DIY Concrete Staining : Natural Stone Look

Want to turn your backyard patio into a masterpiece? For a natural stone effect, try DIY concrete staining. You may create a unique beauty in any outdoor area of your abode with the appropriate supplies and application skills.

Concrete staining gives pavers a rich, long-lasting finish. It’s simple and inexpensive to color concrete pavers to appear like a stone for a pathway or patio. Modern concrete ideas with staining add character and beauty in limitless ways!

Why consider concrete staining for your patio

How can we make man-made rocks appear more like the real thing? The answer lies in concrete staining. Using a combination of flagstone and stone patterned stains, one can transform their concrete patio virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.

With stains simulating travertine, old English slate, false grout lines, limestone, cut stone, and various other rich colors, one can bring a faux stone stamp pattern effect to life, reminiscent of Medusa from ancient Greek mythology.

Concrete staining is an affordable way to achieve a remarkably realistic rock-like appearance for your home – making it aesthetically pleasing and more robust and durable than other types of surfaces.

However, preparation techniques are fundamental when choosing the right type of stain for your project. With the proper application of cleaning agents and dampening processes, you’ll find that all it takes is a fraction of the time, effort, and cost than if you were installing natural stones.

The benefits of concrete staining

Look of natural stone-staining

Concrete patios boast many advantages over natural stone, along with their price tag. Not only are they cheaper and more accessible from a masonry and labor standpoint, but the concrete is easy to build, maintain, and color.

The concrete can be stained in any hue you desire; each layer of concrete staining offers a diverse avenue for design creativity.

With concrete, staining comes various options – such as stains, dry-shake color hardeners, antiquing agents, and intrinsic colors – that can add texture and character that rivals the look of natural stone.

Before getting started

Due to their ability to replicate natural rocks, DIY concrete stepping stones and pavers are increasingly popular, but there are prep and material considerations before beginning this project.

Make sure you’ve got all the items on-demand – from a paint stripper for removing existing coatings, degreaser for dirt & grime removal, concrete mix and stain as critical ingredients, and stencils and tape if extra detailing is desired!

Selecting Acid vs. Water-Based Concrete Pigments.

Acid-based stains are transparent and tinted according to substrate color and condition. As a result, the stone takes on a mottled texture. All that can be found are shades of tan, brown, terra cotta, and pale blue-green. Etching is required before applying acid-based stains, and neutralization is needed thereafter.

Water-based stains give more colors, including black, white, and metallic. They may color products transparently or opaquely. They’re user-friendly and don’t need neutralization, although the results may be less diverse than acid-based stains.

Supplies for Staining Concrete

  • Paint brushes or sponges (for application and touch-ups)
  • Stencils or tape (for creating patterns and designs)
  • Drop cloths or plastic sheeting (for protecting surrounding areas)
  • Paint roller or paint tray (for easy application)
  • Sprayer bottle (for applying sealer or neutralizer)
  • Squeegee or push broom (for removing excess stain or sealer)
  • Broom or leaf blower (for cleaning up debris)
  • Measuring cups or mixing containers (for preparing the stain and sealer)
  • pH testing strips (for testing the acidity of the surface)
  • pH neutralizer (for neutralizing the surface after etching)
  • pH meter (for more accurate measurement of acidity levels)
  • Acid-resistant gloves, goggles, and face mask (for safety when working with acid-based products)
  • Stir sticks or paint mixer (for mixing the stain and sealer)
  • Trowel or squeegee (for smoothing out the surface and removing air bubbles)

The step-by-step guide to concrete staining

Concrete staining is a fascinating process that can make your patio look like genuine stone without the expense of added maintenance.

The first step is to clean any residue on the concrete surface using a degreaser and a stiff-bristled brush. If there’s paint or sealer, use paint remover to remove it.

To simulate stone, apply concrete stain by rolling, brushing, sponging, or spraying and alter its color and pattern.

For example, building an ashlar slate design using travertine stamps and textured form fillers for irregular patterns with varying tones in an Old English Slate finish.

After, seal the concrete to prevent foot traffic, UV radiation, and weathering! Concrete staining may make your patio look fabulous while saving money.

Preparing the Concrete Surface

Preparing concrete for stone staining is the first stage.

This involves washing the concrete with a degreaser and stiff-bristled brush to remove dirt and grime and stripping any paint or sealer. Oil, grease, and filth might interfere with stain adherence, so clean the surface well.

How to remove existing paint or sealants using paint strippers

Paint strippers are chemical solutions that dissolve or soften paint layers which then can be removed from surfaces.

Examples of typical paint strippers include Xylene, solvents, gels, and hot water pressure washing.

When using a paint stripper, it is essential to follow all safety instructions provided on product labels, wear protective clothing and eye protection, and work in areas with plenty of ventilation to prevent inhalation of fumes. 

Importance of cleaning the concrete to remove dirt and grime

Cleaning the concrete surface is essential for staining because stains work best on clean surfaces.

Suppose dirt or other substances remain on the concrete surface after removing existing paints or sealants. In that case, they can interfere with how well a stain can adhere to a surface and affect its overall appearance once applied.

To clean the concrete effectively before staining, it’s recommended to mix a degreaser with water to break down any oils or grease on the concrete’s surface, followed by scrubbing lightly with a nylon brush if necessary.

A low-pressure power wash may be used instead of scrubbing depending on individual circumstances. 

Etching Concrete

concrete looking like real stone

Etching is required if an acid-based stain generates distinctive, long-lasting aesthetic effects replicating genuine stone. 

When etching with acid-based stains, it’s advisable to test them on tiny areas first since they may harm some kinds of concrete if not appropriately handled. Acid etching before staining may deplete cement’s lime, causing more damage if further treatment is needed later.

Muriatic Acid Etching: 

This technique involves using muriatic acid for etching the concrete surface. To do this, mix the acid with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions and apply it to the surface using a plastic or acid-resistant container. Allow the acid to sit on the surface for the recommended time before rinsing it with water.

Phosphoric Acid Etching: 

Like muriatic acid etching, this technique involves using phosphoric acid for etching the concrete surface. Mix the acid with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions and apply it to the surface using a plastic or acid-resistant container.

Allow the acid to sit on the surface for the suggested time before rinsing with water.  


This technique involves using a sandblaster for etching the surface of the concrete. This method is handy for removing existing sealers or coatings on the concrete surface.

Mechanical Grinding: 

This technique involves using a mechanical grinder to roughen up the surface of the concrete. This method is beneficial for smooth concrete surfaces that must be etched before staining.

Additionally, avoid using acid-based products if the concrete surface is already damaged or if the surface is too new.

  1. Applying the Concrete Stain
  2. Gather the materials needed: masking tape, concrete stain, water, a sprayer (airless, HVLP, production gun, pump sprayer, or trigger spray bottle), and a brush or sponge (optional).
  3. Prepare the area by masking off door frames and walls to protect them from getting stained.
  4. Dilute the concrete stain with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions to reach your desired color intensity.
  5. Start spraying or brushing on the first coat of color on your concrete surface. Make sure you evenly spread it out with strokes in one direction only.
  6. Let the newly applied stain dry completely – this can take anywhere from 15-20 minutes up to 24 hours, depending on your area’s temperature, humidity, and airflow conditions.
  7. If you need more depth of color, repeat the last few steps by applying a second coat of stain after waiting a few hours for it to cure and dry out thoroughly. 
  8. Once all coats have been used, let the whole area cure entirely before walking on it or adding any furniture back onto it so that no damage is done to your newly stained floor!

Capturing the Appearance of Real Stone

staining concrete to natural stone look

Step 1: Choose your stain- Acid-based stains work well for a speckled, color-variegated stone look. They come in tan, brown, terra cotta, and pale blue-green earthy tones. Experiment with different hues and processes to achieve a natural stone appearance.

Step 2: Before applying the stain to the entire surface, test it on a small, inconspicuous area. Dilute the stain for subtler hues or to create unique effects. Neutralize the acid stain with a neutralizing solution.

Pro tip: Consider combining old and new-generation stains for optimal results.

When using acid stains

Use the correct safety equipment, such as gloves, goggles, and masks, to protect yourself from the fumes and splashes of the acid. The acid should also be mixed and applied in a well-ventilated area.

Brushing concrete stains is the typical procedure.

The stain is applied using a paintbrush. This approach works well for tiny spaces and intricate patterns. Applying the dye and evenly brushing with long, even strokes is also slow.

Rolling covers greater areas quicker than brushing

A paint roller applies stain. This procedure also gives an even stain. Rolling lightly and evenly avoids roller marks.

For a mottled, natural finish, sponge.

When applying a stain using a moist sponge, the sponge is stained and blotted. It takes time but produces a natural finish.

Spraying concrete stain is the quickest.

The quickest and most effective method for staining prominent areas is to spray it on. Light and uniform application will help avoid drips and waste. Be sure to use a mask and goggles to protect yourself from the stain mist.

To apply the stain evenly, work in tiny parts and overlap them.

Additionally, For even coverage, use a brush in tiny portions and apply the stain in a circular motion. Work in circles using a high-density foam roller.

Low-pressure sprayers prevent overspray and deliver thin, uniform coatings. To guarantee coverage, keep the sprayer moving and overlap each pass.

When using water-based stains.

It is important to apply thin coats and work in small sections to ensure that the stain is evenly spread. Color may be applied using a brush, roller, or sprayer, all of which perform well depending on the size of the area you’re covering.

After applying the stain, cleaning up and neutralizing the surface before sealing is essential; this can be done by using a neutralizing solution and a scrub brush to remove any remaining stain residue.

Staining Finishing Touches

patten staining

The finishing touches are the final step in staining concrete to look like stone. This includes removing stencils or tape after the staining is complete and sealing the surface with a compatible sealer to protect it from damage.

Creating Patterns and Designs:

  • One way to add a unique touch to your stained concrete is using stencils or tape to create patterns and designs.
  • Various stencils are available on the market, including reusable plastic, adhesive, and custom-cut stencils.
  • Examples of methods that can be created with stencils include geometric shapes, borders, and custom logos or artwork.
  • When using stencils or tape, it’s essential to ensure they are securely placed before applying the stain.
  • Once the stain is applied, the stencil or tape should be removed immediately to prevent smudging or smearing of the design.

Removing Stencils and Tape:

  • Removing stencils and tape after complete staining is tricky to achieve a professional and polished final result.
  • Care should be taken to avoid pulling up the stain or leaving adhesive residue behind.
  • The best way to remove stencils or tape is by carefully peeling them away at a 45-degree angle, not disturbing the surrounding area.
  • Any adhesive residue can be removed with a specialized solvent or scraper.

Sealing the Surface:

  • Sealing the surface of stained concrete is essential to protect it from UV radiation, weathering, and foot traffic damage.
  • Sealing the surface once the stain has dried, which might take 24 to 48 hours, depending on weather and humidity, is ideal.
  • There are various types of sealers available on the market, including water-based and solvent-based sealers, acrylic sealers, and epoxy sealers.
  • Water-based sealers are easy to apply and dry quickly, while solvent-based sealers have a longer lifespan and provide more protection.
  • It’s also important to note that different types of sealers may have other drying times and instructions for application, so it’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.

Aftercare and maintenance tips for your newly stained concrete floor

Follow the tips below to upkeep your concrete staining project and keep it looking beautiful:

Dust or Mop Often 

Dusting and mopping often are excellent maintenance practices for freshly stained concrete patio floors. This will help minimize abrasion, leading to scratches, dulling, and other damage over time.

Furthermore, a dust mop is an absolute must, or a vacuum that won’t scratch the floor’s surface. Avoid using abrasive cleaners when dusting or mopping – instead, use a damp cloth and plain water. 

Clean Occasionally 

In addition to regular dusting or mopping, it’s also essential to occasionally clean your stained concrete floor with a pH-neutral cleaner and plain water. This will help remove dirt, debris, and grime accumulated over time without damaging the floor’s finish.

For tough stains (such as oil, grease, and coffee spills), mix 1/4 cup baking soda with one-quart warm water in a bucket – this is an excellent all-purpose cleaner that won’t harm the surface of the floor.

If that doesn’t work, try using white vinegar diluted with water in a spray bottle – this is an effective stain remover that won’t harm the concrete surface. 

Apply Wax Or Sealant 

It’s essential to protect your newly stained concrete floor from wear and tear by periodically applying wax or sealant on top of it. Wax should be used inside or under a covered patio where there is no exposure to moisture; sealant can be applied outdoors where there is exposure to moisture.

Be sure to check which type of wax or sealant is compatible with your particular brand of stain – some brands may require special types of waxes or sealants for optimal protection against wear and tear over time. 

Key Points

  • Regularly dust or wet mop to reduce abrasion.
  • Damp mop with pH-neutral cleaner and water for occasional thorough cleaning
  • Apply a film-forming sealer and wax or floor finish
  • Seal or wax your concrete to keep it looking good and protected
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals like vinegar, ammonia, and bleach
  • Consider using a polyurea sealant for added durability and protection
  • Ensure sealer is compatible with polyurethane before application
  • Regularly check and reapply the sealer every 2-5 years to prevent cracks and deterioration
  • Remember that stained or stamped concrete floors may increase the property’s resale value. 


When it comes to coloring concrete patios, the process can make them look like natural stone and provide a beautiful, durable surface for years to come. But coloring concrete is no joke – it’s a serious undertaking that requires proper preparation, application, and sealing to achieve the desired results.


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