There are three primary types of stains suitable for concrete – Acid Stains, Water Based Stains, and Acetone Dyes. All three have their pros and cons and each is uniquely suited for specific situations based on the condition of your concrete. See reference pictures below:
Acid Stains are a durable and long lasting solution for staining concrete. Acid stains are generally a great choice for new concrete or old concrete that is uniform and in good shape. They are somewhat limited in color choices – primarily centering around natural Earth Tones. Acid stains chemically react with the concrete – so factors such as the concrete design, how tight the concrete was finished, humidity, etc. will all affect what the final color will look like. It’s not a paint, so there is a measure of unpredictability and variegation in the color that should be expected – it’s what gives it character and a unique and natural look.
Water based Stains
Water based stains are a great choice when resurfacing concrete or applying a concrete overlay system that will be sealed. The final color is much more predictable (as it is not a chemical reaction) and there is a larger range of color choices (such as grey or black or white – which aren’t available for acid stains). Based on our experience, we don’t recommend using water based stains over tightly troweled concrete surfaces as because of potential delamination issues.
Sometimes concrete has already been stained and sealed and needs to be repaired or re-colored. This is where Acetone Dyes are particularly useful. Rather than stripping the sealer, an Acetone Dye can be applied and make the project look brand new (for a fraction of the cost of completely stripping the old sealer). For repairs or re-colors, this type of staining is often the most cost-effective solution.