Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time our floors were beautiful. They were the product of hard work and they were exactly what we had envisioned. Unfortunately, that beautiful dream didn’t stand the test of time. In fact, it didn’t stand the test of contractors or (to be fair) normal use. I have already discussed the problems we had with the concrete in “A Colossal Error in Concrete Staining” What happened? What went wrong? Most importantly, how on earth are we going to fix it? You can read that post, or continue here for a recap and our attempts at finding a solution.
In the Beginning…
In the beginning, I worked my tail off to make sure the floor was beautiful. Jerry and I read up on how to stain a concrete floor. We went the extra mile (pun intended) and drove to north Dallas so we could purchase the products from a concrete stain store. They calculated the amount of product and told us which products we needed. We did all that we could in order to ensure success.
Paper, Paper Everywhere
We tried to protect the floor, we really did. We put down paper and, as it began to tear, we put down more layers. And then this happened:
I would love to tell you that the contractors are the reason our floor is a mess, but that would not be accurate or fair.
The Truth Hurts
The truth of the matter is that the stain was not absorbed into the concrete. It sits on top like a very thin layer of paint and it comes up all the time. Jerry tried to get me to accepted it as “character” and I could maybe do that…well, almost. The problem is that we have tried a couple of sealers to hold what stain remains in place. It doesn’t work. The stain (should I just call it paint?) continues to come up, sticking to our feet. And this will continue until there is no stain left on the floor. I can’t ignore it and call it character. A solution is required and ignoring the problem isn’t really a solution, is it?
Submission as a Tactical Strategy
I couldn’t live with the floor and decided that, if the stain wanted to come up, let’s just scrape it up and get it over with. And so, armed with 2″ and 4″ razor blades, we have spent hours on that floor, scraping up the stain. I know that razor blades seem like a difficult solution, but the other options were to sandblast it off (messy in the extreme) or to use hazardous and flammable chemicals to remove it. Razor blades it is!
It is a huge job and some (a very small percentage) of the stain perversely clings to the concrete. If all of it was like that we wouldn’t be in this situation, would we? Most of it is coming off like old dried paint. We are doing it in sections and once it is all up, we have to make a decision on what to do next. I am hopeful that we can re-etch the floor with acid and get a surface that will absorb the stain. If we can’t, we are looking at either getting a polyurethane for concrete. I have to make sure that this will adhere to our floor. At this point, anything is going to be better than having flakes of paint sticking to our feet as a constant reminder that the floor staining project wasn’t a successful one.
So What Happened Originally?
Great question! I wanted to know the answer before I made yet another mistake. Websites like Concrete Decor and Concrete Camouflage were especially helpful (but frightening!). Here is what I have learned.
Three Possible Reasons for Failure
There are basically three reasons why stain doesn’t adhere to the concrete.
Reason One: the concrete itself was not prepared properly
This could be from the concrete company. Concrete companies add things like fly ash to increase the strength of the concrete. These additives also prevent stain from absorbing. Hard troweling or machine finishing is also a no-no if you are going to stain the concrete. Ours was machine finished. I know, I watched them do it, but didn’t know it was an issue. We did tell them we would be staining the concrete and assumed that they prepared a concrete for us that would allow this. They are the concrete experts, after all. I may not have completed the etching with acid process correctly. I would love to believe that it wasn’t me, but it really could have been. At the very least, I am responsible for not ensuring that the concrete was capable of receiving the stain before moving on to that step.
Reason Two: concrete stain doesn’t work is that it is too cold when you apply it
As you can see in the photo above, I applied it in shorts with the windows open in the late spring. Temperature was not an issue.
Reason Three: too much product is applied
Again, that isn’t our issue. We actually returned about half of the product the store estimated we needed.
It all boils down to the concrete’s ability to absorb the stain. I have learned a painful lesson and am in the process of making it right. I’ll let you know how this turns out in the end, but until then, I hope that you find an adventure that is more fun than scraping paint off of concrete!