An update on our DIY stained concrete floors

As you may know from my last post, recently we bought a new house and converted our old house into a rental property. My biggest concern about converting the house into a rental property was how the concrete floors would hold up. If you don’t recall, I wrote about installing our DIY stained concrete floors in a series of three posts:

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

While we took good care of our floors, they did get small nicks from our 50 lb dog’s claws and would get scuffs from furniture if rubber pads weren’t used. When we moved out, we found that the couches did a number on the floors in a couple of spots. Because we knew almost any tenant we would find in Austin would have a dog or two, and that tenants probably wouldn’t care for the floors like we did, we decided to put a more durable sealant on the floors.

EcoProCrete makes a harder sealer called EcoTuff. We passed on EcoTuff when first installing the floors because it was considerably more expensive than the Acri-Soy and it was much shinier. Once we decided to turn the house into a rental property, we knew the time had come to make the investment to protect the floors.

After talking with our supplier in Austin, House and Earth, we learned all about EcoTuff. It’s applied in a two part process using a two part primer/sealer and a clear coat finish. The primer/sealer is much like an epoxy, you have to mix two parts together before applying it. Apparently EcoProCrete has just come out with a primer/sealer that is just one part, but House and Earth was unable to procure it in time for us.

After reading the extremely poorly written and organized Manufacturers Application Guide (which I can’t find online), I decided that in addition to mopping the floor to clean it prior to the primer/sealer, I needed to mop it with a diluted citrus degreaser. The application guide warned against having any oils or waxes on the floor when the primer was applied. We did have a light floor wax as the top coat. To be super safe, I then mopped the floor again after degreasing. Let’s just say I was done with the whole mopping process by that time.

The next step was to do a test run of these products in one of the closets since I was uncertain about if and how this would work. I used a 3/8″ nap roller to apply the primer/sealer after mixing up just a bit of it. I must have applied the coating too thick in the closet because it never really dried to the point where it wasn’t slightly tacky. The instructions said that the coating should not be tacky. I had to go ahead and apply the clear coat to complete my test, and after that dried I wasn’t able to scrape up the coating so I decided it was fine. I had the green light to do the rest of the house.

I used a paddle mixer with our drill to mix the two cans for the primer/sealer together. I would then dip my roller in the can and roll out the material on to the floor. It was quite sticky. I used a T-bar applicator with a foam pad to smooth out the primer after it had been applied to ensure that I wasn’t applying it too thick. The primer hardens after a while, so I actually had to mix up a second batch once I reached the living room because the first batch was too thick. After drying for about 7 hours, the primer was no longer tacky and I moved on to the clear coat. The clear coat was quite fun to apply because I didn’t have to bend over and use a roller. I just used the T-bar applicator and the clear coat would just glide on. I poured the clear coat on the floor and then went back and forth from one end of the room to the other smoothing out the coat to ensure that no lap lines were left. After drying for an hour, I applied the second coat and was finished!

A few things I learned:

  • When dry, the primer and clear coat was very hard. When removing the blue painters tape from the baseboards, the paint would peel right off. Luckily, you couldn’t really tell with our baseboards since they’d recently been touched up. Definitely use the tape to cover surfaces like the transition areas from the concrete to another type of floor. Leave a small gap between the painter’s tape and the floor so that the coating on the floor does not trap the tape, leaving you unable to get it out.
  • Because we had first used Acri-Soy, we used less than 50% of the primer/sealer and clear coat that was called for by the manufacturer. This saved us a great deal of money since House and Earth was able to accept a return for the remaining material. I don’t know what the results would have been if we had not already had 2 coats of Acri-Soy on top of our Deco-Poz floors.
  • The T-bar applicator with foam pad was worth it’s weight in gold. It was quite heavy and good for smearing everything around, but the primer/sealer definitely needed to be first applied with a roller.
  • They don’t mess around with the shine on this coating. I kind of preferred the Acri-Soy + wax look, but needed the durability of the Eco-Tuff.

Since you’re probably tired of reading, on to the pictures!

Whoa, look at that shine!

Yep, pretty shiny from this angle too.

 

Now that we’re in a house that is partially carpeted, I desperately miss my concrete floors. I’m already counting down the days until I can rip out the carpet and do something different!

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

Ok, this is the last in my series of posts about how we stained our concrete floors one year ago. The posts:

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

Since it’s been a year, I’ve learned a bit about caring for these floors. Despite calling them concrete floors, the finish is susceptible to scratches and nicks. Especially if you have a big dog with hard claws like we do. It also can get damaged from furniture, so I recommend sticking on those felt or rubber feet wherever possible.  We also kept small bits of our old carpet to put under large pieces of furniture like our bed. We put the carpet side down so that the floor wouldn’t be nicked by the hard furniture.

Even if the floors do get small nicks, you can easily repair them. The floors also seemed to take a few weeks to completely cure to their hardest state so those first few weeks racked up quite a few nicks and now we don’t get them nearly as often.

To fix any nicks, just get a Qtip and dip it in the stain. Apply to the nick. Use the clean end of the Qtip to remove any excess stain, or you will see it left behind after it dries.

If you get light scratches that don’t actually affect the color but you can see in certain light, it’s probably just scratches in the wax coating. These can typically be fixed by applying an extra coat of floor wax (we use the discontinued Alpha 290). The floor wax should be applied at least yearly to keep up the shine.

Another product that helps keep the shine is a BioShield floor soap recommended by House + Earth. It’s the best floor cleaner I’ve ever used. It even makes mopping the tile kitchen floor a breeze because it cleans the dirt off so easily. I’m hooked.

All in all, I’m very happy with the floors. We get many compliments and some people even think it’s tile at first. It was also very economical as far as floors go. I think we did the whole house, even with painting supplies for well under $2000.

A long tale about staining our concrete floors: Part 2 of 3 (staining)

This is a continuation of my long tale about how we stained our concrete floors about a year ago. It has three parts:

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

So now that you have finished preparing your floors, it’s time to learn about how to actually stain and seal them!

As I mentioned in the last post, we used a line of products from ecoprocrete to stain our floors because of the fact that they are non-toxic and in fact quite easy to use. We purchased the bulk of these products from House + Earth in Austin (with a 10% Go Local card discount!).

Supplies:

  • Deco-Poz polymer and cement mix
  • SoyCrete stain – we used two dark colors for the main floors and a light one to stain the fake grout lines. Espresso for the edging, leather brown for the main floor sections, and a watered down desert sand for the grout lines. A small sample of desert sand was all we needed.
  • 1/2″ tape (we used this with a laser light level and a carpenter’s square to create fake grout lines)
  • A roller to go over the tape to make sure it was stuck to the floor. We used a brayer.
  • AcriSoy sealer
  • Mixing paddle to put in a drill to mix up Deco-Poz
  • Sanding blocks and coarse sand paper (the coarser the better)
  • Shop Vac to vacuum up dust after sanding
  • Dust masks, safety glasses
  • Magic trowel for spreading Deco-Poz
  • Painters tape – masking the baseboards
  • Applicator pads for applying stain
  • Paint trim applicator (for getting the edge of the floor next to the baseboards)
  • Paint roller for applying sealer (can also use applicator pads)
  • Floor wax and sponge mop to apply it so that the floor gets a nice shine. We used Alpha 290, which is now discontinued it seems.

Ok, so you’ve got your supplies assembled, your floors clean, and large holes in the floor patched, and your baseboards covered with painter’s tape. It’s time to mix up the Deco-Poz polymer and cement mix! We followed the instructions that came with the Deco-Poz and mixed the two together to a fairly thin consistency. It took us some experimenting to get this right. We used the mixing paddle with our cordless drill to make sure the stuff was mixed correctly. We ended up applying two coats of the overlay in each room. We started in one corner and my husband poured some overlay onto the floor. Being the more artistic one, I wielded the magic trowel and used big sweeping motions to apply a thin layer to the floor. You need to start with any areas that have unpatched divots to make sure they are adequately covered. Use very light pressure on the magic trowel. The weight of the trowel itself is enough, so I would just drag it across the floor to spread the overlay. We continued this process until the entire floor was covered. We then waited the appropriate amount of time for it to dry and then applied a second coat. When walking on the fresh overlay, make sure to wear socks so that the oils in your feet do not get in the untreated Deco-Poz.

My masterful application of the overlay

Covering the patched (and some unpatched) divots while a sad doggy looks on

The first coat of overlay goes on in the dining room

After the two coats are finished, you have to sand the overlay to make it smoother. We found that the coarser the sandpaper, the faster this went. Also, it generates a lot of dust so consider a dust mask and safety glasses.

My nice helper sanding the floor

After the sanding was complete, we vacuumed up the dust and then the long and tedious process of applying the fake grout lines began. I decided on a design of diagonal tiles with a 6″ edge strip around the walls. Luckily the scientists inside my husband and I were able to flex our analytical muscles to get the design to work out. It was harder than I expected to decide where the lines needed to start so that the lines looked nice. We were up doing this until 2 am. To make sure the stain doesn’t seep under the edge of the tape, make sure it’s pressed down well. We used a brayer to do this (I’ve linked an example above).

Applying the edge lines along the walls

Diagonal 18" fake tiles in the living room

Diagonal tiles in the dining room continue from the living room. You can also see the 6" edge strip and my expert use of the carpenter's square.

In the hallway we did smaller squares because the large diagonal tiles didn't look right.

After your grout lines are applied (which is optional by the way) it’s time to move on to staining! In order to be economical, we cut each applicator pad in half and then stapled it to a piece of 2×4 wood so that we could have a good grip when applying the stain. We poured stain into a paint tray and then dipped the applicator or edger in. We used the edger to go along the baseboards with the darker stains and the applicator to do the main color. We just applied the stain right over the tape. Hand applying the stain with a small applicator instead of using the large t-bar applicator that you can buy gives you more variation in color like real tiles (I think, but I didn’t use the the larger applicator).  Read the instructions for applying the stain, but keep in mind that you should really rub in the stain.

Here I am applying the main stain color. It took some effort to really rub it in.

Look at all that stain!

After two coats of stain and the appropriate drying time, we were ready to remove the tape.

Removing the tape in the dining room

After the tape was removed, we realized that the grout lines were very very white. I watered down one of the stain samples I had and used a paint brush to apply a very slight amount of cream color to the white to tone it down a bit. I think it turned out really well.

The final step was the application of the AcriSoy sealer. Again, you should follow the instructions for the appropriate amount of drying time. We used a paint roller on a long handle to apply two coats of the sealer. You can also rub it in with the applicator pads but after two coats of stain, we were ready to stand up to apply the next two coatings.

The AcriSoy sealer is a matte coating and doesn’t leave the floor shiny at all. I was interested in having a slightly shiny floor without having to use an epoxy coating or something equally as toxic. During our research phase, the employees at Eco-Wise in Austin recommended that we use Alpha 290, a floor wax that is super easy to use and unfortunately now discontinued. Basically, you just sponge mop it on and 15 minutes later it’s dry. You need to apply a few coats to get maximum shine. It’s not too shiny though, which is why I like it. I applied 4 coats after the sealer was dry.

After that, we were done! Our new floors were ready to be lived on 🙂

The cats were SO happy to be allowed out of the computer room.

You can see the full set of our concrete floor photos here and here.

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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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