like baby powder to create a unique paste. Any scraper will do in scraping up the paint stains once the mix sits in place for about half-an-hour.

White vinegar is often used as a natural way to get rid of rust. Even dishwashing detergent is mild enough to use for other concrete stains like mud.

Laying Down a New Floor Over Stained Concrete

A lot of different floors are capable of being placed down over existing stained concrete. Laminate and vinyl are just two examples since many products in this category don’t require using adhesives. Only floors requiring adhesives would possibly interfere with the stains you placed down prior.

Before you place a new floor over the concrete, you’ll need a moisture barrier underlayment put in place to prevent water from ever seeping through. You already know when water gets into concrete cracks, serious damage can occur.

Another scenario exists where you might want stained concrete over another type of floor. Many people choose to do this, if requiring a bit more disruption to a room.

Stained Concrete After Removing a Prior Floor

Concrete is already considered a subfloor, so you may have had carpet, tile, or vinyl flooring over the surface for quite a while. You may have done this in a basement to create a living area, or even in a bathroom for more foot comfort.

After a while, though, you may realize stained and polished concrete would bring better aesthetics to a room at home or in a business. Did you know it’s even possible to put a cement overlay over the existing floor without having to tear up the old floor?

Overlays do cause height issues with your floor, requiring you to properly measure your baseboards so the measurements line up.

Microtopping is one of the most popular methods in the cement overlay category. This gives the look of polished concrete and offers a specialized appearance that can sometimes save money.

Otherwise, removing old floors will be a big job and one for the professionals again. Smoothing over the floor to put down an overlay will best be done when you have a lot more time available.

Resources:

https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/flooring/polished-concrete-floor-cost/

http://blog.bartellglobal.com/5-things-i-learned-when-grinding-concrete-for-the-first-time

https://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/outdoors/patios-and-decks/how-to-stain-concrete

https://www.bobvila.com/articles/how-to-polish-concrete/

https://www.homedepot.com/b/Paint-Exterior-Stain-Sealers-Concrete-Stain/Best-Rated/N-5yc1vZcg1sZbwo5q

https://www.homedepot.com/tool-truck-rental/Concrete-Grinder-10/50200-HD/index.html

https://www.hgtv.com/design/remodel/interior-remodel/why-concrete-floors-rock

https://www.homedepot.com/b/Paint-Exterior-Stain-Sealers-Concrete-Sealers/Best-Rated/N-5yc1vZcj9bZbwo5q

https://www.durawax.com/floor-finish/concrete-floor-finish/

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Simpson-Strong-Tie-9-oz-Crack-Pac-Injection-Kit-ETIPAC10KT/100375048

https://www.concretecamouflage.com/how_to_fix_bad_concrete_stain_job.cfm

https://www.bobvila.com/articles/how-to-remove-concrete-stains/

http://www.reliableremodeler.com/ask/options-for-covering-stained-concrete-floors/

https://www.sherwin-williams.com/painting-contractors/co-concrete-coatings/co-concrete-coatings-business-builders/co-styles-techniques/sw-art-concrete-micro-topping

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