Tuesday, July 20, 2010

diy: staining concrete

I spent last week digging up one of the gems the last owners left for us, a walkway covered in pebbles and haphazard concrete pavers, trimmed with lovely little scalloped concrete borders - an adorable little trailer park aesthetic. I wish now that I'd taken a picture, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

Once I'd dug up the pebbles, which have now gone to reside in my shoes, we were left with a broken, cracked concrete walk. The cracks no more of an impediment to walking than the pebbles were, and the cracks not as bothersome to me as to OCD Allen, I decided I could live with the walkway if it weren't so bleached and dry-looking. That's where acid stain comes in.

First I thought we might just try wood stain (we've amassed an impressive collection), but the interwebs have me understand that the acid in concrete stain actually reacts with the lime in Portland cement, a component of concrete, to create the hue. I researched a few makers, and we decided to go with Fabcrete stain, in Java Brown.

Fabcrete says that their products were developed "with the do-it-yourselfer in mind," and we certainly found that to be true. It's not tricky to use or even tedious; you just need to make sure the area you're staining is clean. Special equipment includes a pressure-washer, which you can rent at a hardware store, and a garden sprayer, which can be bought cheaply or borrowed cheaper.

Our concrete didn't require any special preparation, since it was free of glues, adhesives, and paint. So our first step was to pressure-wash the concrete you're treating, with a little dish soap mixed into the water.

Once the surface is clean, simply use the garden sprayer to apply one or two coats of stain. Check the stain maker's instructions for application tips, as well as a step for removing the stain residue (we simply sprayed it off with water).  

Java Brown turned out to be lighter than we'd expected, but we were prepared for some color variation, since concrete itself varies so much in composition and texture.  The job cost about $60, which is the cost of the stain, plus shipping.

Here's the before, with a peek of the sun-bleached concrete in the bottom corner:

And here's the after:

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