Acid Stains in Chicago, IL

Because of concrete's porous qualities and neutral tone, it is the perfect blank canvas for topically applied color. Using acid-based chemical stains, decorative concrete contractors have been able to achieve rich, earth-toned color schemes resembling natural stone, marble, wood, or even leather, giving a completely custom look to cement floors, concrete driveways, patios, walkways, pool decks, concrete walls and more.

Most acid stains are a mixture of water, hydrochloric acid, and acid-soluble metallic salts. They work by penetrating the surface and reacting chemically with the hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide) in the concrete. The acid in the stain lightly etches the surface, allowing the metallic salts to penetrate more easily. Once the stain reacts, it becomes a permanent part of the concrete and won't fade, chip off, or peel away. Like stains for wood, acid-based stains are translucent and the color they produce will vary depending on the color and condition of the substrate they are applied to. Each concrete slab will accept the stain in varying degrees of intensity, creating natural color variations that bring character and distinction to each project. What acid stains don't offer is a broad color selection. You'll mostly find them in a limited array of subtle earth tones, such as tans, browns, terra cottas, and soft blue-greens. But newer products on the market such as water-based penetrating stains and water- and solvent-based concrete dyes are greatly expanding the artist's palette with colors ranging from soft pastels to vivid reds, oranges, yellows, and purples.

Acid Stained floors are growing in popularity.  Many people are looking to stained floors as an alternative to carpet, tile and wood.  The information below is an introduction to Acid Stained floors.

Acid Stains are not a paint or coating or a sealer.  Acid Stained Concrete is a coloring process involving a chemical reaction on a cementitious material.  A solution made with water, acid and inorganic salts reacts with minerals already present in the concrete (All concrete has calcium hydroxide as a biproduct. This is slaked limed. This picks up carbon dioxide from the air and becomes calcium bicarbonate. This is effluorescence.  These are the chemicals that the stain reacts with).  Acid stains are made from hydrochloric acid, wetting agents and metallic ions. When this solution is placed on concrete it colors the concrete by chemically combining the metallic ions with the particles in the concrete to form oxides; the result of this reaction is color.

Chemical stains can be applied to new or old, plain or colored concrete surfaces. Although they are often called acid stains, acid is not the ingredient that colors the concrete. Metallic salts in an acidic, water-based solution react with hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide) in hardened concrete to yield insoluble, colored compounds that become a permanent part of the concrete.  There are many manufactures of Acid Stain and most produce stain in 8 colors that are variations of three basic color groups: black, brown, and blue-green.


Acid Stains give concrete a mottled, variegated, marble-like look.  Never expect Acid Stain to be uniform or have an even tone, you will get different reactions from slab to slab, and even on the same job you may see different coloration patterns. Variations of colors and mottling are to be expected and enjoyed.  It is the random mix of tones and shades that gives an acid stained floor it's unique beauty.

Some stain manufactures will use adjectives such as Vintage or Antique to describe their version.


How Stain works


 Acid stains are made from hydrochloric acid, wetting agents and metallic ions. When this solution is placed on concrete it colors the concrete by chemically combining the metallic ions with the particles in the concrete to form oxides. The finish won't fade or chip, it is permanent. The acid in chemical stains opens the top surface of the concrete (this may be referred to as "etched"), allowing metallic salts in the mixture to reach the free lime in the concrete. Water from the stain solution then fuels the reaction between the Lime and the Metalic Salts.  Stains will normally be applied to a surface for 4 or more hours.  However, the surface will continue to develop its patina - an appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use; established character for several more hours.


Other factors that affect the outcome include:

  • Cement properties and Mix Design
  • Admixtures used
  • Type of aggregate used
  • Concrete finishing methods
  • Concrete age and moisture content when stain is applied
  • Weather conditions when stain is applied
  • Efflorescence

In general, cements that produce larger amounts of calcium hydroxide during hydration will show more stain color, and higher cement contents produce more intense colors.  If they are near the surface, calcium-based aggregates, such as lime-stone, take stain readily and deepen the color of the concrete above them. Solid aggregates, such as gravel, don’t react with the stain.

 Acid stains, unlike paints, are not opaque - they are translucent.  Some areas will be darker than others, similar to marble or flagstone.  Along with the naturally occurring variegations and marbling - any blemishes and imperfections in your concrete simply add character and charm. Even cracks can add to the look.


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