How to Stain Concrete Basements

Stained White Concrete Basement
Stained White Concrete Basement

For homeowners looking to add value to their house with a finished basement floor, at about $0.61 per sq. ft.; concrete stain offers the lowest-cost and highest-return of any flooring option. A Stained Concrete Basement Floor can be finished without costly contractors and are easy to maintain once sealed. Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting stain and sealer products for a basement application.

Step 1 – Evaluate Your Concrete

Basements are often the smoothest rooms in a house. So smooth in fact that they cannot be successfully stained without pre-application of chemical or mechanical profiling that will help the stain take effect. Pour water on the concrete to see if it beads up for several seconds or instead readily absorbs into the concrete. Beading or poor absorption suggests the surface is too smooth to stain and will need profiling. Most slabs will be ready for staining after an application of Hard Troweled Floor Prep. Simply cut the product with water 1:1, spray from a garden sprayer and wash off with clear water after 15-20 minutes. Test again whether water beads on the surface. For excessively smooth concrete, apply the floor prep full strength for optimal results.

Step 2 – Check for Water Issues

Many basements experience water issues as a result of drainage changes, foundation cracks, and unexpectedly heavy rains. Moisture can seep into a basement or come up through the slab as hydrostatic pressure, and these factors ultimately dictate what sealer is best for your project. Inspect your basement thoroughly for seepage of any kind and address that before finishing the basement floor. If you believe you may have high humidity, test by affixing a small sheet of plastic directly to the floor using duct tape and leave for at least 48 hours. If condensation is present under the plastic, select a breathable sealer or cure and seal sealer that allows water vapor to pass through the coating.

Test Concrete Humidity
Test for concrete humidity by affixing a small sheet of plastic directly to the floor using duct tape and leave for at least 48 hours.

Step 3 – Prepare Concrete Floor For Staining

Many basement floors have been covered with carpet or paint. All debris including glue, sealer, paint, and drywall mud must be completely removed before acid staining. Mastic Remover and Soy Gel Paint and Sealer Stripper are great low-order products suitable for basement use. Remember to clean the floor thoroughly of all cleanser residue using Concrete Cleaner & Degreaser and then to rinse well before staining.

As with any concrete stain application, testing to determine which colors and sealer finish combination works best in your basement is the best place to start. With our Concrete Stain Trial Kits you can choose up to five colors and two sealer finishes to create you own custom stained concrete basement floor.

Step 4 – Apply Concrete Dye

Stained Concrete Basement Floor

Concrete basement floor stained with acetone-based Charcoal Concrete Dye a water-based, Gray Tinted Sealer

Learn How To Apply Concrete Dye with Justin

Step 5 – Select and Apply Concrete Sealer

Choosing the correct sealer is the most critical decision for a basement project. Basements often have poor ventilation; therefore, a water-based sealer is the safe way to go. 

Direct Colors offers several excellent low VOC, water-based sealers for basement applications such as Water-Based Polyurethane Sealers and  Water-Based Acrylic Sealers in gloss and satin finishes. 

The following are the main differences between acrylic and polyurethane sealers you should consider before selecting you floor sealer.

Pros: No Primer Required & Easy Application

Cons: Wax Required


Residential and Commercial Floor Wax
Residential and Commercial Floor Wax

Pros: No-Wax Sealer

Cons: Primer Required ( Water-Based Acrylic Sealer)


Water-Based, Satin Acrylic Concrete Sealer
Water-Based, Satin Acrylic Concrete Sealer