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Preparing Floors for Concrete Staining and Epoxy Coatings - Step 1: Cleaning

Updated: Feb 6, 2019

It's all in the prep. All concrete is unique and different situations and designs call for different preparation methods. This always begins with a thorough assessment of the surface and proper cleaning.


Clean Floors for Concrete Staining is Key

Once our customers learn not only how beautiful stained concrete can be but also how simple it is to maintain decorative stained concrete floors they're usually ready to pull up old, ugly carpets and dingy vinyl tiles to decorate the concrete below. These savvy homeowners have become more prevalent as people move away from dusty carpet to a more modern stain application. Step 1 for any new concrete floors usually begins with a much-needed cleaning before decorative concrete stains or epoxy coatings can be applied.


Why is a Clean Surface Important?

When it comes to chemically stained concrete floors or epoxy flooring, making the mistake of inadequately cleaning the surface can be tricky to overcome, usually taking more time to remedy than the extra time doing it right would've taken. Unlike paints and other coatings, which are more solid in color and can disguise many blemishes, both water stains and acid stains are more transparent in nature and therefore less forgiving. The presence of residues or unwanted stains still on the floor could possibly show through the concrete stain design.

Those who skip steps in the cleaning process run a risk of having the final product affected by their lack of attention to detail and this can literally alter the entire end result. A poor cleaning job can appear once the final sealer or floor wax is applied.

Chemical concrete stains like acid stains need to penetrate the concrete surface to properly react with the concrete's lime content. Materials on the surface that aren't adequately removed can act as bond inhibitors to the concrete stain's absorption and reaction processes. Inhibitors such as grease, oil, paint or other similar construction materials can prevent the color from showing as intended. That's why you need an experienced professional company specializing in decorative concrete staining of residential and commercial concrete floors like Spectrum Superior Stain in Austin, TX.

Curing compounds and membranes, which tend to be encountered more frequently in commercial construction projects rather than on residential concrete surfaces are especially tough to remove. Even after you clean the surface, the curing compound may have migrated down into the pores of the concrete and the stain will react minimally. A common characteristic of these compounds is the presence of marks in the surface that resembles water spots.

A common DIY practice to prepare a surface is to open up the pours by applying a light acid etching. This is actually a bad idea as the acid etching deteriorates the lime content needed to react with the chemical stain.


When Cleaning Isn't Enough

Often times we may come across deposits or debris that refuse to surrender to even our best cleaning efforts. Sometimes floor scraping and chemical stripping aren't enough to remove glues, caulk, glues or mastics, and other heavy contaminants already on your surface. When we encounter these situations we usually need to mechanically remove the inhibitors with such methods as concrete grinding. This is best left to the pros as the mechanical abrasion from floor grinding can also remove layers of the cement paste from the surface, which will cause the stain to react differently. Grinding can also leave swirl marks in the slab if you're overly aggressive and the concrete dust caused by grinding must be handled with proper professional equipment.

Another tactic to help camouflage stubborn discolorations is to incorporate them as best as possible into the concrete stain design and color selection. We do this by assisting with strategic color selection options that'll help to blend and conceal blemishes by applying accent colors over discolorations to incorporate them into the stain design. If nothing else after we finish staining and sealing the floor, we can go back and apply dyes or faux finish techniques to objectionable spots and re-seal them. This is also a common solution to remedy any areas where the stain refuses to take completely.


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