How to stain concrete floors with water-based stains

How to stain concrete floors with water-based stains

Are you planning on staining floors, but don’t want to use acid staining or film-forming stains? Or maybe you just enjoy the world of colors water-based stains can offer?

Whatever the reason is, I’ve put together a guide that can help you do a proper job and succeed on one try. It will provide basic guidelines that are used in this kind of job.

The good thing is, water-based stains are a little bit easier to work with and more beginner-friendly than the other alternatives. To know more, read forward.

Water-based concrete stains

Water-based concrete stains are a great alternative to acid stains. Instead of getting its colors from a chemical reaction between the acid and the minerals in your cement, the water-based stain acts more like a dye.

Since concrete floors are very porous, the water-based stain is absorbed into the floor, with no need for toxic chemicals. Water-based stains give to create an opaque appearance, while acid-based stains produce a rich and deep appearance.

Those who are wary of working with an acid concrete stain can get a similar effect with water stains. It is also ideal for exterior surfaces because you do not risk damaging your lawn as you do with acid.

However, the main benefit of working with this type of concrete stain is the wide range of colors that are available. Acid-based concrete stains are usually limited to earth tones, which attempt to mimic the look of expensive stone or marble. With a water-based stain, you are able to get nearly any color you can imagine and have the final result be much more consistent.

The process of applying a water-based concrete stain is very similar to the process laid out in our how to stain concrete floors guide. However, when working with a nonreactive stain there are a few differences that we will cover in this article.

Fix cracks before staining

Staining with water-based products

Before you start you will want to check out this list of concrete staining supplies and make sure you have everything needed for your specific job. You need a pressure bottle for spraying the stain, a thin paint roller for sealing, and tape and plastic for covering areas you don’t want to stain.

You will also need some cleaning tools like a vacuum that can handle concrete dust and if you have to fix the concrete, you need supplies for that. Remember that the more time you spent preparing, the better the end result will be.

At this point, I’ll also remind you that you should make yourself familiar with the manufacturer label on the staining product. It might have certain conditions on cleaning or other areas that you have to meet.

Begin with cleaning

The first step is to prepare the concrete to be able to accept the stain. Water-based concrete stains are opaque, thus more forgiving of blemishes than an acid-based stain, but you will still want to get your surface as clean as possible.

Fill any cracks, and remove any glue or other gunk on your floor. After your floor is looking clean it is time to seal off the walls and doors (or the border of the area if you are working outside) with tape and plastic.

Staining the floor

Before you start applying the stain make sure to wear your protective gear. Then, with a sprayer begin to apply your water-based concrete stain in a smooth consistent fashion.

Start in the left corner and continue the application in a “typewriter” fashion. After the first coat is on, wait for it to dry (per manufacturer’s instructions) and apply a second coat.

Depending on the desired look of your floor there are various techniques for applying the second coat. Additional coats may also be necessary.

While the stain is drying it is essential to keep everything off of your surface. Any footprints left in the wet stain will be there for good.

Unlike when using an acid based stain it is unnecessary to neutralize the surface, because there is no chemical reaction taking place.

Seal the stained concrete to finish the job

Once all layers are fully dry (this can be up to 24 hours in some cases) it is time to apply a sealer. Check the manufacturer’s recommendation for a sealer, and make sure to use one that is designed to go with your type of stain.

Apply the sealer with a paint roller, making sure to not leave any brush strokes behind. Depending on the area being stained you may want to include a slip-resistant additive.

You can also spray the sealer on the surface, but I kind of prefer a paint roller for most of the sealing jobs. It’s a matter of preference I guess and I’m also lazy to clean equipment so I use 1-time use paint rollers.

Now you know how to stain concrete floors with water-based stains. This is an easy and affordable way to change ugly concrete into gorgeous works of art. With the right materials and this guide, you can have a new stained concrete floor by the end of next weekend.


You should have some idea now how to stain concrete floors with water-based stains. It’s not complicated and it’s safer to work with than acid stains that cause chemical reactions in the concrete.

You also have one step less to worry about as you don’t need to neutralize it. There is also a lot of colors to choose from which is a huge plus for the product.

Personally, I like water-based concrete stains as they are very beginner-friendly. Not everyone is willing to work with acids and these are easy to approach no matter what your level is as a decorator.

Just remember the basic rules of concrete working. Always work on a clean surface, have room to work in and cover, and remove everything valuable from the way.

Also, before you commit to any floor, remember to do a test sample somewhere. This is something you should do no matter what kind of staining you’re doing. It will help you by telling if the result is the kind of that you’re looking forward to.

After you see green light, you’re ready to go.

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