Advanced Acid Stain Techniques
Expand your staining skills
The how to guide covers general acid staining procedures. This section touches on some techniques to add texture, depth, color variation and patterns to the surface.
1. Multiple colors
Multiple colors of acid stain may be used to achieve contrasts, extra mottling and interest. The multiple colors can be applied at the same time with 2 pump sprayers or handheld sprayers for small highlights. A wet on wet method is the most common- this means the secondary colors are applied while the initial color is still fresh (wet). This method will create bleeding effects as the colors meet and create a whole new color. Usually your goal is to create random natural mottling not a detectable or geometric pattern. The next technique would be to let the initial acid stain react and then come back with selective secondary colors. Be careful with this method because hard lines and spots can become visible.
2. Using Cracks in the concrete
You may have a crack or cracks in the slab. The cracks can be incorporated into a design by adding additional crack like features that make the slab look like one large fractured stone. Keep the direction and orientation of the cracks you gouge out non-linear and natural looking.Take a look at some large natural stones in your area to get a better feel for it. Soapstone works great as a layout marker as it can be removed without affecting the acid stain. You aren't actually creating more cracks, just the illusion. The faux cracks are achieved by slightly cutting into the slab with a small diamond tip on a rotozip tool.
3. Texture in the surface
Concrete stamps or texture skins/ rollers can be used to texture fresh concrete or an overlay. After the texturing process is complete you can acid stain individual stones or the whole project adding more depth and color variance.
4. Scoring and acid staining
A multitude of effects can be acheived if you score the concrete into a pattern. Some of the common patterns would be tiles of various sizes, random shapes, or ashler (multiple different shape squares or rectangles). You only need to score about a 1/4" or less in depth. The scoring can be done with a circular saw and a diamond blade. If scoring is to be done before staining be sure to wash all the concrete dust off as it will affect acid stain coloring. You can score the floor after acid staining but it is recommended to seal the surface and then tape down paper or cardboard on each side to be scored to protect it from the circular saw body scratching the sealer. the effect of scoring after staining is a grout line that is concrete in color not stained.
5. Taping and acid staining
Tape can be used to seperate different colors, mimic grout lines, create borders, or create lettering/ logos. The most common taping application is to establish a tile pattern- usually square or rectangle although random shapes can be created. First take measurements to establish your desired layout. Use a pencil to lightly draw lines at the edge of where your tape will be. Carefully place tape along layout lines. Once your tape is securely in place, acid stain as normal then remove tape to reveal plain concrete color or your first acid stain color. Be sure the tape has 100% seal to the substrate as stain can leak under the tape corrupting the grout color.
6. Stencils and acid staining
Stencils are available that adhere to the substrate with elaborate patterns. Mosaics, grapevines, stone layouts, nature layouts, etc.. The stencils work like the tape above but makes a more complex design feasible.
7. Borders and acid staining
Borders add flare to a project. They can be around the perimeter of a room or be established at a control joint ( to disguise it). Borders can be used to seperate rooms or a sidewalk from a patio. A simplest border can be created with tape and a complimentary color of acid stain. Stencils can be used for elaborate borders like a grapevine. Many times there won't be a grout line seperating the border from the main body. If no grout is desired then use painters tape and/or plastic sheeting to seperate the border, stain, neutralize, clean, remove tape, install tape/ plastic to the interior of the border, acid stain the main body. Optionally with certain sealers you can seal the border after acid staining and cleaning to insure no contamination from staining the main body.
8. Faux finishing techniques and acid stain
Many traditional faux finishing work with acid stain as well. Attaching a rag to a pole and dabbing or blotting- creates more depth and micro color variations. Foam faux finishing rollers can be used to impart somewhat of a pattern or appearance of texture. Ragging acid stain on in a radial pattern can create fan like color effects. Stipling, different brushes and lambskin pads can all be used to create different effects.
9. Other materials that can create unique effects in acid stain
There are a plethora of materials that can be incorporated with your finish technique. We will go over a few of the techniques. Cardboard laid down on the surface of wet acid stain will change the coloration. The cardboard can be torn into random peices and randomly dispersed to create a random stonelike pattern. Or the cardboard can cut into a specific shape or logo. Aluminum foil will affect color by restricting evaporation and reacting with the acid to make color changes. Actual leaves and vines have been used to create a ghosting pattern and additional staining from the tannins in the leaves. Strings, rope and twine can create unique winding designs. Coffee beans can be placed on the surface to impart a ghosting and add colors. Straw randomly spread creates a very unique design. Unfortunately staining developed from these organic products on the surface will fade over time in sunlight. Have with these techniques but like anything practice and test your skills before committing to a large floor. Practice boards or small practice slabs is the place to start.
10. Concrete that is damaged, cracked, or does not receive acid stain well
A microtopping may be the only option in some cases where the original substrate is not suitable for acid staining.
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