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Can I add stain to concrete mix?

Concrete staining is a popular decorative technique used to add color and visual interest to concrete surfaces like driveways, patios, pool decks, and floors. Concrete stains come in a wide variety of colors and can create a unique, customized look for concrete. Unlike paints that sit on top of the concrete surface, stains penetrate into the concrete for a long-lasting color that won’t chip or peel.

Many homeowners wonder if they can add stains directly to concrete during mixing to integrate the color throughout the concrete slab or project. The short answer is yes, stains can be added to concrete mixes, but there are some important factors to consider to ensure proper staining and curing of the concrete.

In this article, we’ll look at:

  • Can you add stain to concrete during mixing?
  • What types of stains work with concrete mixes?
  • How much stain to add to concrete mix
  • When to add the stain to the concrete mix
  • Tips for staining concrete during mixing
  • Curing considerations for stained concrete

Understanding these key points will help ensure your stained concrete mix and finished project turn out looking beautiful and professional.

Can You Add Stain to Concrete During Mixing?

Yes, liquid concrete stains can be added directly to concrete mixes prior to pouring and finishing the concrete. This allows the color pigments to penetrate deep into the concrete for even, consistent coloring throughout the slab.

Staining concrete during mixing, rather than applying stains to the top of cured concrete, provides these advantages:

  • Uniform color throughout the thickness of the concrete.
  • The need for surface preparation of concrete is eliminated.
  • No need to apply multiple coats of stain for darker colors.
  • Stain is locked into the concrete, extremely fade resistant.

However, proper mix design, pouring, finishing, and curing techniques are required to achieve the best results when adding stains to concrete mixes.

What Types of Stains Work with Concrete Mixes?

Liquid concrete stains, also called penetrating stains, are formulated to readily mix into concrete and react chemically with the concrete for permanent, variegated coloring.

Some options for concrete stains that work well when added directly to concrete mix include:

  • Acid stains – Contain acidic components that react with calcium hydroxide in curing concrete to produce permanent, mottled earth tones. Colors like browns, tans, golds, greens, blues, and red tones are possible.
  • Water-based stains – Contain transparent, pH-neutral pigments to produce softer tones in concrete without etching the surface like acid stains. Examples are pastel colors, warm earth tones, and primary colors like reds and blues.
  • UV-resistant stains – Formulated with UV inhibitors and light-fast pigments that help resist fading in sunlight.
  • Metallic stains – Contain metal salts that deposit shimmering metallic particles in the concrete surface for a glistening, iridescent look.

Always choose a high-quality, reputable brand of liquid concrete stain intended for mixing into concrete. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper dilution rates and mix procedures.

How Much Stain to Add to Concrete Mix

The amount of liquid concrete stain added to a concrete mix depends on:

  • The desired intensity of the finished color
  • The ratio of concrete mix ingredients
  • Manufacturer’s recommendations for the specific stain product

As a general guideline when using acid-based stains:

Intensity of Finished Color Stain Amount
Light color tint 1-3 oz stain per bag of concrete mix
Medium color intensity 4-8 oz stain per bag of concrete mix
Dark, saturated color 8-12 oz stain per bag of concrete mix

Always do a small test sample to check color results before staining an entire project. Adding too much stain can inhibit concrete curing and strength.

When to Add the Stain to the Concrete Mix

Proper timing of when to add liquid stain to concrete mix is important. Stain should be:

  • Added after all dry ingredients (cement, sand, aggregates) are thoroughly mixed.
  • Mixed in during the last couple minutes before pouring the concrete.
  • Avoided adding stain to the mix water before adding cement.

This ensures the concrete is fully blended before introducing the staining pigments, and allows for a uniform distribution of color with minimal required mixing time.

Tips for Staining Concrete During Mixing

Follow these tips to achieve beautiful stained concrete results when adding stains directly to concrete mixes:

  • Test stain colors on sample boards first to choose your desired tones.
  • Only use liquid penetrating stains formulated for mixing into concrete.
  • Follow the stain manufacturer’s instructions for proper mix ratios and procedures.
  • Add stains in the last few minutes before pouring concrete.
  • Consider separate mix portions for light and dark colors.
  • Use UV resistant stains for outdoor concrete to minimize fading.
  • Have proper finishing tools ready for stamped or textured finishes.
  • Let concrete cure properly before sealing or polishing (typically 7-14 days).

Taking the time to plan, test, and properly mix and finish stained concrete will provide beautiful long-lasting results. An experienced concrete contractor is recommended for large or complex stained concrete projects.

Curing Considerations for Stained Concrete

Concrete curing is a critical process after pouring to allow full hydration and strength gain. When using stains in concrete, proper curing helps maximize stain penetration and color results.

Here are some tips for curing stained concrete:

  • Avoid overworking or troweling the concrete surface, which can inhibit stain penetration.
  • Use an evaporation reducer during curing to minimize moisture loss.
  • Cover the surface with plastic for 3-7 days for proper moisture retention during curing.
  • Avoid walking on the surface during the first 24 hours of curing.
  • Allow concrete to cure for 7-14 days before sealing or polishing.
  • Consult the stain manufacturer’s guidelines for ideal curing procedures.

With the right concrete mix design, staining technique, pouring, finishing, and curing, integrating color directly into concrete can lead to stunning decorative concrete outcomes.


Adding liquid concrete stains into a concrete mix prior to pouring is an effective way to achieve uniform, vivid coloring throughout a concrete slab or project. Penetrating stains formulated for mixing into concrete can create a range of eye-catching colors and effects in the finished concrete surface. With careful planning and execution, staining concrete during the initial mixing process eliminates the need to apply stains to cured concrete and can provide long-lasting, consistent coloring and curb appeal. Understanding key factors like proper stain types, mix ratios, timing, finishing, and curing allows even do-it-yourselfers to successfully mix stains into concrete for decorative, durable results.