Concrete is no longer a boring surface to be covered—or ignored. Indeed, stained concrete has grown in popularity for outdoor surfaces, as well as interior floors and countertops in both residential and commercial settings.
We asked five pros about their go-to concrete stains. Across the board, they noted that acid staining—while providing a beautiful finish—presents additional challenges in terms of safety and cleanup. They recommend looking into acetone- and water-based products. Here are our pros and their favorite product lines:
With more than 25 years in business, Delaware-based Complete Concrete Systems tackles a mix of concrete-staining projects for residential and commercial customers, including floors, patios, pool decks and countertops.
Owner Justin Stolba likes Increte Systems’ Vibra-Stain SB for interior work. Available in 20 colors, the powder dye mixes with acetone to create a semitransparent color.
“It dries extremely fast, so you can get right on top of it and seal it,” Stolba says. “And it has a deep, rich color once it’s sealed.”
For outdoor projects, he likes Increte’s Stone Essence Concentrated Transparent Concrete Stain, a water-based product that boasts the look of an acid stain, but without the cleanup fuss or environmental impact of acid.
DAN DIGRAZIO, JR.
R & R Coatings, Inc. in Salisbury, MD, works with customers along the mid-Atlantic, staining concrete floors in warehouses, hotels, schools, manufacturing plants and restaurants—with a smattering of residential projects too.
R & R has two favorite stains, says Dan DiGrazio, Jr., the company’s VP.
“For polished concrete, we use an acetone stain; we like AmeriPolish products,” he says. “Their depth of color is really great.”
The company’s other go-to, he says, is Scofield Formula One Liquid Dye Concentrate, which mixes with acetone for a great interior concrete stain.
Both AmeriPolish and Scofield offer great choices for color, he notes. “The variety of colors,” he says, “gives our customers the options they require to make their design dreams become realities.”
For exterior projects, such as residential walkways and driveways, the company recently used H&C INFUSION Water-Based Semitransparent Decorative Stain, but also recommends H&C COLORTOP Solvent-Based Solid Color Concrete Sealer, which yields an appearance similar to a solid-color stain but has the added benefit of sealing.
With 23 years in business, Tom Lopatosky, of LOPCO Contracting in Rhode Island, has stained quite a number of residential concrete patios over the years. His preferred product is INSL-X TuffCrete Waterborne Acrylic Concrete Stain. The water-reduced acrylic coating can be used inside or out, and boasts a durable finish that resists oils, grease and scrubbing.
“I like the way it looks when it’s dry, and the coverage is great on it,” Lopatosky says.
Beyond the high-gloss clear stain, the satin sheen offers many color options. He also appreciates the way the TuffCrete applies.
“It goes on like butter—it’s really nice,” he says, adding, “The key is in the preparation. If you prepare the surface properly, it will bite beautifully and will last a long, long time.”
Based in Hiram, GA, MC’s Painting & Decorating, Inc. specializes in commercial with a smaller footprint in light industrial work. Most of the staining work is interior flooring, says the company’s president, Josh McBrayer.
For the large jobs they do, McBrayer says the stain products are typically driven by the job specs. He leans toward RetroPlate and Scofield, though Scofield, he acknowledges, is often too pricey for his clients’ budgets.
The RetroPlate Concrete Dye Concentrates can be diluted in water, alcohol or acetone, and come in 14 colors. And the Scofield Formula One Liquid Dye Concentrate mixes with acetone and comes in more than 20 colors. McBrayer appreciates both brands’ color palettes, and likes that they are liquid dyes.
“With powders, you have to mix the stain the night before and let it sit for at least 12 hours— and that can be a pain,” he says.
For his money, though, it’s people over products. “There are a lot of products, but there’s not a lot of significant difference in them,” he says. “So, for me, a lot of it comes down to my reps. I lean on my reps a lot—for example, if an owner or architect has a question. I look at it as a team approach. I’m very relationship-driven in this industry.”
Staining concrete floors and countertops for both residential and commercial customers has kept Memphis-based David Stovall of David Stovall & Associates busy for decades.
“I started doing outdoor decorative concrete in 1968, and then doing indoor floors in 1995,” he says. “There was no demand for indoor concrete staining before 1995.”
All those years of working with stains led him to create his own line of concrete stains, sealers and overlay materials.
“I got interested in it and started researching how to make stain,” he says. “Because I was doing the work, I knew what worked well, and I knew what I wanted in a stain.”
His own Stain True line is, of course, his go-to stain line, and is available for purchase in some hardware stores in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.
He says his stains are as good as, or better than, other products on the market, adding that his Floor Honey sealer is among the best in the country.
“It’s a wonderful product,” he adds. “I don’t know of any other on the market that’s like it.”
He’s proud of his Stain True products and notes that the stain colors are true to the color chart—a feature appreciated by pros and homeowners alike.