Many homeowners are ripping up their carpet and hardwood, exposing the bare concrete underneath. Why? To get the rich look of natural stone or even tanned leather. When you stain your concrete floors, you can achieve any of these lovely finishes.

The concrete is first thoroughly cleaned . Then, the stain is applied. There are two types of stain: reactive and non-reactive. Reactive stain contains metallic salts that react with the lime in the concrete. Reactive or acid stain leaves a mottled, multi-hued look. Non-reactive stain is water based. It works by depositing pigment in the pores of the concrete and comes in broader colors. However, non-reactive or acrylic stain is more opaque than reactive. It is best to spray it on, but stain can also be rolled, brushed or mopped on.

For a single coat, the cost of staining may be as low as $2 to $4 dollars per square foot. With elaborate stencils, the cost may be significantly higher. You may want to hire a contractor, or you may want to stain your own floor. If the concrete is new, it must cure for 30 days before you begin. The bare floor must also be thoroughly cleaned. Most of the time a simple medium strength degreaser will work.

Never use any sort of acid to clean, because this will wreak havoc on the chemical reaction. Any imperfections in the concrete will show through the stain. To open up the surface, you may want to sand the floor lightly. Test a portion of the floor with a little stain because the color never looks exactly the same wet as dry.

Since it takes up to eight hours for the chemical reaction to take place, you don’t want to walk on the floor for a while. Don’t expect uniformity or perfection in the end result. The variegated look of the finished product is part of the beauty of colored concrete floors.

Concrete floors are tough but not invincible. Wipe up any spills immediately. Chewing gum will usually come off during normal cleaning. If it doesn’t you can lift it off after cleaning. Do not scrape it off. Dust mop the floor regularly. In the beginning, apply 2 to 3 coats of floor finish and maintain them. High traffic areas will need a coating of floor finish every four to five weeks. Apply first coat in figure eight strokes, apply the second coat perpendicular to the first.

Allow floor to dry between coats and before allowing anyone to walk on the floor. Do not use high pressure washer equipment, green, brown or black floor pads or Nylo-grit rotary brushes either. Avoid furniture that may scrape the floor and high-alkaline cleaners, degreasers or strippers. Do not ever put tape on the floor.

Stained concrete is beautiful. It has high sheen and classic beauty. No two concrete floors look alike. Whether you hire a professional or do it your yourself, understand that staining a concrete floor is labor intensive, but worth the effort. It is possible to have this beautiful look in your home and worth the light effort necessary to maintain it.