Traditional acid-based stains may be today’s gold standard for the decorative concrete industry, but their water-based cousins are growing in popularity due to their ease of application, quick cleanup and range of colors.
Each offers its own advantages and disadvantages. The main things to know are that surface prep is different, particularly between acid and water-based stains, and that using the right sealant for the application is a must.
On the up and up
While having a clean surface is the key to applying acid stains, when it comes to water-based products, it’s critical to know your concrete. While a broom-finished slab will easily take a water-based stain, that isn’t true with other finishes.
If you have a hard-troweled floor, you’ve got to try a number of things. Whether it’s acid-etching or potentially grinding the floor, it has to be opened up enough to get a water-based stain to penetrate properly. Preparing the floor correctly is key. Regardless of the product, though, it’s critical to follow directions. For example, when it says to let it dry 24 hours, you let it dry for 24 hours for optimal results.
Because of their broad color range (everything from earth tones to pastels), their ability to be applied full-strength or diluted to achieve different looks, and their reliability, water-based stains are often compared to acetone dyes, which are also growing in popularity.
Acetone dyes originally came from the polishing side of the industry. A dye uses a soluble pigment different from those used in water-based stains, which are not soluble.
Dyes don’t have quite the color range as water-based stains, and you don’t get the same level of control a water-based stain offers, but you can’t go wrong either way. You can layer the colors by starting with a lighter color and then go darker and create a nice piece of art with water-based stains.
It’s that layering ability that makes water-based stains a real complement to acid stains. Because many manufacturers make the same color in both formulations, it’s possible to correct problems with an acid stain using a water-based application.
That’s not to say that surface prep isn’t important with the water-based products, too. Paying more attention to that than in the past, and evening out the stain between applications with a microfiber mop, you’ll get the best results.
Sealing is the Secret
The secret to success with any of these products is using the best sealant for the job.
Proper preparation and then maintenance are really the keys to everything, and your durability depends on your maintenance and wear. The type of protectant sealant you put on top is going to determine the wear. It all depends on what your expectations are.
Of course, that requires information, and there’s probably nothing more important that you can do than get the right information from the manufacturers and suppliers before you start any job. The products are only as good as the user.
All Stone Restoration can restore your concrete floor or add in a new, sparkling one. Whether you need help deciding on the finish or decorative style. We have over 47 years of hands-on experience in all phases of stone and concrete restoration. Contact us today to get your free on-site estimate.