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How to Stain Basement Concrete Floors

How to Stain a Basement Concrete Floor

For homeowners looking to add value to their home with a finished basement floor, concrete stain is a low-cost and high-return flooring option. It costs only $0.61 per square foot!

A stained basement concrete floor can be finished without costly contractors and is 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 often have the smoothest floors in the house. Therefore, they can’t be successfully stained without the pre-application of chemical or mechanical profiling that helps the stain take effect.

Pour water on the concrete to see if it beads up for several seconds or quickly absorbs into the concrete. Beading or poor absorption suggests the surface is too smooth to stain and will need profiling.

Most slabs are ready for staining after an application of CitrusEtch™ concrete etcher.

Simply cut the product with water 1:1, use a garden sprayer, and wash off with clear water after 15-20 minutes. Then, test again whether water beads on the surface.

For excessively smooth concrete, apply the floor prep full-strength for optimal results.

pour clean water on it and see what happens
Pour clean water on it & see what happens!
Water on sealed concrete surface after one hour
If water doesn't absorb after five minutes, it's probably been sealed.

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 leak into a basement or come up through the slab as hydrostatic pressure, and these factors ultimately dictate which concrete sealer is best for your project.

Inspect your basement thoroughly for leakage of any kind and address that before finishing the basement floor.

Test for high humidity by sticking a small sheet of plastic directly to the floor using duct tape and leaving it for at least 48 hours.

If condensation is present under the plastic, select a breathable sealer or a concrete cure and seal that allows water vapor to pass through the coating.

Test Concrete Humidity
Stick a sheet of plastic to the floor with duct tape & leave for at least 48 hours.

Step 3 – Prepare surface for staining

Removing Old Paint with a Concrete Grinder
Remove old paint or stubborn carpet glue with a concrete grinder.

Most basement floors usually have carpet or paint. All debris including glue, sealer, paint, and drywall mud must be completely removed before staining.

Mastic Remover and Soy Gel Stripper are great low-odor products suitable for basement use.

Remember to clean the floor thoroughly of all cleanser residue using ProClean concrete cleaner and degreaser. Rinse it well and allow it to dry before staining.

For older concrete floors with stubborn carpet glue and paint, you can rent a concrete grinder from your local hardware store. This creates a clean slate to work with.

If you’re staining with Vibrance Dye, we recommend applying a base coat (use the same sealer you’ll be applying as your top coat).

Incorrect Surface Preparation

Concrete with sturdy carpet glue
Poorly prepared concrete surface (sturdy carpet glue).

Correct Surface Preparation

Properly cleaned and prepared concrete surface
Properly prepared concrete surface that's ready to stain.

Step 4 – Apply Concrete Stain

As with any concrete stain application, test to determine which colors and sealer finish combination work best in your basement.

With our Concrete Stain Trial Kits, you can choose up to three stain colors and one sealer finish to create your own custom concrete basement floor.

The four best interior concrete colorants are:

Vibrance Concrete Dye Powder

Vibrance Dye is one of the most versatile staining options of Direct Colors’ concrete colorants. This concrete dye is easy to apply with an acetone-grade pump sprayer. It’s great for all of your smooth and polished concrete coloring needs!

White Concrete Stained Basement Flooring

This concrete basement floor features White Vibrance concrete dye and AcquaSeal water based sealer.

Gray Stained Concrete Basement Floor

This concrete basement floor features White, Charcoal, and Stormy Gray Vibrance Dye and AcquaSeal satin sealer.

ColorWave Water Based Stain

ColorWave® is a water based concrete stain that colors concrete or other cement-based materials by delivering ultra-fine pigment to the surface.

Colorwave Black, Stone Gray & Iron Gray Concrete Floor
Colorwave stained concrete floor

AcquaTint Tinted Concrete Sealer

The best thing about AcquaTint is that it’s stain and sealer in one step! This semi transparent stain adds color to your concrete, while providing the protective benefits of a sealer.

Learn how to apply colored concrete sealer.

Tinted Sealer Design on Concrete Basement

This concrete basement floor features Charcoal and Gray AcquaTint, a top coat of AcquaSeal water-based acrylic sealer, and floor wax.

Cat enjoying new concrete stained floors

This concrete basement floor features charcoal AcquaTint tinted sealer, a top coat of low VOC AcquaSeal, and floor wax.

EverStain Acid Stain

Concrete acid stain permanently adds color to concrete surfaces with its signature marbled look. Since each concrete slab is different, every project will result in a truly unique outcome – that’s the beauty of acid stain!

Learn how to acid stain interior concrete floors.

Stunning Acid Stained Concrete Floor - Turquoise

This concrete floor features EverStain Azure Blue, Malayan Buff, and Cola acid stain with a top coat of AcquaSeal water based sealer, and floor wax.

Azure Blue and Coffee Brown Stained Concrete Basement Floors

This concrete floor features EverStain Azure Blue and Coffee Brown acid stain, a top coat of AcquaSeal low VOC acrylic sealer, and floor wax.

Learn How To Apply Concrete Dye with Justin

Learn How To Apply Acid Stain 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 safest way to go. 

Direct Colors offers several low VOC, water based sealers for basement applications in gloss and satin finishes. 

Consider the following differences between polyurethane and acrylic sealer before selecting your concrete sealer.

Acrylic Sealer

Pros:

  • No primer required
  • Easy application

Cons:

Polyurethane Sealer

Pros:

  • No-wax sealer

Cons: 

  • No maintenance
How to Layer Concrete Stains

Layering Stain Techniques

 Learn the basic techniques for adding layers of color for gorgeous-looking concrete. Applying multiple acid stain colors to concrete is the best way to create that signature marbled look.