Acid based versus water based stains

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I've searched quite a bit and can't really find any thing that gives the ins & outs of water based stain vs. acid based stain, other than acid based has been around longer, offers less color choices, and gives a deeper color appearance, water based is easier to apply.

I am putting on a new sunroom on the North side, 16' X 20', new concrete with hydronic under floor heat.

Could someone direct me to come comparison information? I would also welcome some thoughts from pros that have done both.


Lindy A.'s picture
Lindy A.
Acid stains achieve their

Acid stains achieve their rich, mottled, vibrant color from a chemical reaction between the acid and minerals in cement. Acid stains typically fall in the earth tone color range. Certain colors of acid stain will darken when subjected to rising moisture being emitted out of the substrate.

Water based stains are transparent, more like a dye, having an opaque appearance. They are more of a topical colorant, with any penetration into the concrete substrate depending on the porosity/profile of the concrete. The selection of colors, when it comes to water based stains and dyes; is more expansive than those that can be achieved with acid stains. Water based stains and dyes are sometimes used for color highlighting effects over acid stains, to camouflage random spots where acid stain didn't react as desired, or for special coloring effects in designs/patterns. Many of the concrete dye colors are reported to fade when subjected to full UV rays of the sun. Formulations of concrete stains and dyes will vary depending on the types of acrylics used as a integral component of them, do your homework in relation to learning all you can about any you are considering using (they are NOT all alike as to their physical properties, longevity, and lasting beauty).

Both of these (acid stains and water based stains/dyes) require sealing with the appropriate resinous sealer that will shield/protect it from the elements of nature/climate/UV it will be routinely subjected to, as well as end use of the surface (being degree of foot, vehicle, etc. traffic that it will be subjected to).

Lindy A.

Thanks, Lindy. Good to know

Thanks, Lindy. Good to know that a water based stain could be applied over acid if necessary, (before sealing, of course). And I hadn't thought about the effects of UV light on different varieties.

Any advice on which brands hold up better under UV rays?

we use Smith paints and

we use Smith paints and concrete resurrection from engrave-a-crete. Probably a smith relabel.
Anyway good results with both, of these water based stains. The floors can look alot like acid stain if your technique is good.
forgot to add one of the big pluses of the water based stains, is the color is the color. Not so much with the acid stains. oh an another plus is no residuing

so you HAVE to put a coating

so you HAVE to put a coating on top of the dyes after?

[quote name="bestmarble"

[quote name="bestmarble" time="2010-04-25 10:09:33"]so you HAVE to put a coating on top of the dyes after?[/quote]

Of course. You should always seal after staining.

Lindy A.'s picture
Lindy A.
If you do not shield/protect

If you do not shield/protect stains or dyes with appropriate type of sealer (at recommended mil build; which could involve two or more coats) your colored surface WILL NOT SURVIVE ... colored effects will wear away, it will be prone to discoloration from foreign matter coming in contact with it, dirt/debris will become ground in, contamination and/or breakdown from contact with common chemicals will occur, attack from the harsh elements of Mother Nature and UV rays will occur, destruction from wheeled traffic and hot tire peal up will take place, scuffing/marring from even light/residential use will rapidly take their toll, etc. In other words, if you are not going to adequately protect/shield your decorative concrete surfaces then don't waste your time/money/labor as to the creating of them to begin with. You wouldn't go out in the winter without your coat or subject your skin to cancerous UV rays of the sun on a continuing basis without sunscreen ... your decorative concrete creations' deserve the same degree of PROTECTION from the various elements and use/conditions it will routinely be subjected to.
Lindy A.