Frequently Asked Questions

Concrete Acid Stain

How much stain do I need?

We recommend two coats of stain. For a standard application, we suggest one gallon of stain for every 200 sq. feet of surface. If diluted, expand the coverage according to the ratio of water to acid stain dilution. For example, if every one-part acid stain to one part water, your coverage rate for two coats would be 400 sq. feet per gallon. If your project is 1000 sq. feet, you will need 5 gallons of stain to apply two complete coats.

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How strong is your stain, or is your stain watered down?

No, we do not cut our stain with water or dilute it. You will find our stains hold as high a mineral load as we can manage to suspend in the acidic liquid for maximum strength, consistency and stain life.

Can I cut this stain with water?

Yes, our stains can be cut with water without affecting the stain’s performance. Cutting the acid stain with water generally lightens the color but does not impede the stain’s ability to react successfully with your concrete surface. Test areas are recommended to determine the correct ratio of water to acid stain for your project.

Can I stain the concrete and NOT seal it?

No. An acid stained surface is dull in appearance and nothing at all like the attractive sealed finish. Sealer protects the acid stained surface from the elements and from water deposits due to run-off and rain. While acid stain offers permanent concrete color, the shades can fade due to exposure to harsh weather conditions. Sealing the surface both highlights the color and protects the finish from wear and tear over time. Depending on weather conditions, sealers used outdoors must be reapplied every 2-4 years.

Can I do this myself?

Acid staining may not be for every homeowner but most DIYer’s will find the process straightforward and easy to understand. Direct Colors provides a detailed How-to Acid Stain document on the website and with every order. If you have questions about your project, contact a decorative concrete professional at 877-ALL COLORS.

Why are there only ten colors?

Acid stain is made from naturally occurring minerals and is suspended in an acid/water solution. The colors presented on our color chart are stains at full-strength. Many other colors can be achieved with our acid stains by diluting the product with water.

Do we have to leave the house to do this?

No, but some acid stain colors (Black and Coffee Brown) have more odor than others. Regardless of the color you choose, the house should be thoroughly ventilated to the outside during the application process and a mask/goggles should be worn at all times. For indoor applications, particularly for occupied homes or basements, water-based sealer should be used to minimize heavy chemical odors in the home. To err on the side of caution, pregnant women and children should not be present during the staining or sealing process.

How close are the color charts to the final color I will receive?

Every acid stained floor will look somewhat different as slabs vary from one application to the next. However, within a range and given conditions, each acid stain will produce a predictable, rich hue as described on the color chart. Acid stain is not a paint and contains no pigment. Coloration takes place as a result of a chemical reaction between the concrete and the acid stain; therefore, the content of the concrete plays as significant a role in the process as the acid stain.

DIRECT COLORS - Color Charts
DIRECT COLORS – Color Charts

Why does my concrete look white/green/yellow after I put the stain on?

After acid staining the concrete, an oddly colored residue forms on the surface. The residue is a by-product of the chemical reaction occurring on the concrete. The residue along with any access color will be removed during the neutralization and cleaning process.

What’s the best method of applying stain?

A simple solid plastic pump-up sprayer with a plastic rather than metal tip will suffice. Sprayers can be purchased at most hardware stores. The sprayer should be set to mist when applying the spray but the sprayer can be used to create different effects depending on how the stain is applied. For instance, by holding the wand tip closer to the surface, the applicator can create a “pooled” or “veined” look on the floor.

Is it permanent? Can I change it later?

Acid staining is a permanent alteration of the concrete surface. Once the concrete has been stained, change is possible by adding additional layers acid stain colors or by using another topical dye but it will to some degree remain colored.

I acid stained my patio a few years ago and now the color seems to be disappearing, what’s going on?

Acid stained surfaces exposed to the elements will lose their color over time. Outdoor surfaces must be resealed every 2-4 years. To improve the color of a faded outdoor project, Direct Colors offers a tinted sealer to enhance the original surface color. For areas that have experienced very little color fading, resealing with the clear sealer of your choice is the best option.

How do I apply Deco Gel?

Deco Gel can be applied with several different applicators depending on the nature of your project. For statuary and similar garden décor, Deco Gel is best applied with a paintbrush or foam sponge applicator. Stir the product before applying to assure the right consistency for use. For larger vertical jobs, such as a retaining wall, a tight-napped roller or Padco Touch-up applicator can be used. Applications must be allowed two hours to react.

How should I seal Deco Gel?

Direct Colors recommends our Sprayable Satin Finish Sealer (SSB) for all vertical and statuary applications. Sprayable sealers are much easier to apply in these types of jobs and have a faster drying time. Also, SSB has a matte or satin finish making it more appropriate for vertical and decorative statuary jobs. If you desire a more glossy finish, apply more coats of SSB to the surface. Unfortunately, SSB is a solvent-based sealer that cannot be used in every U.S. state. Customers living in the following states cannot order Sprayable Satin Finish Sealer: California, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut.

Can I use Deco Gel on my Floor?

Yes. However, Deco Gel is designed specifically for vertical applications, statuary or for close work on flat surfaces, such as stenciling or free hand artwork. If you do choose to put Deco Gel on your floor, you will find it more time consuming and expensive. The chemicals and compounds work the same in Deco Gel as they do in traditional acid stain.

Do I wax Deco Gel?

Generally, waxing your deco gel stain will not be necessary. Wax would only be required if Deco Gel has been used on an indoor floor application. To maintain all other Deco Gel project, simply re-seal once every couple of years to protect the color of the stain and keep it looking great!

Is Concrete Dye a permanent color?

Yes! If properly taken care of, Concrete dye will last as long as the concrete itself. However, projects using Concrete Dye MUST be sealed every 1-2 years depending on exposure to retain the original color. If not properly cared for, the color could significantly fade requiring an additional application of dye.

What type of sprayer can I use to apply Concrete Dye?

Concrete Dye is an acetone-based dye. An acetone-resistant pump sprayer can be used, but when purchasing a sprayer, it is critical that the sprayer is designed to spray acetone. Acetone is a highly reactive liquid that will render most sprayers useless very quickly. Direct Colors Inc. sells a sprayer that is well-suited to applying Concrete Dye and is offered in the “Tools & Applicators” section of our website.

Do I need to seal in the color?

Sealing your surface is a MUST! All projects using Concrete Dye MUST be sealed every 1-2 years depending on exposure (indoor applications would need to be sealed less often) to retain the original color. If not properly cared for, the color could significantly fade requiring an additional application of dye.

How do I mix the Concrete Dye with the Acetone and where can I buy the Acetone?

Concrete Dye is shipped to the customer in powder form and must be mixed with Acetone to create the finished product. Acetone can be purchased at most hardware stores by the gallon and is relatively inexpensive. DCI Concrete Dye can be poured using a funnel into the gallon or larger-sized container. DO NOT USE AN ELECTRIC MIXER TO COMBINE THE DYE AND ACETONE!Replace the lid and shake until the contents are thoroughly mixed. Allow the mixture to set for 45 minutes and shake thoroughly again before using. Pour the mixture into your sprayer and apply the dye to your floor. Remember to use the proper safety precautions when using DCI Concrete Dye.

Is the Concrete Dye dangerous to me?

DCI Concrete Dye can be dangerous if not used properly. When spraying the product, remember to wear gloves, goggles and a dust mask/respirator for protection. Acetone does have a chemical odor and if using inside, the area should be ventilated to the OUTSIDE as much as possible. Of course, DCI Concrete Dye should not be swallowed or allowed contact with the eyes. Though it will not cause skin irritation, gloves should be worn at all times. Acetone is a flammable liquid. DO NOT USE ELECTRIC MIXERS OR PLACE NEAR OPEN FLAMES! Always read over safety information before using any chemicals.

Is Concrete Dye and Concrete Pigment the same product?

Concrete Dye and Concrete Pigment are NOT the same product. Concrete Dye is applied topically AFTER a slab or countertop has been poured. Concrete Pigment also known as integral color is added to the concrete mix BEFORE pouring a slab or countertop.

Why do I have to seal my concrete?

Sealing the concrete is a necessary step that preserves the newly colored surface. It is inadvisable to leave any colored concrete project exposed to the elements for more than a few months before sealing. Depending on exposure to the elements, sealer must be replaced every 2-4 years.

How much sealer do I need to seal my concrete?

Direct Colors provides an acid stain project calculator that includes per project calculates the amount of sealer needed for every project. For most projects, approximately one gallon of sealer is needed for every 200 sq. feet or five gallons for 1000 sq. feet to apply the recommended two to three thin coats of sealer.

What is the difference between water based and solvent based sealers and which should I use?

Direct Colors offers both solvent and water-based sealers suitable for any concrete project. Sealers can be applied with either an applicator or a sprayer; however, some solvent-based sealers cannot be used in all US states. Water-based sealers can be used anywhere in the US. For additional details, visit the concrete sealer page. The method used to apply sealer depends on the type of surface and the variety of sealer used. Our solvent-based non-sprayable sealers are appropriate for both indoor and outdoor applications; however, we recommend using a water-based sealer for occupied indoor applications and for basements. Water-based sealer does take longer to dry between coats, up to 24 hours depending on temperature and weather conditions. Both provide durable finishes and have easy maintenance. Use caution in applying solvent-based sealers, particularly during indoor applications. Wear a mask while applying the sealer and make certain the area is well ventilated to the outside.

How long does the sealer last?

For most outdoor applications, the sealer will last for 2 to 4 years. Exposure to the elements does affect the overall performance of both the water and solvent-based sealers. However, proper maintenance is crucial to protecting colored concrete and is the only maintainence cost associated with decorative concrete. Given the difference between weather conditions across the US, check your outdoor surface thoroughly once per year to look for uneven wearing. If you do have exposed areas, spot sealing is also an option. For indoor applications, sealer should be waxed with either a residential or commercial wax to protect the surface from marks or scuffing. If properly waxed every 6-8 months (depending on wear), the sealer will not need to be replaced.

How many coats do I need to apply?

We recommend two to three thin coats applied first to the North/South and from East /West on the second. This allows for faster curing and smoother, better appearance. Depending on the variety of sealer and the expected uses of the floor, a fourth coat may be desired. DCI Sprayable Satin Finish sealer is our most flexible product as it can affect both a matte and glossy finish as additional coats of sealer are applied. For all water-based sealers, you must wait 24 hours between 1st and 2nd coats. It is particularly important with water-based sealers to apply THIN coats as thicker coats take longer to dry and may not set-up properly.

How should I apply the sealer and what should I use to apply it?

Sealers may be applied in several ways. Direct Colors recommends that our water-based sealers, DCI Water-based and Krystal Kote Sealers, should be applied with a Padco ™ applicator such as a Floor Trim Pad or a Floor Coater depending on the actual application. DCI Sprayable Satin Finish sealer should be applied with a pump-up deck sprayer available at most hardware stores. CS-309 Semi-Gloss solvent-based sealer and AC-1315 Solvent-based High Gloss sealers should be applied with a Padco ™ Floor Coater or a Floor Trim Pad. The size of applicator you select will depend on the size of the area to be sealed. Remember to apply THIN coats to prevent streaking.

What can I do to maintain the sealer and the new glossy finish indoors?

A thin water-based acrylic wax is easy to apply and key in preserving the bright appearance of indoor decorative concrete. Both residential and commercial waxes protect the integrity of the sealer and bring out the shine of your colored concrete. Depending on the amount of wear, floors should be waxed once or twice a year to protect the sealer indefinitely. For commercial applications, the commercial wax is applied to the floor and buffed on with a buffer. Floors with heavy traffic should be monitored closely to make certain the sealer is not exposed. Spot waxing is also an option. Both of our wax products can be applied with an ordinary sponge mop. No more than 3-4 thin coats of wax should be applied at any time.

Why not just wax instead of seal your floor?

Wax does not replace the need for sealer on your decorative concrete. Sealer penetrates deep into the pores of your concrete, protecting the surface and maintaining your concrete’s true color. Unlike sealer, wax is a topical application that’s designed to protect and augment the finish of a sealer. Acrylic waxes actually protect the sealer while the sealer protects the concrete surface.

How does wax change the appearance?

Wax gives the surface a shiny, brighter appearance. The wax is a necessary part of the indoor decorative concrete process extending the life of your floor while enhancing the color and beauty of the surface.

How does wax work?

Our acrylic based wax forms a cohesive matrix of acrylic across your surface. This hard layer of acrylic will serve as a barrier between the daily wear and tear and your sealer.

How long should the wax dry before being walked on?

DCI Acrylic Wax dries quickly but allow for at least 2-3 hours between coats. Test the waxed surface by applying pressure to the floor. If no impressions appear on the floor, your room is ready for foot traffic. Wax should not be used for outdoor surfaces.


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