I researched and researched (Google and I have gotten pretty intimate over the last 6 months) on options for the floor, and came up with concrete staining as my choice. I knew I didn't want paint, and tile was going to be a huge job. I really liked the look of stained and sealed concrete.
I called a decorative concrete company in the area to get an estimate. With a quote of $4-6.50 per square foot (1000 sqft basement = at least $4000!), we decided we'd try to do the work ourselves.
There are two types of stain: acid stain and water-based stain. I didn't want the acid stain because I didn't want fumes or chemical burns on any of the kids. (I don't know if that would be possible, but didn't want to risk it.) I finally found some Eagle Brand stain on Home Depot's website, so when we were in the store, I asked an associate about it, and got a big ol' "Uhhhhh........" They sent me home with info on Behr's concrete stain, which had horrible reviews, so that was out.
Paul mentioned what we wanted to do to the men that did the surface finish when the floor was poured. Mr. Mages directed Paul to Carter-Waters in Olathe - and I'm so glad he did! It was exactly what I'd been searching the internet for - in a real walk-in store! Concrete finishes is kind of the niche market these guys apparently have found, so they know about all of their products, could answer any questions, printed off fact sheets and application instructions, and sent me home with exact pricings. So helpful! They recommended Elements Stain by Butterfield Color. All that was left was to choose a color.....
I'm a pansy when it comes to color! (Which is why all but one room of our main floor remains white.) I wanted to play it safe, and go with boring brown (everything goes with brown!), but Paul wanted something with a little character.
Let's just say the color chart is not true to real life color.
But we'll get back to that in a moment.
One of the things that is recommended in every do-it-yourself concrete staining tutorial is grinding the concrete with an industrial floor buffer that has grinding pads, to remove any residues or imperfections. I totally did not want to do this. Time, mess, etc. And I'm just generally cheap and lazy. So, I asked the guys at Carter Waters, and they said nope, we didn't need to worry about that as long as the finishers didn't use a curing agent or sealer when they troweled the surface. Ding! No problem. So we got to skip that step since the concrete was brand-new.
The stain instructions said that cleaning with Cho cleaner was required prior to putting down the stain. It's a slightly acidic cleaner that strips the concrete and opens up the substrate to absorb the stain. One 5-lb bucket of powder made 5 gallons of cleaner.
We looked at the expanse of concrete and decided that wasn't going to work. So we wet down the entire floor prior to putting on the cleaner, to keep it all from soaking in in the first room.
So......Wet the floors.
|Just ignore the attractiveness of me in my nastiest clothes. So flattering.|
Splash on the cleaner.
Scrub with a push broom. (I didn't get too serious with the scrubbing.)
Quickly neutralize the acid of the cleaner with baking soda water. Wet vac up the excess water.
Rinse. And wet vac again.
Lots of water in these first steps! And wet vacuming is maddeningly slow with a Shop Vac. I don't know if there's an industrial-sized vacuum you could rent for this, but it may be worth it.
(Sorry I don't have pictures for each step, but when we work on a project, I'm more focused on getting it done than I am photos for D-I-Y tutorials.)
Then let it dry........ Don't rush this. I think we did. The concrete looked dry, but I think that below the surface there was still moisture. (If we were doing it again, I'd wait a full 24 hours for drying, rather than 6-8 that we did.)
Then comes the fun part! Putting on the color!
Okay, so back to the color dilemma......
We didn't really discuss our color ideas prior to going to the store, so to avoid a public scene, I let Paul make the decision. He asked the associate's opinion, and went with that. So, the name of the color is "Weathered Bronze." Envision what you think that should look like.
And then feast your eyes on reality:
More like "Weathered Mustard Mixed with Cow Manure." Thank goodness we did a test patch.
I could tell Paul wasn't thrilled with the color, but I'm not sure he wanted to admit it. After two days of looking at our sample patch, I finally told him I couldn't do it. I didn't want to cringe every time I walked down the stairs.
So back to the Butterfield Color site I went. I pored over their gallery photos, and finally came up with a look that we both liked. Unfortunately, they don't say what the colors are on the photos, so we had to guess. We decided to go with "Cordovan Leather" and layer over a darker brown to take some of the red out.
In Paul's defense, my "boring brown" (Kona Brown) wasn't that great either. It looked like a big coffee stain on the floor.
You mix the stain with water. One quart of stain base makes one gallon of stain.
The stain is supposed to be applied with a "high pressure low volume" sprayer. Our local rental store didn't have one to rent, so we went to Home Depot to buy one. However, we got a "high volume low pressure" sprayer on accident. The difference of pressure is not that great, but the difference of application is. The HVLP that we got sprays bigger drops (think cheap spray bottle), whereas the HPLV is more of a fine mist. (Both of these attach to an air compressor.)
The application with the sprayer went surprisingly fast. You just do overlapping circular motions so there are no lines, and just go-go-go! (You can't let it form dry lines.) One of us would spray, and the other would be ready with the stain to refill the canister.
The specs say one quart of base (gallon prepared) will cover 200-400 feet. The men in the store said easily would do the whole 980. It was actually somewhere in the middle, with it covering about 2/3 of the floor. In the boys' room we had to use the weathered bronze, but with the dark brown layered over, it didn't end up too bad. (We went and bought the correct type of sprayer for the second coat.)
Added to the fact we were applying the stain more heavily than intended, was the fact that I think our concrete wasn't fully dry. This resulted in some puddling. Which had me upset initially, but after it was finished, added character and dimension to the effect.
And then it was wait nervously for it to dry to see if we'd like the end result.
We did do a very light second coat of the Kona Brown over the red (Cordovan Leather) to kind of tone down the red. I honestly don't think it made that much difference, but we had the brown to use, so - hey. Nothing wasted.
The stain's data sheet recommended a certain seal over it, but the men at Carter Waters said that wasn't necessary, and sent us home with a wax. You mop it on with a microfiber pad, then let it dry. To get the glossy look, we rented a floor buffer.
The instructions said two coats of wax. It took about 6. The wax was just soaking into the concrete, so when we buffed, it wasn't shining, and I was getting frustrated. So finally, I just glugged a bunch out and then spread it so it was still white on the floor, and let it dry. Then I took the buffer to it, and - instant shine!
|The dark spots are where the puddles were. Prior to the wax, the puddles were glossy, and the rest was matte, but waxing it put the same gloss over all the floor and made the "puddles" look more like marbling.|
We're so pleased with the result! It wasn't really that hard, just a lot of time. Total cost, including 3 quarts of base, the cleaner, and the wax, buying two sprayers, and renting the buffer, was about $400. That's a tenth of the quoted cost of having someone else do it. I'm thinking maybe we need to start up a side business!
These last two are a super-close up of the texture and coloring..... And also a super-close up of the creepies that invaded this fall. I swept multiple times a day and would collect at least a dozen of these each time. I sprayed Home Defense around the perimeter of the basement (per the instructions) and the outside foundation. It wasn't until I sprayed up along the top of the foundation from the inside that I noticed a difference, but they weren't entirely eradicated until our first hard freeze followed by a long cold spell.
|Gross, gross, gross.|
Here you can see the speckles of dark brown over the red.
|And the creepiest thing is they "crunch" when you squish them. Worms are not supposed to "crunch." I was terrified to walk barefoot down there.|
However, I love the "crackle" look that the stain took in some areas, like this.