Whether you are an architect, contractor, or homeowner, the best time to call The Concrete Colorist (817-723-5003) is before the building slab is poured. Then we can provide you with timely information on how to finish the foundation slab in a way which will lead to the most successful staining job possible. Even if staining is only one of several options which you are considering, the suggestions we make will save you labor and money if you do choose acid staining, and will do no harm should you decide on a more conventional floor covering such as tile or stone.
Step One, the Planning Session
Once your plans are drawn up you should bring them to our office along with any color swatches or decorating ideas you may have already chosen. That way we can get a feeling for the style of the planned space and can show you the range of stain colors available. We have color charts published by the stain manufacturers, but much more useful is the array of two-foot square concrete pavers we have on display so that you can see how we mix or dilute stains and pattern them with various materials to create a variety of “looks” inspired by nature.
We expand this with a large portfolio of photographs of finished floors by The Concrete Colorist, any one of which may inspire you to design something similar. We cannot promise to exactly reproduce any given job we have done formerly (and most of our clients find this to be a plus). Since the finished result is a combination of many factors, ranging from the “mix formula” of the concrete to the weather on the day of the pour and the type of clear sealer chosen, no two stained floors are identical. As overused as the expression is, our clients really do end up with floors which are unique.
Step Two, We call Your Builder or Project Supervisor
One of the first things we do is provide the job supervisor with a “Builder information sheet” sheet which outlines the most common events which might lead to staining problems. We happily fax or e-mail this sheet to anyone who calls us, even if it ends up benefitting another stainer who wins the bid. We feel that this is important information which all stainers should provide, but which many overlook, due to laziness or a fear of “scaring off the customer.” We understand that educating people in the details of the staining process benefits the staining field as a whole.
If a builder is hiring a concrete stainer for the first time, we want to answer all his questions and concerns about the timing and duration of the staining process and how we should protect the stained slab from the last of the trades and return just before move-in to apply the final finish so the floors look their best on the day the client takes possession of the property.
Step Three, We Give You a Written Estimate
We are happy to give you a ballpark estimate on the phone if you explain the scope and location of your project and know the square footage. We usually make a written bid after we clearly understand the job and have spoken with the builder as well as the hiring party.
We are straightforward about pricing and do not hesitate to give close estimates from the start, so you can determine if floor staining is in your budget. Our company makes every effort to stick with the original estimate as a matter of courtesy, even if your project is delayed by a year or so.
Step Four, We Do Stain Samples
We ask that you notify us at least one month after the slab has been placed. This gives it enough time to cure so that we can go to the site to do three or four stain samples on a hidden area of the slab. You need to see how the colors you have chosen are likely to react with your particular concrete. We usually stain towards the end of the building process and the homeowner or designer needs to choose wall colors and woodwork long before the floors are stained. We have a limited range of stains we can use, so it is preferable to tailor the wall colors to the floor rather than the reverse.
If the job site is a long distance away and we have not received a signed Proposal, but are still competing with other stainers for the bid, then we charge a nominal fee for this service, since it usually requires two trips to the site. If we are chosen to do the job then this fee is deducted from the client’s first invoice.
We always meet with the client to look at the samples on the second day and show how the sealer variables will affect them. If some “tweaking” is required we often do a second set of samples.
Step Five, We Stain and Seal the Floors
This begins with wall masking, protection of adjacent woodwork and columns, and the protection of nearby concrete which the owner wants to leave unstained. We then clean the slab thoroughly. If a sealer or liquid curing compound has been applied inadvertently, or if we are dealing with a remodeling job and must remove mastic or floor paint, this is when we do it. Cleaning is usually about 80% of the stainer’s work and the most crucial element (aside from letting the slab dry completely before sealing it).
When the slab is as clean as possible we fill cracks and holes with a cementitious compound which will accept acid stain and let it cure overnight.
We apply one or two coats of stain to the clean, dry floor and let it cure the required four to six hours. The next day we scrub the floors again using a soft buffing pad on our machine and rinsing and vacuuming well. When the slab is completely dry we apply at least two coats of a durable solvent-based clear sealer. If solvent fumes are a problem we do this on a weekend to spare adjoining tenants or other trades. If the owner requires a non-toxic or “green” product we will apply that, although these are often less scratch-resistant.
We like to faux paint out any flaws or odd spots which bother the client after the first coat of sealer is dry enough to walk upon. This is a special service which most stainers cannot provide, but we have been matching colors and doing faux finishes for decades. This is most vital if the floor is a remodel formerly under carpet. There will be a row of filled carpet tack-strip holes bordering the walls which will never take the stain in exactly the same way as the slab itself. With skillful faux painting we can make the color differences vanish.
Step Six, We Return for Final Finish
We always apply two coats of water-based acrylic polish as our final coating once the sealer has adequately cured. Usually the builder chooses to have us return when the building has just been cleaned for move-in as almost the last step in the building process. At that time we can faux paint out any scratches inflicted on the floor by careless counter or appliance installers and then cover our repairs with two protective coatings of final finish (acrylic wax).
The final finish serves as a sacrifice coat and is easy for the maintenance staff or homeowner to replenish when the surface of the floor gets dulled from traffic. This is done once a year in homes and more often in busy public spaces. We provide written instructions with directions and products needed, or a floor preservation contract with our company for future finishing. If the client has a commercial space, we provide a maintenance sheet for the janitorial staff.
Unusual Scenarios – The foregoing steps are our most typical procedure, but we are not inflexible. If you have a job in a foreign country or a distant state, we are happy to discuss consulting with your stainer or even training your staining crew and providing artistic expertise.
The Concrete Colorist, has a skilled and experienced crew of workers, but the owner still does all client consultations and samples in person and is on the job site for most of the time that work is in progress. He takes great pride in his work and does not believe in “turning jobs over” to subcontractors or untrained crews of day laborers, as some low-priced competitors have been known to do! Acid staining is far from formulaic. One or two unusual elements are encountered on almost every job and only the eye of experience can detect them and head off problems before they mushroom out of control.