How to Carve and Stain Old Concrete




Introduction: How to Carve and Stain Old Concrete

About: I am a designer and artist living in the amazing mountains of Oregon. White Oaks Bed and Breakfast is my home and studio.

Old concrete can look neglected and cracked. Even new gray concrete can be boring.

I hate old looking concrete, so I set out to restore and make concrete look like art. Learn how to carve, sculpture and color concrete.
If you are trying to make an old slab look fun and colorful, try these steps for a unique look.

Step 1: Prepping Your Concrete Surface

Be on the look-out for boring or old cracked concrete. It may be that old walkway to your new fabulous front door.

This abused concrete patio saw better days seventy years ago. Now it's my turn to make something of it. I don't want the expense of replacing it or even trying to cover it would be costly.

I cleaned it thoroughly, using TSP in a gallon of hot water. This takes most of the old oil and dirt off. Clean as many times a necessary to get a lighter, brighter concrete. You want to make sure that it is grease-free.

Step 2: Design Your Floors

With the concrete cleaned of all oil, grease, dirt and paint, use a permanent marker to draw your design. I used the cracks in the existing concrete to visualize my design. I knew that with all the cracks going every-which-way, I couldn't get to structured and tight with the design. I am a viney kind of gal and wanted this to look good with the cottage that I was re-designing.

Step 3: Tools for Carving Concrete

I am using a Roto-Zip tool. I bought mine online at: This tool is not unlike a Dremel, just bigger and more powerful. I am using a diamond blade because concrete can be very hard. It gets harder with age.

With my safety eye wear on, I set my Roto-Zip at a slight angle to the crack and began carving the crack a little wider and or smaller depending on how the vine would actually go. This tool runs at a very high speed and dust will fly. Wear protective clothing and gloves.

Step 4:

As I carve, I add leaves at different intervals. I step back occasionally to see how the design in progressing as I go. I might have to ad a carved element here and there as the cracks demand.

I tend to get carried away when I'm too close to my work. So the best step is to walk away and rest. The noise can be deafening and the smell is awful.

My leaves are now carved and I want to add color to them.

I use a muriatic acid wash to clean the con

Step 5: Picking Your Stain Colors

You can order different color acid stains off the internet. Remember they are considered hazardous materials and must be shipped by ground carrier.

Some colors do better than others. Green is usually one of the easier colors to buy. I have purchased blue, burgundy, purples and yellows for different projects. The reds, blues and purples are the hardest to work with.
For this project I bought brown and green.

Step 6: Colored Acid Stains

If you think of the stains as transparent, you will have more luck with building up your colors. As you carefully paint on this liquid stain, it will run. This is the reason I carve my designs first. This helps keep colors separate from one another.

This acid will bubble. This is how I know it's actually working. People have said that you need to use baking soda to stop the reaction. Water will also stop the reaction as it dilutes its ability to scar the surface.

I will put a first coat of stain on all the leaves, then come back after the bubbling stops and add a second coat to areas that might need a darker tone. This helps define shadows as well. At the end of a work day I will flush the entire space with water and let dry This helps me to see areas that need extra carving and or stained darker.

Step 7: Your Final Steps to a Beautiful Concrete Surface

When you have completed all your stained colors, wash the area off with water and baking soda. I have used baking soda at times and have not on other projects. Projects such as an enclosed basement where I have to do the washing with a bucket and mop.

After the concrete had dried for a minimum of twenty-four hours, I sealed it with a "Wet-look" sealer. This brings out the colors and brings a tired old concrete surface to life.

I saved this old slab from destruction and me a lot of money.

Be Safe
Have Fun

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    7 years ago

    what about green dye in grout or mortor and put it down all the cracks to fill in the gaps and help stop the cracks.


    10 years ago on Step 7

    I'm considering this for the house I'm buying both indoors and outdoors. Since the toxic nature of this stuff is a bit concerning I went looking for some not so nasty materials and found this:


    11 years ago on Step 7

    Looks great! Any chance you will reveal who you buy your stain from?



    did you use a crack in the concrete as a pattern for the stem of the flower?  it looks very very pretty!!


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Yes I tries to use all the cracks, making them look as if I wanted them there in the first place,

    Thanks for you compliments.


    13 years ago on Introduction

    You didn't include all of the images from the original - can you fix?
    Still I think Instructables is a better place to publish than ehow.



    13 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice, cool, creative. I need to do anything similar about my backyard, it is a little decayed.