It's the post you've all been waiting for...I hope ;)
No, seriously. This is a good one. Ever since I started blogging about our (then-future) small space move, I have touched on the idea of staining our concrete floors. I am super proud of this project, not only because it turned out fabulously, but it was cost-effective and I did it all myself (no hubs or daddy help!).
Before I get to the good stuff, I want to toss out a few disclaimers and FYIs.
--In researching this idea/project, I realized there are many types of concrete stain available, in a wide variety of colors. The brand I used was the same one my father-in-law used, made by Kemiko. The color I used is black.
--There are widely differing opinions as to how to apply the stain, how many coats, etc. I don't think there is a single correct way. In fact, I'm not sure you can mess this up...mostly because the end result depends about 90% on the chemical reaction between the stain and your concrete--not so much your technique or method of application.
--About that chemical reaction: I spoke to several different people, including a couple of 'pros' who told me that the age, location, current weather, and conditioning of the concrete ALL play a factor in the end result. I could stain my new floor the same time and way my neighbor stains theirs, and it look radically different. (lesson here: expect the unexpected)
--Color choice for me was easy. We did not want anything colored (green, blue, etc.) nor did I want anything that would run the risk of giving me a golden or orange hue. According to the pro at my local store, that meant black was the way to go. Something for y'all to consider if you do this :)
--This is for indoor AND outdoor concrete; the difference is the prep and the sealant you use.
So here's an up close of my plain, new concrete. Per instruction, it's best to let newly poured indoor concrete cure for at least 4-6 weeks before applying stain.
Also, it needs to be as clean and free of debris as possible, and it helps if it's damp. Easy solution: with a clean, damp mop, go over the floor a few hours before you apply the stain. You want the floor damp, but without any standing water. This time window would vary, of course, on the weather. It was still cold enough here for the heat to be running so we didn't want it to get too dry. This helps the concrete not soak up quite so much stain at once. Think of it as priming wood before painting.
Another thing to note: this WILL get all over the place, and the Tyvek you see on the walls (my poor daddy, thinking it would salvage the walls) will not help. It will merely create a small white (or whatever wall color) stripe between the top splatters and the bottom ones. Do not paint beforehand, or plan to repaint/touch up after wards.
Once you have your stain, you need to get an inexpensive sprayer from your local home improvement store. Like the kind you use for weed killer. DO NOT get metal. Get one that has all plastic parts. The acid in the stain will corrode the metal. We got ours at Lowe's for about $10.
Here's one of those times about widely varying opinions. We mixed our stain roughly half and half; equal parts stain to water. HOWEVER. I have seen and heard some say that it should be 2:1 (water/stain) and some people say it can be 2:1 the other direction (stain/water). The only thing I know is that it's very similar to wood stain, in that the less diluted the stain is, the deeper your color has the potential to be. But that goes back to that pesky chemical reaction. I barely passed my honors Chem course. Don't ask me how it all works. Moving on.
Here's a little 'action shot' with me spraying. Plan to be in constant motion. There is no stand and spray for a few, move around. Just start in the farthest corner and work your way backward to your exit. Spray in sweeping motions, and don't spray enough that it begins to puddle up. (although I did on accident a couple of times, and it was fine)
This is right by the door after 1-2 coats. I ended up doing 3 coats total, and using every drop of my stain in the process. We weren't afraid of it turning out dark so I just went for it. Notice the contrast between this photo and the one above. The below picture shows the stain after it had dried, whereas in the top photo, it's still wet.
Don't let the darkness fool you when it's wet; it can substantially lighten once it is dry. And speaking of dry--let each coat dry as close to 24 hours as possible before applying your next coat.
Here we are after all three coats have been applied, and the stain is drying. You can already see the marbled effect, which I love. This is caused by the consistency of the concrete and its' composition as much as it is the reaction to the stain. It's awesome!
After letting the stain cure for a day, I came back to apply the sealer. We talked to the stain pro as well as the helpful man at Lowe's, and they both recommended this. The man at Lowe's said the easiest and most effective method of application was using a long handled roller with a long nap roller cover (I think mine was 3/8 in.). I applied it much like you would paint to a wall. Poured it into a paint tray and started walking. It's important to note that if your concrete is stamped like mine, you need to push a bit more to ensure the sealer gets in all the grooves.
I used the entire gallon of sealer, which got me just over 2 coats. By that I mean, I did 2 full, thick coats and then used the remainder to ensure the edges were properly sealed and the grooves were covered.
Here are two finished pictures, taken a few days ago. As you can see, it is not "black" at all. More of a brownish-gray. In fact, it really reminds me of concrete after a good steady rain...but marbled. We LOVE it. I have said multiple times if I could have this floor all over the house, I would.
Including the cost of having the concrete floor poured, we came out at less than $500. I was pretty thrilled. The end result is unique, and it's incredibly low maintenance. It's easy to vacuum, and a damp mop or Swiffer cleans it just fine.
It also feels surprisingly good underfoot. It's not as cold or smooth as tile...however, it's still cool and has a little texture which I enjoy. Is that odd? I just like the way it feels under my feet. The room this is in ended up being our living room, which means it's high-traffic but cleaning is such a breeze.
I seriously cannot say enough positive things about this project. It was easy, it wasn't super expensive, it didn't take much time to complete (in terms of actual hands-on time), and it's low-maintenance. I think it would be awesome in a bathroom or kitchen as well.