How to Stain a Concrete Patio and Keep It Looking Fresh and Clean

Many outdoor spaces require regular TLC, and the odds are, if you’ve ended up reading this guide, you want to learn how to stain a concrete patio your slef. Most hardscapes like driveways, walkways, and patios are typically made from poured concrete, which is a mixture of cement, water, water, sand, and gravel. After being laid down, a concrete sealer is applied to protect the surface of the elements and most homeowners rarely give it a second thought until it’s time for a refresh.

The basic principles of staining a concrete patio can be applied to any concrete surface, whether it’s an indoor concrete floor, an individual concrete slab, or another type of outdoor concrete. So if you’re not quite ready to invest in new concrete and have the motivation for a DIY home improvement project, keep reading for a step-by-step guide on how to approach this staining project, common pitfalls to avoid, and even some patio ideas to get that fresh, new look.

DIY Skill Levels: Intermediates

Time Required: Approximately 24–72 hours (mostly drying time), depending on size

Materials Needed:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (masks, gloves, eye protection, long-sleeved clothing, and closed-toe shoes)

  • Concrete Cleaning Supplies (broom, pressure washer, degreaser, and concrete cleaner)

  • Concrete Repair Supplies (if applicable: floor scrubber, crack sealant, etc.)

  • Concrete Stain (or concrete paint)

  • Tape (painters tape and duct tape)

  • Stain Application Tools (airless paint sprayer, paint roller, and paintbrush)

  • Concrete Sealer

Can you stain an existing concrete patio?

Yes, but your concrete can’t be brand new! Any concrete surface you want to stain should be at least 4–6 weeks old and in good shape. This means repairing any cracks or chips and cleaning off the surface before starting the staining process. Unlike laying new concrete, staining existing concrete is a cost-effective and manageable landscaping project.

What is the best way to apply stain to a concrete patio?

The best way to apply stain to a concrete patio is by using the right tools and making sure you properly prepare your concrete. According to Joe Raboine, vice president of design at Belgard, “The best option is with a sprayer to cover the concrete evenly and keep a ‘live’ wet edge.” Raboine also emphasizes the importance of making sure the concrete is porous; if it’s already sealed and polished, the stain will not penetrate. Another thing to keep in mind is making sure your concrete is well ventilated. Proper ventilation will prevent the build-up of fumes and allow the stain to dry evenly and in a timely manner.

Can you stain concrete yourself?

Yes! As far as DIY projects go, staining a concrete patio is relatively straightforward. If you’re new to this type of project, Rabione says that “an acid-based stain works best but can be a bit unpredictable. It’s a good idea to test a small area first. If you can’t do the whole area at once, try and stop at a joint so that it will look consistent.” And as always, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

According to Joseph Richardson of Richardson & Associates Landscape Architecture, “Check your climate! In colder regions, the use of salt or ice melt will affect the long-term appearance of any stained concrete.” Richardson notes that common outdoor elements like sunlight and heavy foot traffic will fade the appearance of the stain as soon as one year in, so he recommends “go a shade or two darker with your stain.” It’s worth noting that if your patio is made of concrete pavers, staining them is the same as staining a regular slab of concrete with one added caveat of making sure the color doesn’t pool in the joints.

How much does stained concrete cost?

If you decide to stain a concrete patio on your own, you can significantly lower your project cost. The total cost will vary depending on the size of the project and the quality of materials purchased. The price of the stain, surface preparation materials, and sealant could run you close to $500 for a standard-sized patio. Possible additional costs include the cost of renting any equipment such as the paint sprayer and pressure washer. Regardless, the cost of staining existing concrete will be significantly cheaper than putting down new concrete.

How to Stain Your Patio:

Concrete Clean Up

Make sure your surface is as clean as can be.

Make sure your surface is as clean as can be.

Photo: Alfred Evelina/Getty Images

  1. Sweeps: Use a stiff bristle broom to clean off any large debris on your patio. This step will expose any particularly bad stains/discolorations and cracks.

  2. clean: You can purchase a dedicated concrete cleaner to get rid of any recent stains. Most cleaners are made from concentrated alkaline soap. Keep in mind they work best on porous concrete and may not work on old stains.

  3. wash: Use a pressure washer to give your concrete a final deep clean. If you don’t own one, you can easily rent a pressure washer at your local home improvement store and test out the different settings on a small area first. Make sure you use clean water.

  4. Avoid Muriatic Acid Cleaner: Many manufacturers warn against using muriatic acid to clean your concrete before staining. It can remove the minerals needed to create the desired color effect from the stain.

Tip: Make sure that your concrete isn’t sealed. If it is still sealed, it won’t accept the stain, and you will need to purchase a concrete stripper to remove any existing coatings for an even finish.

Repairs, repairs, repairs

You will want to fill in any cracks and chips.

You will want to fill in any cracks and chips.

Photo: Jung Getty/Getty Images

  1. Repair Cracks: The best time to fix any existing concrete damage is before staining it. This will help your patches appear homogeneous with the existing structure. Clear out any debris with a brush or broom and use a concrete crack filler. Use a floor scrubber to smooth out the sealer.

  2. Fix the Edge: If any edges of your patio are chipped, use a makeshift edge and vinyl patching compound (as directed by the manufacturer) to fill in the missing edge or corner.

*Tip: If you use a crack sealer, wait at least 24 hours (or as directed by the manufacturer) for it to dry completely. If you have to patch larger portions of your concrete, wait at least 1 to 4 weeks before painting or dyeing it.

Surface Prep

There are many options for types of stains.

There are many options for types of stains.

Photo: Elmar Gubisch/Getty Images

1. Final Clean: Clean up any new stains or discolorations after your repairs (see above).
2. Pick Your Stain: Aside from the variety of stain colors and types available, you can also opt for concrete paint. There are two types of stains: acid stains and water-based stains:
Acid Stains: Generally acid stains are preferable; the chemical reaction of the acid creates a permanent bond which results in a longer-lasting and more durable color.
Water-based Stains: These stains are available in more colors and are easier to apply. Another consideration for some is that water-based stains dry faster and have fewer chemicals.
Concrete Paint: If you opt to use paint (often seen on [garage floors]( target=”_blank”), make sure to pick a high-performance one that will withstand the elements.
3. Concrete Etch: If you decide to use an acid stain, use a concrete etch and cleaner to get the surface ready. After using the etch, use clean water to rinse off any residue.
4. Protected Valuables: Make sure you put on your PPE and set up drop cloths to avoid staining anything that you can’t move out of the space. Like painting, you can use painter’s tape to protect smaller things and avoid overspraying. This step is particularly important if you plan on using a variety of stain colors to create a design or particular look.
5. Test Your Choice: After deciding on a stain, test it on a small, inconspicuous part of your patio to make sure it matches your expectations.

Apply the Stain

Use a paint sprayer for large areas and a paint roller for smaller spots.

Use a paint sprayer for large areas and a paint roller for smaller spots.

Photo: Leslie Achtymichuk/Getty Images

  1. Dampen the Concrete: Wet your concrete with clean water, and avoid oversaturation or creating puddles.

  2. Large Areas First: Use an acid-resistant airless paint sprayer to evenly apply the stain. Use broad, even passes and maintain a wet edge by overlapping your passes. Try to make sure your stain does not puddle on the floor to avoid discoloration and uneven drying.

  3. Finish the Corners: Use your paint roller and paintbrush to stain the smaller areas or corners missed by the sprayer.

  4. wait: Double-check your manufacturer’s instructions and wait the appropriate amount of time before rinsing off any additional residue. You will likely have to rinse it several times until you can wipe the floor without any color coming up.

Tip: If you’re in an enclosed space, start from the back corner and work your way to the exit. After applying the first coat using the sprayer, use the paint roller to smooth out the stain. If you want a darker color, you can apply a second coat.

Preserve Your New Stain

Lock it all in.

Lock it all in.

Photo: vitrans/Getty Images

  1. Seal Your Stain: After waiting at least 24 hours, use a concrete sealer to protect the final look of your concrete stains. Sealant helps the concrete tolerate foot traffic, stains, and anything else you might throw at your newly refreshed patio.

Tip: Consider using a concrete floor polish, which is basically acrylic wax for the floor. It is not a substitute for a sealant.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest