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Decorative Concrete Stain Review
NewLook is Your #1 Source for Premium Concrete Stain Solutions

All concrete stain in not created equal. While there may be a variety of concrete stains that can help you achieve the decorative concrete finish you're after, not all of them perform the same way. And when it comes to protecting your investment in concrete, product performance is absolutely critical.

The concrete stain you select will depend entirely on the aesthetic effect you're after. Generally, concrete stains are either reactive or non-reactive. Either way, you want a concrete stain (system) that is maintainablereliableeasy to use and versatile in terms of its application. 

Reactive Concrete Stains

Reactive based decorative concrete stains are commonly called "acid stain" because their formulas include acid. To be specific, most acid stain is a mixture of water, mineral salts and muriatic acid, which is another form of hydrochloric acid (HCl). Hydrochloric acid is the strongest, most potent acid on the pH scale. Other chemicals commonly used in acid satin include iron chloride (FeCl3) and sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3).

Acid based concrete stain reacts with the unique chemical properties of concrete, mainly existing minerals like "free lime". The chemical reaction takes place between 30 minutes to 4 hours after first contact depending on the acid stain formula. Once stained, the concrete is then scrubbed to remove excess stain and then neutralized with a basic solution of water and ammonia or baking soda, which less likely to cause whiting later. Neutralizing helps raise the pH level of concrete closer to neutral level. However, neutralizing is a very messy process that adds time to the concrete staining project.

All concrete slabs are unique because concrete is batched using many different admixtures and ingredients. It's very difficult, if not impossible, to control the exact amount of concrete ingredients from batch to batch. That's why no two pieces of concrete are alike. And since acid based concrete stain reacts with the unique chemical properties of a concrete substrate, it's very challenging to get an exact match when staining different concrete slabs. Aged concrete surfaces, especially exterior concrete, may not yield color as well as interior, or newer concrete because it has leached or percolated out the mineral content due to the environment, harsh weather, and other types of wear and tear. As concrete breaks down its aggregate (small rocks) becomes more exposed. And aggregate will not accept or react with acid concrete stain.

Water Based Concrete Stains

Water based decorative concrete stains are non-reactive. While acid stains react to the minerals in concrete and change its physical make-up, water based concrete stains are more like a "coating" that bonds with the concrete. Not all water based stains are able to penetrate into porous surfaces like concrete. In fact, most water based concrete stains act more like paint, forming a film on the surface. This film can act as a barrier that traps moisture vapor that comes up through the concrete's capillary system. If the water based concrete stain does not allow concrete to breath, the moisture vapor will eventually cause it to bubble, blister, crack, chip or peel. When evaluating your water based concrete stain, pick one that penetrates into porous concrete and allows it to breath. This will contribute to the longevity of your newly installed decorative concrete stain.

Like acid stain, water based concrete stains are used to achieve a translucent finish. Very few water based stains are able to achieve an opaque or solid color finish without looking like paint. When selecting a water based concrete stain system make sure it includes solid, semi-transparent and translucent stains. Having these options will ensure you are able to create the decorative finish you desire without feeling limited by your options.

Water based concrete stains are manufactured using a number of materials and ingredients. Some are polymer based, epoxy or acrylic. Generally, epoxy based concrete stain solutions are better suited for indoor applications. And acrylic based concrete stains are better suited for outdoor applications because of its ability to withstand the elements. The application is one of the first project variables you should consider when selecting a water based concrete stain.

Generally both acid stains and water based stains require a top coat sealer.

Concrete Stain Review

NewLook is known for its concrete stains. (​You didn't think we'd pass up an opportunity to review our own products, did you?) In fact, we manufacturer a wide variety of water based concrete stains that you can use to decorate your concrete.

SmartColor is a premium water based nano-acrylic concrete stain formulated with advanced nano-technology in its high concentration of resins and binding agent. SmartColor offers efficient penetration and tenacious adhesion to a variety of porous substrates, especially concrete. It is water-submersible, alkali, weather and UV light resistant. The environmentally friendly concrete stain formula is the safe, user-friendly alternative to hazardous and unreliable solvents or acid stain. SmartColor concrete stains require a top coat and are even compatible with solvent-based, water based, single and two component products, including but not limited to acrylics, epoxies and urethane sealers.

SmartColor Benefits, Features & More Benefits

  • You're in control! Achieve a semi-opaque finish or increase dilution to get the desired transparency on concrete floors
  • Super simple! Single component solution is easy to mix and install
  • Tough stuff! Advanced nano-acrylic formula yields efficient penetration and tenacious adhesion that is extremely durable
  • Durable! Weather and UV resistant; use indoors and outdoor
  • Non-Invasive! Low odor; no respirators required
  • Eco-Friendly! The VOC < 100 g/L -- no red label or hazmat shipping

SmartColor Recommended Uses

SmartColor is more than just a reliable concrete stain in a plastic bottle. Yes, so much more! It's a user-friendly decorative concrete stain for restoring existing concrete and other porous substrates, including:
  • Pavers, masonry, stucco, and concrete
  • Indoor and outdoor application
  • Compatible with neutralized acid, polymer-modified and acrylic decorative concrete stains
  • Compatible with overlayments, micro-toppings and resurfacers as a topical stain & integral cement color
  • May be applied over sealed surfaces; easily maintainable 

Restore and decorate your concrete with The ORIGINAL Solid Color Stain, a premium water based decorative concrete stain made especially for use with existing, unsealed, interior or exterior concrete surfaces. The ORIGINAL Solid Color Stain is NOT a paint. The advanced polymer-modified concrete stain formula penetrates the surface of porous concrete (as deep as the surface pores) and creates an opaque (solid), yet breathable finish that requires no sealer.

Applications & Uses

The ORIGINAL Solid Color Stain is commonly used to restore previously colored concrete surfaces or to rejuvenate old, tired-looking concrete by completely covering discolorations or stains. It can be used on concrete flatwork, vertical surfaces, concrete blocks, pavers, imprinted concrete, exposed aggregate, and many other cementitious surfaces. It can also be used with sandblasting stencils. It is perfect for use over micro-toppings and overlays.

It may be used on a variety of substrates, including concrete, masonry, pavers, brick and stucco. Not recommended for non-porous substrates, e.g. metal, porcelain, glass, fiberglass.

NewLook's solid concrete stain is ideal for driveways, garage floors, pool decks, retail offices, restaurants, hotels, theme parks, shopping malls, schools, convention centers, and other high traffic areas. It may be used for interior or exterior, residential and commercial applications.

Benefits, Features & More Benefits

  • Proven and proprietary formula has been used to enhance concrete since 1989!
  • 100% opaque concrete stain completely covers existing discolorations to easily maintain concrete
  • Water based concrete stain formula is eco friendly with no VOCs and no toxic or unpleasant fumes
  • Polymer-modified formula penetrates as deep as the surface pores to leave a natural-looking finish
  • Water based stain formula is non-reactive & reliable -- you can bet on the color!
  • ​Breathable finish does not necessarily need to be sealed depending on wear and tear and expected maintenance
  • Hundreds of color formulas. No color match lab fee for Davis, Brickform or QC colors
  • Fast-drying concrete stain imposes minimal business interruption
  • Easily installed with NewLook Applicator Brush (required)

Give your worn, stamped concrete a two-toned, antiqued finish with the Translucent Color Enhancer, a premium water based and translucent (non-solid) decorative concrete color stain designed to be used over The ORIGINAL Solid Concrete Stain in a contrasting color.

The Translucent Color Enhancer is NOT a paint. It's a polymer-modified water-based concrete stain. It's also a non-reactive, non-acrylic, penetrating and breathable concrete stain. The Enhancer is used to tint or enhance areas of relief, texture or stamped concrete surfaces to create an antiqued look.

It is also used to create a faux finish by blending and layering multiple Translucent Color Enhancer colors. The Enhancer must be sealed. For images and stamped concrete stain ideas, visit the Photo Gallery.

Uses & Applications

  • Antique stamped concrete with a two-toned, old world finish
  • Faux finish over the ORIGINAL Solid Color Stain
  • Restore, enhance and revitalize exposed aggregate
  • Touch up and fix failed concrete stain jobs
  • Enhance stone, brick, stucco and other porous surfaces
  • May be used on raw concrete or over the Solid Color Stain

Benefits, Features & More Benefits

  • Translucent finish allows (solid) base color or intended discolorations to show through
  • ​Easy to mix 3-part concrete stain formula
  • Polymer-modified water based concrete stain formula has no VOCs
  • Non-reactive, reliable formula can be easily duplicated; you can bet on the color!
  • Use to touch up or fix decorative concrete stain mistakes

Concrete absorbs heat. Add dark colors to it and you can increase the surface temperature by 100° F. Ouch! This heat absorption in concrete is what contributes to the "urban heat island effect" causing hotter air temperatures in urban locations than surrounding rural areas. CoolStain PRO is the solution.

CoolStain PRO is a patent pending infrared heat reflective concrete stain. Use it to cool down your concrete temperature! The polymer-modified, water-based, penetrating concrete stain is made especially for use with existing, unsealed, exterior, concrete and masonry surfaces. It penetrates the surface of porous concrete and forms an opaque (solid), and breathable finish. As its name implies, CoolStain PRO's patent-pending infrared reflective technology minimizes heat build-up of concrete surfaces exposed to sunlight, reducing the temperature by up to 50° F! Yes, you read that right!

CoolStain PRO is NOT a paint. It's an infrared reflective concrete stain. There's a big difference. Infrared reflective paint is still just a paint with a high build film that flakes, bubbles, blisters and delaminates. CoolStain PRO, however, is a penetrating concrete stain that covers concrete.

Like The ORIGINAL Solid Color Stain, CoolStain PRO can also be used to restore previously colored surfaces or to rejuvenate old, tired-looking concrete by completely covering discolorations or stains. It can be used on concrete flatwork, concrete patios, garage floors, vertical surfaces, concrete blocks, pavers, imprinted concrete, exposed aggregate, cement, masonry, stucco, and many other cementitious surfaces. It can also be used with sandblasting stencils. It's perfect for use over micro-toppings and overlays.

Earn LEED Points With CoolStain PRO
“Concrete surfaces can earn a LEED for New Construction and Major Renovation (LEED-NC version 2.2) credit through Sustainable Sites Credit 7.1: “Heat Island Effect, Non-Roof”. The material’s solar reflectance index (SRI) must be at least 29. Where paved surfaces are required, using materials with higher SRI will reduce the heat island effect, consequently saving energy by reducing demand for air conditioning, and improve air quality.
~Portland Cement Association

As most urban settings are already paved, tearing out old concrete and installing new reflective pavement can be difficult and costly. However, with NewLook’s CoolStain PRO concrete can quickly and cost effectively be renewed, beautified, and become a cooler and more solar reflective surface.

CoolSain PRO is perfect for...
  • Pool Decks
  • Theme / Aquatic Parks
  • Fitness Centers
  • Patios / Sidewalks
  • City Parks
  • Schools
  • Government Property

Benefits, Features & More Benefits
  • Reduces surface temperature
  • Opaque solid stain covers concrete
  • Improves solar reflectivity
  • Lowers energy absorption, which reduces heat emission
  • Reduces Heat Island Effect
  • Qualifies for LEED points

WallStain Solid & WallStain Translucent​

WallStain is a highly premium, single component, non-yellowing acrylic emulsion concrete stain designed to color, seal and protect concrete and masonry surfaces, particularly vertical surfaces (e.g. retaining walls, concrete walls). WallStain's robust cure & seal formula will cure to a matte-satin finish that will resist stains, UV, abrasion and minimize hairline cracking, dusting and spalling. Available in both Solid and Translucent finishes.
All 26 SmartColor colors
ORIGINAL Solid Concrete Stain
ORIGINAL Solid Concrete Stain