The Benefits of Water-Based Concrete Stains

by Leane Owen - Owner, Director of Marketing


Concrete stains are a quick, easy and cost effective way to transform a dull slab. While most decorative concrete contractors opt for water-based stains (and for good reason), acid stains still have their place in the market.  Water-based stains offer numerous advantages from environmental, aesthetic and functional standpoints.

 

Environmental Benefits

Simply put, water-based stains are better for environment. Acid stains contain potentially hazardous materials and require additional containment cleanup in regulated areas such as California where there is extra attention paid to storm water runoff.  Water-based stains are environmentally safe and do not require special handling during application, nor do they carry disposal concerns.

 

Aesthetic Outcomes

Water-based stains typically have a larger color palette and offer versatility to the applicator with the ability to blend or dilute colors. Vibrancy can be achieved with water-based stains, while acid stains are typically in the natural, earth tone range.

 

Water-based stains allow the applicator to decide how solid or opaque the color will become based on the amount of water used. With an acid stain, you really are at the mercy of the reaction that occurs. To achieve deeper tones with acid stain, multiple applications may be required, or you may need to bring in other products.

 

Functionality

Water-based stains possess additional functional benefits that are attractive to both the applicator and end-user. For instance, they do not discolor or fade over time, or radically change color due to UV rays. When applied to properly prepared concrete substrates, water-based stains will not exhibit cracking, crazing, spalling, delamination, softening or other deteriorating effects.

 

Since acids chemically react with concrete, and because no two concretes are the same, an acid stain reaction yields a different look or color on different batches of concrete. Contractors who are familiar with acid stains are comfortable explaining to their clients that they may not exactly get the intended appearance when using an acid stain. Various shades will be produced based on the concrete matrix, it’s age, it’s porosity or density, chemicals it has been exposed to, etc. The anticipated variation can be exciting to some. While to others, it can be disastrous. For those looking for something totally unique and custom, acid stain may be the solution. For those conservative folks who prefer a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of outcome, water-based stains are the way to go.

 

Acid stains require the extra steps of cleaning and neutralizing after 24 hours, then additional time for the concrete to dry prior to sealing. Water-based stains don’t require neutralizing or cleaning after the stain has been applied, so sealers may be installed the following day.

 

When Acid Stains Make Sense

Acid stains are predominantly used out of habit these days. The exception would be that water-based stains cannot be used in conjunction with polished concrete. Acid stains can.

 

Acid stains do become a permanent part of the concrete, and therefore will not fade, peel or crack over time.

 

Both types of topical stains can be applied to interior and exterior surfaces, as they are ultraviolet light stable. As with all stains, acid and water-based stains are translucent in appearance and therefore the concrete slab’s surface textures and variations are visible.

 

Some installers actually prefer to use a blend of both materials. Often, acid stains are used as a base color and a water-based stain is then used to antique or create additional mottling.

 

Regardless which type of stain, always remember the importance of sealing these products with a protective sealer that will endure the chemicals, UV and traffic that a decorative stained surface is exposed to.