GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted

Community and Q&A

Staining and Finishing a Concrete Floor

dburgoyne | Posted in General Questions on

I have a new construction small guest house with grey concrete slab floor and sawcuts in a 3 ft grid pattern. I’d like to stain it to look like mottled brown (leather look) and am wondering if anyone recommends a brand and method of staining and finishing that looks good, is durable, non-toxic, and low or no VOC. Just finished drywall texturing and ready to stain. Slab on grade (elevated 12-24″ above finish grade) in Northern California, and slab edge is well insulated. also advice on grouting sawcuts (~3/4″ deep). No cracking in 10 months since original pour.

Thanks for any advice

GBA Prime

Join the leading community of building science experts

Become a GBA Prime member and get instant access to the latest developments in green building, research, and reports from the field.


  1. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #1

    Have you thought about just polishing it? Here's a photo of our polished floor.

    Why do you want to grout the sawcuts? I think any grout will get stained and grimy.

  2. dburgoyne | | #2

    I'm trying to make it look warmer, and would like a rich brown "leather-like" color to tie in with a stained ceiling beam. The sawcut pattern is attempting to make it look more like large tiles, but the sawcuts are pretty deep and difficult to clean dirt out of (need a high strength vacuum and sometimes nail to dig dirt out of cuts.) Grouting would simplify cleaning and add to the "tile look".

    Thanks for sending the picture and advice!

  3. Expert Member

    I used a grey-green grout on my floor and found it altered the way you perceive the slab - which now looks like it is a bit green too. I'd suggest experimenting with grout colours before deciding to stain the slab. Being under the sealer the grout doesn't get any more grime or discolouration than the slab itself.

  4. user-4524083 | | #4

    Dan - I built a home 10 years ago that had an insulated slab with the type of finish that you are looking for. At that time, the "state of the art" was acid etching the concrete with water based stains in acid. The concrete would bubble up as you scrubbed the acid into the floor. I experimented extensively on small "tiles" that I would form to test the coloring. I ended up mixing 3 slightly different terra-cotta to brown stains, then alternating them onto 30" scored "slabs". The end result was extremely attractive, and few people could understand that the floor was actually concrete. The acid etching is non-uniform,and variegated, as the concrete absorbs the stain at different rates and amounts. This was finished with a water based sealer. The downside? This work is extremely labor intensive and I think for that reason never caught on. It's an attractive option for a home owner who is willing to read,learn and experiment. After you scrub in the stain at least twice, then you have to wash the floor multiple times to neutralize the acid before sealing. Though I was very happy with the outcome, I don't think I would ever do it again. I'd just tile - more expensive, but straightforward and low maintenance. Oh - I ended up using colored (terra-cotta) commercial polyurethane caulk/ sealant for the "grout joints". This was the one "toxic" part of the installation, but has stood up very well.You could probably come up with something less toxic but durable. I'm sorry that I have no pictures to send you but if you google "acid etched concrete stains"you'll get a lot of images. Good luck with your project.

  5. brp_nh | | #5

    I can give you a brief list of what we did and what products we used, we are happy with the results. This is the affordable and non toxic, but labor intensive DIY route:

    1. clean, clean, clean your floor....scrape and scrub off all the junk/residue/etc...we scraped with a razor blade and scrubbed with Simple Green

    2. concrete etcher and cleaner:

    3. stain:

    4. seal:

    We left our saw cuts open.


  6. d_barnes | | #6

    Dan, I saw your comment on the Hot climate design article by Martin.
    I’m in Elk Grove, and do energy audits, Blower Door testing, load calculations and furnace to Heat Pump design, including ductwork design.

Log in or create an account to post an answer.


Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |