Managing Expectations for Successful Acid Staining


Panic. It is often the result when a customer hasn't been properly prepared prior to an acid staining project. When selling projects, clear communication and education are always key. This is especially the case with acid staining. Control your customer's expectations and make them aware of any factor that may cause concern or affect the final product before it becomes an issue. Once a customer has been given reason to suspect a problem, it's nearly impossible to regain their complete trust.

Consider the Surface

Stains, marks, spalling,  and other surface damage can affect the staining process. Debris or a tightly trowelled surface (such as a power trowelled basement or garage floor) can also affect the ability of the stain to penetrate. When planning the project, conduct a walkthrough with your customer and point out these potential issues. If possible, incorporate these defects into your design with an industrial or rustic motif. Penetrating dyes can be used to cover up some minor issues, but it is important to be aware of their limitations. If the surface is too inconsistent or significant repair work is needed, it is possible to microtop it to provide a fresh canvas. Just be sure to explain this and the additional costs to your customer as well as take the microtopping into consideration during the sampling phase.

Consider the Color

The color will change and this may worry your customer. It's not uncommon to have customers wander onto the jobsite and become rather confused when they see bottles of acid stain that are clearly not the color they requested. It's also not uncommon for customers to view the project before the residue has been scrubbed and become upset with what they believe to be the final appearance. Because acid stains derive color from their reaction with calcium hydroxide in the concrete, they will not show their final color until fully reacted. If possible, keep your customer off the jobsite until after all of the residue has been removed.  Since that is not always possible, always make sure to warn them and explain the color change throughout the process.

Prepare Yourself

Acid staining is a relatively simple process, but that doesn't mean there isn't room to make mistakes. When mistakes are made with acid staining, they can be very difficult to correct. Before you begin bidding and selling acid staining projects, it is vital to make sure you are trained. Attending manufacturer training events is one of the best ways to do this. It is also important to make sure you fully read and understand the literature associated with all of the products you plan to use before you begin the job.

Prepare Samples

No two acid staining projects are the same. Slab makeups and condition will vary. This will affect how the acid stain reacts and final color. When consulting with our customer, alert them to this. Do not promise that you can totally match another job they have seen elsewhere. To better anticipate the final appearance and to see what the customer really prefers (it is not unheard of for customers to dislike color combinations they previously insisted on) you should prepare a sample. The best samples will be on the slab(s) you intend to stain, in an inconspicuous place. Try to find some place that will be covered with carpet, cabinets, or fixtures. Present the customer with several options with various color combinations, dilution rates, and application techniques. Prepare these samples just as you would the final job, from surface preparation to sealing. If you plan on staining an overlay, take that into consideration.

Control the Slab

Not all concrete can be successfully stained. Slabs that contain greater than 10% fly ash, were cured with membrane-forming cures or calcium chloride, or have very tight finishes may not be readily stained. Concrete without enough free lime (calcium hydroxide), due to age, densification, or severe acid etching, may not be able to react correctly with acid stains. When pouring a new slab, consult with the ready mix provider, other contractors (if you are not placing or finishing the concrete), and project designers to make sure the concrete meets the acid staining specifications. If sampling determines the slab does not meet acid staining specifications, it may be necessary to explore other options such as water-based staining, dyes, or staining a cementitious overlay.

Control your Environment

Environmental factors will play a role in how the stain is applied and reacts. First and foremost is to consider the moisture the stain may be subjected to because blue and green acid stains will turn black in the presence of moisture. Moisture will also determine how the floor is prepared and sealed. There's a multitude of smaller issues to consider. For example, stain drips and stains will affect the final appearance even when they are stained over later. Carefully approach every job and avoid anything that might negatively affect your work.

Careful planning and good communication are vital. If you wish to be successful, fully plan out your acid staining project and share this plan with your customer. This will increase your chances of having a satisfied customer and a more successful and profitable acid staining practice.


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