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The Truth About Staining Old Concrete

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Read more about staining old concrete in a garage. 

Hubby had his heart set on a show-stopping floor for the garage, so after a lot of research and review reading, we decided to stick with what we know and stain the floor.

For my sunroom, we added a thin concrete layer to our subfloor and stained it a gorgeous aqua color. The process was quick and painless, so we decided to do it again.

Plus, it would give me the chance to answer the question that I get asked a lot: can you stain existing concrete?

can you stain old concrete

This is not a full tutorial. Luckily for you, I wrote a very in depth post in the spring on how to stain concrete floors. 

Can you stain old concrete?

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Our garage floor had been well loved like most garage floors. It had it’s share of rust spots, grease stains and paint drips. Our floor was FAR from perfect. This was AFTER vigorous cleaning!!

grease spots on garage floor before staining
Grease spots (before)

And we were okay with that because it’s a garage. We chose a color that we thought would go well with those stains. Haha. There’s a life tip. Go with the color of dirt! It will always look clean! Or never. Whatever.

stains on concrete garage floor
rust spot (before)

We chose kemiko malay tan, which is an orange-y brown tan color. The perfect color to compliment those rust stains.

kemiko malay tan swatch

How to Stain a Concrete Garage Floor

So my husband power-washed the floors, and followed along with the neutra-clean solution, as you’re supposed to. He cleaned it a few times!

Then he applied the stain before I could give my input and he accidentally applied it at full strength. Full strength stain should have been crazy colorful! And it looked like nothing was happening.

But that’s supposed to happen with some colors. A bit of bubbling, but no color was showing up.

staining concrete floor in garage
While applying stain

We let it dry and washed it off as instructed and the color appeared. But as soon as it dried, the color became very subtle. Like barely there.

So he went back to the store and bought more. It still barely showed up when dry. So we figured that when the clear coat was applied, it would make it look the same color as when wet.

Ugh. You know where this is going, right. We applied 3 coats of the clear coat and it soaked in and didn’t look all that different.

stained concrete in garage
After. Photos look better than reality.
garage floor with concrete stain

Hubby’s pretty crushed that this dream floors didn’t turn out as great as he hoped, but I think they turned out okay. Besides it’s a garage floor and I’m pretty glad that it’s not super precious. It doesn’t make me nervous to work in there. 

Factors to Consider When Staining Old Concrete

So what went wrong?

These are just my theories based on my research and deep thinking after several glasses of wine.

  • We are not the original owners to this house and it’s very likely that the previous owner used some kind of chemical (like muriatic acid or CLR to clean the floor.) Muriatic acid and CLR removes lime, which is what the stain reacts with. So maybe?
  • The front of the garage is where the stain is the lightest, so maybe the salt from winter affects the concrete?
  • Aliens. Maybe they came and messed up our concrete. I don’t know. I’m so tired that I hurt. (In addition to the ORC which is crazy stressful, I’ve joined a local vintage shop, so I’m preparing for that.)

I still think the floor looks pretty good. However, if you want a pristine, beautiful floor, I would suggest far more rigorous cleaning that probably involves chemicals.

We have talked about using this stain in the remaining unfinished portion of our basement, so I’m sure we will revisit this topic in the future. (Update: Check out how we refinished the concrete in our basement.)

Stained concrete is still much cheaper compared to traditional flooring (even when you have to buy 4 bottles of stain and sealant.)

finished stained concrete flooring in garage

While the room was empty, we also painted the room a light gray. I’m hoping the gray will stay fresh longer than white. We also painted our old workbenches.

workbench in garage
The floors look really good here.

So to answer the question: can you stain old concrete?

Kind of.

You’re taking a risk when you stain an old concrete garage floor. So either you have to put in a ton of prep work or risk a less than stellar floor. Part of the beauty of concrete is the imperfections, so you have to be okay with them.

I still think it’s pretty though.

I would 100% try staining an old concrete floor again, like a basement that probably hasn’t been cleaned with harsh chemicals. 

rust spots on stained concrete floor

Besides, a floor should be a backdrop.

And in a garage, you need a floor that doesn’t make you cringe if you drop paint on it or spill sawdust. Because in my sunroom, it drives me nuts when I see a flaw.

Read about how we refinished our old concrete in our basement for better staining results!

We got better results with staining our basement! Check it out!

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staining old concrete

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  1. I’m sorry the stain didn’t work out, Emy. Like you said, maybe the previous owners used something (maybe seal) on it before. Either way, your hubby tried and I am sure you will make that garage look fabulous in the end :).

  2. Oh Emy! So sorry about the result. What a bummer! But I have faith in you. Just because the floor didn’t exactly work out, you will still make it a wonderful makeover. Looking so forward to seeing your creativity at work. You go, girl. Susie from The Chelsea Project

  3. I think blaming it on aliens is a good option. I think it looks good though! And you’re right, it is a garage and it will be fine. Your rooms always turn out great, so I have faith this will too!

  4. Yep it was the aliens, I am sure of it 😉 LOL Emy I am sorry the floor did not go as expected, thus the challenges of the ORC, but you gave it a good try. I always find that when my design plan do not go as expected, it fires up my creative juices and I come up with and even better idea. I know how creative you are so I am sure given a little bit of time you will come up with another option you love even better.

  5. The idea of going with a color to match the rust and dirt is an excellent one. And even though it didn’t turn out as dark as you wanted, it’s still pretty- and how many people can say they have a pretty garage floor!?

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