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Concrete Stain vs Paint (Pros and Cons)

Here we share our concrete stain vs paint comparison guide showcasing the pros and cons, differences and which is best for your home’s exterior design.Stained concrete patio with outdoor dining tableStaining and painting are two of the most popular ways of adding color and beautifying concrete swimming pool decks, walkways, patios, and driveways. Unfortunately, most people look at these processes as the same. It cannot be farther from the truth.

Knowing the unique attributes of concrete stain vs paint will help homeowners decide which option to use for their properties.

What Is Concrete Staining?

Patio with concrete flooring and outdoor furnitureStaining is a method of adding color and unique design to concrete surfaces, allowing the pigments to penetrate and integrate with the concrete mixture.

Unlike paint that only stays on the concrete’s surface, stains become embedded into the concrete, becoming an integral component of the structure.

Because the pigment penetrates the concrete mixture, it creates a translucent appearance. One can see the distinct physical characteristics of the concrete floor or wall.

Concrete stains can be either water-based or acid. The former is easier to work with, requiring only the application of an appropriate sealant to prevent fading. One has to use more water-based stains to achieve a deeper color in their concrete.

Acid stains produce more stunning aesthetics but are challenging to apply. They can also pose a health threat, causing serious lung, eye, and skin irritation if the acid gets in contact with these body parts.

Because the pigment becomes a part of the concrete, this coloring option does not chip, flake, nor peel away. Of course, cracks in the concrete also reduce the stain’s elegant look. 

What Is Concrete Paint?

Painting concrete patio with gray shadeMany people believe that painting concrete is a lot more straightforward than staining. While this may be true, concrete painting requires prep work to ensure the proper adhesion of pigment molecules on the concrete’s surface.

Compared with staining, painting only coats a structure’s surface. It does not penetrate, blend, or integrate with the concrete mix.

That is why concrete paint creates an opaque surface suitable for hiding or masking surface imperfections. This painted layer also forms a protective shield for the concrete against heat, cold, and other environmental forces.

The only issue is that paint can peel off, flake, or chip if applied wrongly. Inadequate or incorrect surface preparation can also contribute to the occurrence of these issues.

Painted concrete can also look stunning, depending on what homeowners want and the installer’s creativity and skill level.

Pros and Cons of Concrete Stain 

Patio with round dining set and ceiling fanPros

  • Improves the floor’s aesthetic value by adding attention-grabbing waves, swirls, stenciled designs, marbling, and other visual effects
  • Ideal for outdoor patios and indoor decorative floors
  • Does not chip, flake, or peel away, making it more durable
  • Compatible with other concrete floor finishes, such as clear urethane coating and polish


  • Has no impact on concrete’s strength and durability
  • Translucent appearance can reveal imperfections in the concrete floor
  • Acid stain requires professional installation with special tools and techniques for safety

Pros and Cons of Concrete Paint

Deck with outdoor grill, white chairs and tables with house wood sidingPros

  • Adds stunning colors to concrete structures, depending on the painter’s skill and creativity
  • Ideal for hiding surface imperfections, including cracks and stains
  • It can protect the concrete against temperature extremes and other environmental factors
  • Recommended for spill-proofing the floor


  • Expert application recommended because of the number of required prep work
  • Tends to peel or chip when not applied correctly

Is It Better to Paint or Stain Concrete?

Choosing between painted and stained concrete is a matter of personal preference. Both concrete designing methods can improve a structure’s aesthetic appearance.

However, staining often provides a more elegant and more polished concrete look because of its translucent nature.

Stain, unlike paint penetrates the surface of the concrete and is generally lower maintenance and lasts longer. Coating the stain with a sealer is the ideal way to ensure it remains looking good and protects against water, chemicals and oil.

Painted concrete can look stunning, too, especially with a clear topcoat to give it a distinct sheen.

However, the main advantage of concrete paint is its ability to mask surface imperfections, including cracks and stains. Homeowners with surface imperfections on their floors and other structures would do well to apply paint.

Another option to consider is an epoxy patio design which offers some advantages when compared to paint.

Which Lasts Longer: Stained Concrete or Painted Concrete?

If people only talk about the pigments used in staining or painting concrete, stains often come out on top. One must remember the difference in application methods.

Painted concrete only requires the application of the pigment on the concrete’s surface. Its superficial nature leaves it prone to peeling, flaking, or chipping.

That is why concrete painting requires plenty of preparatory work to minimize such issues and ensure a more permanent paint-to-surface adhesion.

Typically concrete paint used outdoors last about 3 to 5 years before needing a new coat of paint. The paint will last longer if it is in a covered area or not exposed to the weather.

On the other hand, because staining involves the addition of pigments into the concrete mix, the stain becomes an integral part of the concrete. It does not stay on the surface, but rather deep in the concrete.

Stained concrete never chips, peels, or flakes. Concrete stain can last up to 100 years with regular resealing and maintenance. However, it tends to fade over time. Buy a UV stable stain to ensure the color remains consistent, especially in areas that receive full sun exposure.

Is It Best to Paint or Stain a Concrete Patio?

Deciding whether to paint or stain a concrete patio boils down to what the homeowner wants. For example, if you require surface protection for your concrete patio from damage, painting it will be ideal.

The extra coat adds a layer of protection against scratches and spills. If one has cracks, crevices, stains on the concrete patio, painting over it can hide these imperfections.

However, if one needs a patio that looks as stunning as the indoor floors of posh establishments, staining is a better option. The pigment molecules interact with concrete compounds, allowing them to bind with these substances to create a more elegant look. 

Can You Paint Over Concrete Stain?

One issue with stained concrete is that it can look dull over time. If this happens, homeowners can always apply a fresh coat of paint. One must remember that paints produce an opaque layer on any surface, hiding anything underneath.

However, one must prepare the surface before painting to ensure the correct pigment adhesion and avoid chipping, flaking, or peeling. Paint molecules must have a rough surface to cling on. Otherwise, they will not bond well onto the surface.


Deciding on the concrete stain vs. paint debate boils down to personal preferences, with both methods having their respective pros and cons.

Homeowners who wish to improve their home’s concrete aesthetics must weigh their options. If not, they can always consult with a professional to determine the best possible solution to their queries.

For more content similar to this visit our page about wood deck paint vs stain.