When you find yourself faced with eighties pink carpet around a toilet, there is really only one solution. Naturally, it’s stained concrete floors. For the look, durability, and price you really can’t beat it. But, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it and I am sure they aren’t.
Though I learned my fair share of hard lessons on this project, I can say that the reward at the end still made it all worth it. When visitors walk through the door for the first time, it gets the wow factor. All I can say is, IT BETTER. If I could go back in time, I would give myself a few tips, because some of these mistakes got painful.
It seems like a lifetime ago that I was doing research on acid etched staining for concrete floors. I hadn’t even found my house yet, but I knew that no matter what house we settled on, project number one would be concrete staining. Part of the appeal of the house we finally found was the terrible pink carpet. I was relieved when I found it in repulsive condition! That way I didn’t feel even the least bit guilty about showing it the door.
Once the carpet was removed, the first set of problems was revealed. Ironically when the carpet first came up I was worried about a surface crack that went across the living room floor. Now I think it adds charm. The things that needed to be worried about were any unnatural features. The tack strips for the carpet had to be removed and with them came chunks of concrete. Areas that had linoleum left glue residue. Next to all the walls the concrete was incidently stained and sealed from the original baseboard work. And finally the concrete floors on exterior walls stopped short of the wall and had exposed expansion material between the slab and the stem wall. There were a lot of discouraging discoveries. I wasn’t about to give up though, and you shouldn’t either if you are considering a stained concrete project. You should just expect these kind of imperfections with concrete that was placed with intent to be a substrate not a finished surface.
The first item I attacked was filling in the holes left from the removal of tack strip nails. The holes ranged from the size of the nail up to 2 1/2″ across depending on the strength of the concrete and the grip of the nail. On this step, I also filled any pits or large chips in the concrete. Most of these appeared to be from the construction process where wall braces had been temporarily nailed. Of course, the framers didn’t worry about the concrete because no one told them to. It was going to be covered up.
The product I used to fill voids was Precision Grout by Quikrete. It doesn’t shrink as it cures and has very fine aggregate. Both of these characteristics are key to filling in these small voids in old concrete. I used a masons trowel to work the grout into the voids and smooth the surface.
While the holes were drying, I started the removal of the stain and varnish. This was a tough one. The two options in my mind were mechanical removal with a belt sander or chemical removal with stripper. I went with the belt sander because I had a whole house to do and not a lot of time. This method definitely got the job done but I wouldn’t recommend it. Anywhere the concrete was thoroughly sanded to remove the old varnish the concrete character was changed, not so desirable in my book but more on that later.
The last preparation step is a lot of cleaning. The concrete must be clean of dirt and oils. Anywhere that water cannot penetrate into the concrete quickly and easily, the stain will not work. I have heard that TSP works really well but I just used soap, water, a deck brush, a squeegee, a shop vac and mops. I’ll let you make that decision. But it has to be clean!
While the concrete was drying from being cleaned, I masked off baseboards, walls and cabinetry from the floor to three feet up, since it would need protection from the overspray in the next step. Check back next time for the most exciting part, the staining!