As concrete ages, many factors play a role in the internal breakdown of the molecular bond. As everything in our universe decays, it breaks apart at the molecular level and concrete is no different. Our driveways and patios are subject to wind, rain, and freezing, and all the chemicals that are carried by our cars, etc.
With few easy steps, you can protect your property against the environment and time. With the use of several maintenance techniques, a poured concrete structure that is open to the elements will remain intact for decades to come.
One fact about cleaning concrete that is often misunderstood is the use of a pressure washer. Many homeowners rent or purchase pressure washing equipment, planning to clean the algae or stains from the concrete.
The process is repeated over and over again with the same effect. Every six months you have to pressure wash it again as the washed surface gets dirty. This is a case of wasted money and time when the best solution for cleaning dirty concrete is to pressure wash it, etch and stain it, sealing it forever from invasive chemicals, nature, and erosion.
After a good pressure washing from a quality pressure washer, allow it to dry 24 hours before proceeding with the acid etching. Using an etching formula like phosphoric acid is a safe alternative to muriatic acid and is less toxic to handle. With a pair of rubber gloves on, mix the etcher as directed and scrub onto the concrete using a stiff-bristled brush.
Staining concrete floor
Measure the area you wish to stain, to know how much you’ll need. A textured look will require less stain than complete coverage. Especially if you use a combination of shades, you’ll need far less of each shade than you would of just one solid color.
Clean the area with a degreaser, paying particular attention to stains. You want the concrete to look as even as possible before you start the etching. Wash it with the power washer, but be careful not to wash it too hard or too close as it will leave a mark on the surface. Depending on the pressure washer, the more powerful ones might even remove concrete. Then it’s left to dry and the next day just sweep away the trash that might be there.
Mask the surrounding areas you don’t wish to stain.
To prevent the leaching of salts from the ground into the concrete, which will discolor your stain, use an efflorescence blocker. It’s designed to prevent efflorescence and alkali from rising to the surface within the concrete and so it gives extra protection for the stain.
Simply apply it with the garden sprayer, then brush it out with the broom. Then you can let it dry for an hour. This is the last step before you can start with the staining.
Spray on the stain by doing it by layers. After one layer is done, let it dry before doing another one. For the look of stone, each layer should be thicker in some areas and thinner in others. Different shades of stain will give the effect of different kinds of stone.
This is where you can really let your imagination shine, even patterns are possible if you want to do them with concrete stencils. Drying time between layers could be as much as twenty-four hours, and the more coats you spray, the longer it will take to dry. After letting the stain dry for an additional twenty-four hours, apply the sealer with a thin-nap paint roller.
If the concrete is new, it should be at least 28 days old before staining.
Concrete seal coating
The concrete seal coat is a protective paint or stain that is applied to the concrete, changing its upper layer into a protective composite coating. Typically the concrete coat is colored, changing the appearance of the concrete, but clear coats can be used as well. Even the clear coat can change the outlook a little bit.
The coating can be good to spread with a thin-nap paint roller. Depending on the coating, it probably has high viscosity so it can almost be like spreading water on the ground. Just remember not to spread with a dry roller as it’s supposed to be a coating.
Aggregates like sand or fine gravel can be added to the mix providing a firm anti-slip surface concrete sealer, even when wet. Quartz sand is white and might fit well with most coatings. Epoxy semi-gloss concrete stain can be added to interior concrete slabs for oil-free and stain-proof finishes perfect for mechanics shops, just like in world-class car showrooms around the world.
Clear coats and other concrete stains are easy to apply. Using a heavy nap roller cover and paint roller, spread on the concrete sealer just like you would paint a wall. Keep paint lines down by continually keeping plenty of paint on the roller (AKA loading the roller) and reworking areas. A second coat is often needed on porous concrete.
The key to a good finish is using enough coating and going systematically from one end to another. It’s good to check the time the coating is workable and plan accordingly. Don’t go back fixing coating that has been on the floor for some time as it has probably started to harden and it will just leave an uglier surface (bubble gum like).
Every year after the concrete has been properly sealed, a simple cleaning with an oxygenated bleach product is sufficient. If any concrete stain has peeled up, discolored, blistered, or flaked, the area should be pressure washed and allowed to dry for 48 hours prior to heavy retching and resealing with the concrete stain.
Well done coating should make it easier to keep the concrete clean though. Just need to avoid the use of harmful chemicals on it.
Concrete might last for decades, but it will take proper maintenance to keep it looking good. The old gray look can get quite dirty after a while so staining and sealing can help it to look fresh.
There are other options as well like epoxy and polyurethane coatings, but they are different kind of processes and might take more professional work.