Considering a Garage Conversion? Try a Stained Concrete Floor

Residential polished and stained concrete flooring

The Pros and Cons of a Stained Concrete Floor

Concrete is a fantastic material. It's strong enough to build structures, yet it's absorbent like a sponge, allowing you to stain it any color you want. It's an elegant and durable material when used for flooring that offers many unique benefits, and a few drawbacks.

If you're considering a garage conversion and would like to treat the existing concrete flooring, here are a few pros and cons of the material to consider before you begin.

The Pros

A stained concrete floor offers the homeowner some benefits, including:

• Durability – Concrete flooring is extremely durable and resilient. In fact, it's probably the most durable material you can use. When converting a garage, it's a built-in flooring option that can save you money and look beautiful in the process.

• Ease of Maintenance – Keeping a stained concrete floor looking great requires a minimum of maintenance. When stained and properly sealed it can be kept clean by periodic sweeping and mopping.

• Environmentally Friendly – Using the existing floor in your garage conversion means no new materials are needed.

• Long Lasting – When sealed and adequately maintained a stained concrete floor can last indefinitely, even under years of high traffic conditions.

• Numerous Design Options - Concrete floors aren't just ugly grey utilitarian surfaces anymore. Advances in concrete mixing and setting have allowed designers to create an endless variety of colors and textures.

Polished and stained concrete flooring for homes

The Cons

• Hardness – Concrete's durability can also be a liability. It's a hard surface and if you fall could hurt yourself. Dropped items are more likely to shatter or crack. That's why they might not be the best flooring choice for young children or older family members.

It Can Be Uncomfortable – Concrete's hardness can make it uncomfortable to stand on for long periods.

• Moisture – If it's not sealed correctly after staining, concrete can be susceptible to moisture penetration. If the liquid is absorbed, it can lead to the growth of mold and mildew. In cold areas, the moisture can freeze, which can cause the floor to expand and crack.

Creating A Beautiful Concrete Flooring Finish:

Choosing the Right Finishing Option

The days of “any color as long as its gray” are long gone. Today you can have almost any design, color or texture added to your existing concrete garage floor when you're completing a conversion. Color can be added at any point in the process using dyes, stains, acid or paint. Existing floors can be skim coated with concrete that has color hardeners and pigments to create a finished layer over the existing floor. This layer can also be textured and patterned to create depth. The options are pretty endless. Here are a few favorite and popular concrete treatments.

Chemical Acid Stained Concrete Floor

the basement floor of this one-of-a-kind storybook lake house basement uses stained, acid-washed concrete for the finished flooring of the room.

the basement floor of this one-of-a-kind storybook lake house basement uses stained, acid-washed concrete for the finished flooring of the room.

This technique is perfect for existing flooring. It consists of applying hydrochloric acid to the surface causing a chemical reaction. The reaction discolors the surface of the floor is affected by factors like porosity, chemical makeup, age, composition, and climate. The results of acid staining are unpredictable, but it can create a beautiful, random look that can mimic natural stone. Staining and polishing can create a dramatic effect.

Concrete Paint

The problem with painting is that it will eventually chip, flake and fade and may need to be reapplied every few years. If you decide to paint, make sure to use a specially formulated 2-step latex epoxy made specifically for concrete. You'll need to acid etch the existing floor so the paint can adequately adhere and cure. The benefit to painting is that when properly chosen and applied it will result in a waterproof surface.

Water Based Stains

These penetrate the surface and cause a chemical reaction much like acid staining, but this process results in the material taking in pigment. Unlike paint, the surface is not waterproof and can breathe so moisture will not cause the color to chip away. Water-based staining often produces more desirable effects than oil based.

Tinted Sealers

Tinted sealers create a protective barrier that can protect against moisture penetration and stains. Sealers are available with coloring agents that cause subtle shades of color to appear on the surface of the floor.


Dyes allow the color to penetrate the porous floor and directly stain the material. Water-based dyes create a more natural marbled look. Solvent-based dyes are better at creating a more uniform color effect.

colored, textured concrete is more commonly used in outdoor patios and sidewalks than it is for interior basement floors.

colored, textured concrete is more commonly used in outdoor patios and sidewalks than it is for interior basement floors.

Texture and Etching

Texturing is best applied to a new floor, but if you want a textured look, you can skim coat the existing floor and texture the new material before it cures. Texture can reduce slipping and adds a beautiful visual element to the floor. Etching consists of scratching patterns into an existing floor. You can etch patterns that mimic grout lines into a surface that has been stained to create the look of natural stone tiles for example.

Polished Concrete

Polishing can create the look of glistening marble on a stained floor. The floor is polished used a series of pads that begin coarsely and gradually work their way down to smoother and smoother treatments. Concrete can be polished after any of the above treatments.

Concrete flooring is trendy, durable, beautiful and can last a lifetime. If you're converting your garage into living space, the existing concrete floor can be treated to create a unique and beautiful look, unlike any other flooring material. Because the existing flooring is already in place before your conversion, these treatments are incredibly affordable and won't break your budget. If you're looking to make a unique statement with your garage conversion project, consider stained concrete floors.

This article was updated by Abe Degnan on 6/25/2018.