A long tale about staining our concrete floors: Part 1 of 3 (preparation)

Happy Thanksgiving! Exactly one year ago, my husband and I were smack in the middle of the largest home improvement project we’ve ever tackled: staining our concrete floors. We did sections of the house in stages and we stained probably about 1100 square feet of floor. Over the Thanksgiving 2010 holiday, we tackled the largest chunk which was probably 750 square feet all at once. More about that later.

Because this was such a long and involved process, I’ve broken up my tale into 3 parts:

  1. Preparing to stain concrete
  2. Staining and sealing concrete
  3. Caring for your floors

So, on to the preparation!

The preparation phase was by far the longest mostly because of the research I did. I knew that I wanted some sort of hard floors in the house and stained concrete seemed like the most affordable.  Aside from that, I knew nothing about what to do. I began researching online. I don’t have much recollection of everything that I read, but I do have a record of links saved on delicious if you are interested.

I read about many different ways to stain your floors. Since we would be living in the house with our four pets during the process, I knew I wanted to avoid the toxicity of most etch and stain combinations (like the ones found in Home Depot or Lowes). That lead to me to the ecoprocrete line of products, specifically SoyCrete stain. A number of discussions with employees at House + Earth here in Austin confirmed my idea that this would be the best stain for us to use.

I knew that I wanted to take this process slowly and test out colors and methods as we went. We decided to tackle the small spare bedroom first. I wasn’t quite sure which color I wanted so I ordered a number of samples from Eco Safety Products. We also knew from removing the carpet during our computer room remodel that our concrete was covered with paint from when the walls were painted before we moved in. (Thanks for the mess, painters!) From talking to some of the dealers on the phone and researching online, we decided to try some soy based paint strippers. I got two of them (one was Soy It and I don’t remember the other) and tried them out in the closet of the spare bedroom. They both worked pretty well for thick paint but the real fine paint spray didn’t come off that well. That combined with the fact that the stain didn’t look that great on top of our ugly concrete slab led us to seek an alternative.

At this point, we decided to use a concrete overlay. Again, ecoprocrete offered an easy-to-use, non toxic product that we settled on called Deco-Poz. We purchased it from House + Earth and talked extensively with the employees there who had used the products in the restroom of their store.

With our decisions about stain color and concrete overlay made, it was now time to begin the physical labor of preparing the floors.  We actually did the floors in three sections, the spare bedroom to test out our methods, the master bedroom, and then the combination of the living room, dining room, and hallway all at once (yeah, that was the giant Thanksgiving project of around 750 square feet).

In general this is how preparing the existing concrete worked:

  1. If you are painting the room, it’s a good idea to do it before the staining. Make sure to have some left over in case you splatter things from the floor on to your freshly painted walls. Trust me, it will happen. We also painted the baseboards at this time and went back and touched them up later.

    We painted the walls before removing the carpet

  2. Remove all carpet and carpet strips (Aside: if you have glue under the carpet, you will need to clean this off thoroughly. We were lucky and did not have glue.)
  3. Get a cheap mop to spread water around on the floor. Let it soak for 15 minutes or so. We found this made the paint much easier to remove from the floor. It also very handy to have a large squeegee to move water around during all stages of the cleaning process.
  4. Because the overlay is thin, the thick paint splatters had to be scraped up to keep from showing through. We got a paint scraper that you could stand up and use as well as a smaller one for the more delicate areas like by the corners. The big scraper looked something like this. This step can take quite a while depending on how much paint is splattered about and it’s nice if you can get men with muscles to help out.

    So. Much. Paint. Splattered.

  5. After scraping, mop the floors with water again and use a shop vac to vacuum it up so that there is very little residue left. You want the floor to be as clean as possible.

    The shop vac was our best friend during this process.

    Clean enough. And our helper.

  6. If your concrete has greasy spots on it (ours had some) you should also rent a floor buffer and use it to first buff the floors with citrus degreaser. Then buff with water to clean up the degreaser. Use the shop vac to suction up the water. I got these tips directly from ecoprocrete.  While we did this step, we only could rent a small floor buffer that was very difficult to use. You should be able to find a big industrial sized one to rent that you basically just walk behind. I think that would have been a better choice as we could still see some greasy spots through the stain when complete. However, because of the variations in the stain color, it at least looks natural.

    The floor buffer was ridiculously hard to use. Only my husband could run it while I felt bad for him.

  7. After cleaning and vacuuming the floors as best you can, let them dry overnight.
  8. If you have large (deeper than about a quarter or half inch and a half inch across) divots in the floor, you will need to patch them. They recommend using the Deco-Poz mixed to a thick consistency but we found this to use too much of that pricey product to repair our carpet tack holes so we ended up just buying a concrete patch kit and using that instead.

After everything is clean and dry, you are ready for part 2: staining your floors!

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4 thoughts on “A long tale about staining our concrete floors: Part 1 of 3 (preparation)

  1. Pingback: A long tale about staining our concrete floors: Part 2 of 3 (staining) | Laura Makes
  2. Pingback: A long tale about staining our concrete floors: Part 3 of 3 (maintenance) | Laura Makes
  3. Pingback: Tree Branch Ornaments by Laura Makes | Pretty Handy Girl
  4. Pingback: An update on our DIY stained concrete floors | Laura Makes

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