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Acid Etched Concrete Stain is used throughout our home:
We pioneered our own mask/etch technique to provide a groove-free tile appearance. (see our Tips Page)

Our floors are a 6 inch solid concrete slab with embedded radiant heating tubes.  Since radiant heat is most effective (and efficient) when the insulating floor covering are minimized, we decided to eliminate them all together.  To turn the bare gray concrete into a personalized art-form, we decided to use an Acid Staining technique to add an organic coloration to the concrete.

Acid-etch is becoming a common do-it-yourself concrete floor finishing technique, but the standard method to add a "tile-look" is to score the tile design into the concrete with a rock saw.  Since we were planning on finishing at least 2000 sq ft of floor, the thought of scoring all those lines was overwhelming, plus the reality of all these 1/8" grooves collecting dirt and grime for the next 10 years was a deterrent.  I researched for alternatives, but found none.  So I invented my own.

Instead of scoring, I decided that masking the grout lines with 1/4" tape before applying the acid etch would be a LOT fasted and cleaner than all that scoring.  After hunting high and low for 1/4" tape, with no luck, I built a small jig that let me strip 1" tape down to 1/4" in mass amounts.  By the time we were 3/4 through the project we located a great source for 1/4" tape that did a great job and saved lots of time.

We used  Kemiko brand of Acid Stain. During our project, we experimented with various colors and concentrations until we had developed what we considered the most effective and expedient approach.  Here's a short chronology of our room projects.  Click on any of the images to get a closer look. 


May 5-9, 2003. Our main task in the coming weeks is applying the acid-stain to the concrete floors. This neat technique leaves a finish that looks like rich stone at a fraction of the cost.  It has the bonus of providing the optimal radiant heating surface. 
Here's Lisa in the Guest Bedroom.  This was our 4th room so we had the pattern down.  First we scrub and squeegee the concrete floor, and then we lay down 1/4" masking tape to simulate tile grout.  Lisa's making sure the tape is down with a home-made roller. (Nice socks Lisa)

After taping, we spray the floor with the diluted Kemiko acid wash stain. During the etching process, a brown residue is formed which must be scrubbed off. The floor gets two acid applications before rinsing.  This floor was done with "English Red". 

After the final rinse, the floor needs to be sealed.  We've tried a couple of different products, and we're still refining the process

Here's Phil in the same location after sealing.  On this floor we tried a clear oil-based Polyurethane sealant designed for wood floors.  The oil based product brings out the wet-look of the color.

Here's "Sky-Cat" checking out the new floor.

Meoow...  Not only is the floor warm it's smooth as well.

After the first few rooms, we weren't content with basic square tiles.  We started playing with big and small tile layouts, and all sorts of combinations. The really fun thing about this faux tile approach is that you can "Tweak" the tile dimensions to ensure no partial tiles at any walls,  no matter what the design.  It does take a bit of geometry and some fancy measuring, but you can even take care of walls that aren't square. If you spread the error over many tiles, you never notice it.

After experimenting with tile patterns, Lisa tried her hand at adding accents to the tiles.  This is done after the etching process, but before the floor is sealed.  We found one particular metallic-gold ink that looked great against the darker stain colors.

May 15, 2003. And the floor staining continues.

After the office, we tackled the master bedroom.  In addition to trying out a new tile layout, Lisa tried her hand at applying some decorative gold trim.  Here she is applying a gold star.

Another stamp Lisa used was this great sun.  Most of the designs we've used relate to the sun, earth, water, or points of the compass.

Once the floors are sealed, the gold designs stand out against the dark earth tones.

This is the gold paint that we found worked the best.  It has metallic looking flakes in the paint, which really reflected the light.

We got most of the paints at basic craft stores.

This one is by "Plaid" and the color is King's Gold Metallic/

In addition to basic tile designs, we also crafted a four-pointed compass in the floor under the location of the spiral staircase.

The compass accurately indicates the alignment of the house. 


For the final room we really went to town with the design.  After about a hour with a spreadsheet trying to figure the lengths to give full tiles, we spent a few hours laying out a three part design.  Our idea was to simulate an area rug in the middle of the living room.  We combined tile groups at 45 Degrees to each other with a triple band separating them.  We used this band for a stenciled animal print design in gold.


June 6-8, 2003. We tackle the last remaining etched floor.
We left the living room floor to last, as we wanted this to be our best (most experienced) effort.  We came up with a cool 3-part design comprising an outer region of 16" tiles, a thin inner border and a central region of diagonal 24" tiles.

Lisa's got her roller out pressing down the tape for a sharp edge.

Once again we scrubbed the floor clean and then laid out the design.  We finally found some 1/4" tape at Wall Mart called "Quilting Tape".  Don't ask me how it's meant to be used, but we cleaned the place out :)

Here's the floor after it's been stained.  By now we had discarded the two step staining process (using a 1:1 diluted solution).  Here we have used a single 2:1 stain:water mix for a single application.

After removing the reaction residue, here's what the unsealed dry floor looks like.  The color is OK, but once it's sealed it looks wild.

Here's the final effect.  You can see Lisa at the newly installed Kitchen Island & Counter, in front of the main living-room floor.  There will be a semi-circular table in front of the counter to break up the wide expanse.

 Here's a bit of a close up showing the border around the center region.  Before sealing, Lisa stenciled a gold design in the center band.  We found from the Bedroom floor that the gold details added richness to the "Cola" color.

Here are some finished rooms.  Click on the image to see the floor details.


October 12, 2003. Most room furnishings are complete, and color is being added slowly.

Here you see the "Feature Wall" in the living room.  It contains the fireplace and wide screen TV.  The bump-out section of the feature wall is deep enough to hide the bulk of the TV and stereo equipment, and is stepped to provide small nooks for plants etc.  You can see through the doorway into the bedroom and sunroom.

The fireplace hearth wraps around to turn into window seats that span the front of the room.

Here is the Gallery floor complete with compass rose.  Since the North / South orientation of the house is so important for the passive solar design, it was easy to get the compass point correct.  See how well the organic look of the floor goes with the stained wood secretary.

This is the view looking outwards from the Master Bedroom.  The "Bahia Grass" wall color creates a very soothing feel to the room.  Once again, the windows feature wrap-around bench seats for viewing the wildlife.

Here's the other side of the bedroom.  Lisa refinished the "crate" bedroom furniture we had in a Red Mahogany stain, and it looks great. The rich color matches the stained concrete floor wonderfully.  Note my faux fern on the far wall.

Other Pic Pages: Foundation - Radiant Slab - Geothermal Loop - Wood Framing - Mechanical Systems - Equipment Room - Monitoring - Interior Trim - Exterior Trim

© 2000-2018, Phil and Lisa's relaxed lifestyle home.
An exercise in Energy Smart, Not So Big living. -


This site is all about building a cool, energy efficient house, that makes maximum use of earth sheltered design, passive solar heating and cooling, geothermal exchange energy management, and right sizing of the house for it's designated use. The home's placement is on a south-facing hillside in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. This site describes the design process, the technologies used and the expected results. We also have a comprehensive Links Page for anyone who is also interested in designing a similar project.