Concrete Floors

Bob Borson —  July 19, 2010 — 28 Comments
I decided to start a monumental project at my house this weekend – stripping my concrete floors. Depending on what you know, that may or may not be a big deal so let me tell you….it’s a big deal, for a couple of reasons.
  • I don’t have the money to pay someone else to do it so this is a DIY project
  • My house is approximately 2,000 square feet and almost all of it is exposed stained concrete floor. To help visualize the task, I added a floor plan of my house and shaded all the exposed concrete in orange
  • I don’t like manual labor anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I never loved it but now a days, my ability to bend over and “put my back into it” are gone. I’m sure it’s because I’m getting old smarter because I would just as much prefer to hire someone else to do this type of work.
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that's a lot of orange...

See what I mean? That is a lot of orange. Since I don’t own a concrete grinding machine, nor do I know how to operate one – that’s out. They make grinders now that can do a job like mine but like I said, I don’t have a few thousand dollars to spare. So I made some calls and asked about acid washing the floors with muriatic acid. I know that we specify this type of acid when refinishing concrete sidewalks and patios so why wouldn’t it work for me? I spoke with a contractor and a landscape architect and after they both stopped laughing and making jokes about melting my fingers down a joint or two, they both gave me a melted thumbs up! Nothing left to do but to get to it!

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I started off by picking a test spot in the utility room, basically underneath the washing machine. I did this because if I majorly screwed something up, the washing machine would hide the evidence from the next sucker person who would buy this house. This was also a good spot because the floor here looked terrible…If I wanted to see how this was going to work, this was definitely the spot. I did some spot cleaning to get everything ready with my wet/dry shop vac (an awesome tool, highly recommend picking one up if you don’t already have one).

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Will you just look at that spot!? Erghh – I never seen a bit of concrete that needed to have acid poured on it more deserving than this bit right here. I also used a metal wire brush to make sure that the concrete score lines were nice and clean…mostly. C’mon, throw me a frickin’ bone here, there was like 50 years of shamasazam in there.

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Okay, I got all the surfaces ready to go and I prepared my mixture of muriatic acid (5% aka 20:1) mixture with water. Oh yeah, unless you really do want melty fingers, get a pair or rubber gloves – the kind made for protection from industrial strength chemicals, not the ones that will work against dish-pan hands. In my case, and I would guess yours as well, when I bought my muriatic acid from Lowe’s, they just happen to conveniently place a box of the right kind of gloves right next to the acid. Way to go Lowe’s! *Air Punch*

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So I poured the 5% solution on the concrete and waited for the magic to happen. Right away there was a chemical reaction and the concrete started to hiss and steam just a little bit. Oh yeah…(rubbing gloved hands together)…like taking candy from the kitchen drawer…so easy. At this rate, I would bang this project out in 2 days max (what?!?…I mean, awesome!)

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What??! That looks terrible! It’s going to take a years to get this project done with this plan…. I have a good mind to take my gloves off, let one or two fingers get a little melty and wag them in the faces of that contractor and  landscape architect as I tell them what idiots they are! Now what am I going to do??

(get a beer)

(go back and look at floor…….stupid floor)

My wife tells me to just pour more acid on it – well, not really more, just a higher concentration - full strength (melty fingers be damned!!) No thanks, my back hurts after doing that one….stupid….tiny….little…spot.

(get a beer)

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yellow is the color of defeat by the way

To give you an idea, I change the spot I acid washed to yellow so you can see, you know, how much further I have to go. Beer is never the solution, it’s just a diversionary tactic and eventually, a real plan is going to have to be put in place. But what? What is it that I need to do?

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Thaaat’s right……roller skating. You can always count on roller skating.

(and the banana stand, there’s always money in the banana stand)

  • SLR Architecture

    I’d love to see what your final solution is, I did
    Concrete countertops in our renovation 5 years ago and they
    Don’t look so good any more. Not really sure what
    Is the best way to bring them back.

  • http://www.prepcoflooringllc.com/ flooring Houston

     Just like any other flooring material. concrete wears off over time. It is great that there are ways of maintaining its beauty just like what you did. Thank you for this information in acid washing concrete floors. Homeowners with the same concern will now know what to do.

  • Chris

    Diamond polishing is really the answer. it’s in the neighborhood of $5/SF. Not sure you can rent these machines with all the diamond heads that go along w/ it. I had some of my floors in my facilities stripped and polished by diamond grinders and the concrete is gorgeous! they start w/ #50grit, then 100, 200, 400, 800, then lithium silicate hardener, then 1000… depending on the level of shine. Here’s my vendor: http://www.floorrescue.com Jeremy Rettig in Richardson.

  • http://www.colonialstoneandfloorcare.com Concrete Polishing

    I am very happy to read this article.. Really thank you for giving us nice info. Fantastic walk-through.

  • http://www.marblepolishingmiami.com/ Marble Clean

    It’s a big deal, for a couple of reasons.

  • http://www.colonialstoneandfloorcare.com/ Concrete Grinding

    Concrete Floors! Good stuff.

  • http://www.colonialfloorcare.com Concrete Floor Polishing

    Lovely analysis…looking forward for more information…

  • http://www.concretestained.net Concrete Polishing

    Lots of good info…waiting for more photos….

  • Simone

    We used to have a very rough concrete floor. We had it leveled by a floorlaying company with their hardest floorleveler (it really is extremely hard) they usually use this before they put linoleum on the floor. It adds about 3 mm to the the floor. Afterwards they sanded it (because it tends to have bumps here and there). We had it painted by a painter afterwards. But unpainted and sanded it looks just like concrete. We are now 7 years further on and it still is just fine (paint is starting to wear here and there though). I can really recommend this as a quality low-budget solution. At the time we paid about 25 euro’s per square metre for the leveling.

  • Anonymous

    Make sure to take lots of photos to document the process – even if it turns out terrible, you will get a good laugh out of it from your traction bed later. Just make sure that your insurance adjuster doesn’t read your blog, making a claim later is soooo much more difficult after you’ve shown exactly what was before and what you did after.

  • http://designing4life.com Amanda Taylor

    Bahahaha. Your writing is stellar. This post hits home for me right now. We are tiling the bathroom floor, shower walls, and kitchen floor. Ourselves. It’s been a week. DIY manual labor, not so fun! So, yeah, good luck with that concrete floor.

  • Jabbott271

    Borson,

    You're breakin' my heart.

    John

  • bobborson

    how very observant of you -

    It is in fact an FSB1076 ST lever – by far the nicest door hardware I have ever personally owned.

    • http://bruteforcecollaborative.wordpress.com/ bruteforcecollaborative

      yes, that’s a favorite of ours as well. nice touch!

    • http://bruteforcecollaborative.wordpress.com/ bruteforcecollaborative

      yes, that’s a favorite of ours as well. nice touch!

  • http://bruteforcecollaborative.wordpress.com/ mike

    is that an FSB lever?

  • bobborson

    I actually sent an email off to the president on a prominent concrete group here in Texas and I haven't heard back from them – it's been a few weeks so I don't think I will but I'm not one to throw someone under the bus for one mistake. I had hoped to get someone over here who specialized in my needs or at the very least, have an educated discussion about process and expectations. Have no doubt, if I can get something going on this, I will write about the process.

  • bobborson

    I would have to agree with you. If this didn't come together quickly and painlessly (emphasis on the painlessly) I was going to defer to someone who knew more than me (good luck finding that…am I right? *High Five*)

  • bobborson

    I'm surprised Google yeilded anything since I made that word up. That was I can sound like I know something everyone else doesn't – this blog is all about the smoke and mirrors (don't tell anyone)

  • http://chamwashere.blogspot.com Cham

    Did you know that if you google “shamasazam” – this blog post is the first of only 2 results. Blew my mind, anyway. (And love the banana stand reference!) Best of luck with your floors!

  • tdatx

    I would agree… I had a professional botch a floor on a project I did and he had supposedly done it a few times… I had to hire another group to polish the floor down and do it again.

  • http://SLS-Construction.com SLS Construction

    Any way you go, you can run into issues – the muriatic acid can keep attacking the concrete if it isn't neutralized, both the polisher & grinder can cause damage if not handled properly, etc…

    Sorry, but in this case, I think you need to at least get a consult from someone that does decorative concrete for the different options available – just my .02

  • bobborson

    Don't get me wrong, I love my floors – as do all the other architects who come in my house who voice an opinion.

    I am okay taking a page from the great Richard Neutra, to bad I can't call him up and have him come over and help me with these floors.

  • bobborson

    I had the original architect over to the house when we first moved in and he mentioned that he doesn't like staining the actual concrete itself, that he calls for the colorant to be mixed in with the sealer and applied. I don't think the floors have ever had any maintenance done to them because the sealer isn't doing it's job very well anymore (after 50 years).

    You might have read in a previous post that we have and aging dog – she gets sick on the concrete floors and within a minute, the acid from her stomach has etched the color off the floor. I'm not sure that the color has actually penetrated very far – if at all. Even if it has, it's not the grey I am interested in restoring, it's the “looking clean and not like the dog has barfed on it in those 23 locations” look.

    I know that I could rent a grinder but I am worried about practicing on my own house and making what is a very prominent feature look even worse.

    • http://twitter.com/denifty Chris Bugert

      You know if you really screw it up then you could always cover it up with shag carpet (burnt orange is my favorite). Carpet always looks good in a bathroom.

      DISCLAIMER: I am joking of course!

      • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

        As a firefighter, I am sure you would rather I keep my concrete floors than combustible shag carpeting (although I do like burnt orange as a color…)

  • http://SLS-Construction.com SLS Construction

    Bob – what exactly are you trying to do / why are you stripping the floors? You do know that the stain has penetrated the concrete to varying depths & you will never get it back to it's natural grey?

    As for concrete grinders – you can actually rent one & the back it saves maybe yours. One trick we use to prep for ceramic tile is a floor polisher with a screen on it, but you have to be careful as it is easy to slam it into the trim or doorways

  • http://www.wood-and-light.com David Mathias

    Hi Bob,
    I etched my garage floor with muriatic acid in preparation for staining it. That was many years ago and only about 400 sq. ft. And afterward I was able to flood it with a hose. I don't envy you doing this inside your house.

    Wasn't it Neutra who was one of the proponents of concrete as a decorative flooring material in homes? You have him to thank for this…