What Is the Difference Between Concrete Paint and Concrete Stain?

On November 4, 2022

What’s the difference between concrete paint and concrete stain? The short answer is that a stain sinks deep into the pores of concrete floors. Concrete paint is more of a surface coating.

Concrete paint and stain are both ways to color concrete surfaces, but they work very differently. Understanding their pros and cons will help you choose the right option for your needs.

Rush & Reef Concrete Coatings is here to discuss the differences in more detail.

What Is the Difference Between Concrete Paint and Stain? 

The primary difference between concrete paint and concrete stain is that you brush on the former and spray on the latter.

Preparing a concrete patio or basement floors for either treatment is the same. You need to start with a clean, even surface. How you clean the surface depends on the treatment you intend to apply.

Concrete Paint

Before applying concrete paint, your contractor degreases the floor and uses a muriatic acid layer. This process ensures that you prepare the surface to receive a variety of colors and paint textures.

The contractor may apply a second coat of paint when the first dries, but they do not need to use a sealant. The color has an acrylic base that renders the concrete impermeable.

The paint provides a protective layer over the concrete. Unlike a stain, it will not permeate the concrete pores. As the paint is opaque, it offers excellent coverage and comes in a wide range of colors.

Concrete Stain

Preparing the floor for a concrete stain is more straightforward because the stain contains an acidic compound. However, you must seal the stained exterior surface to bring out the colors and tones.

Concrete stain doesn’t spread as far as paint because it soaks into the concrete. The effect is a depth of tone with some translucency that you cannot recreate with paint. The surface looks mottled with subtle color variations.

Which Option Works Better over Time? 

Both options work well in high foot-traffic areas as long as you apply them expertly. You can also use both stains and paint indoors and outdoors.

The main pros and cons of each are as follows:

  • Paint: Paint is easy to clean, fade-resistant, and relatively durable. It will chip and flake over time, so you will need to touch up the finish periodically.
  • Stain: The stain bonds with the concrete and won’t flake or peel away. Without the proper protection, the stain will fade over time. Restaining the concrete means removing the upper layer, which can cause problems down the road.

Should you wish to prolong the life of either option, a protective polyaspartic topcoat or epoxy layer is an excellent investment.

When to Use Each Option 

Now that you understand the difference between concrete paint and concrete stain, let’s consider which option works better for your space.


Paint is a practical option when you want full coverage and predictable results. It is suitable for lower-traffic areas where visitors and equipment are unlikely to scuff the floors. If you apply it without a protective layer, keep it indoors and protect it from the elements.

Paint also requires more maintenance. While paint allows for a more comprehensive range of decorative effects, you must budget for touch-ups every few years.


A stain may be the more practical option in a high-traffic area. While painting might provide vivid colors, stains extend beyond the surface layer. A stain won’t chip off, which is a significant advantage.

The downside is that you have no control over the staining results. The mottled effect the stain produces is due to various aggregates and materials in the concrete. There’s no way to say precisely what’s in the mix if you do not lay the concrete floor yourself.

The fact that the stain is more likely to fade and available in fewer colors is another potential drawback. Still, the virtually maintenance-free nature of the compound is a major point in its favor. The subtle difference in absorption and colors adds interest to an otherwise plain surface.

Contact Rush & Reef Concrete Coatings

Now that you know the difference between concrete paint and concrete stain, it’s time to decide between the two methods. Our friendly experts assist homes and businesses throughout Dallas, TX, and the surrounding areas. We offer a lifetime warranty on epoxy and flake coatings and a ten-year warranty on metallic coatings.

Call Rush & Reef Concrete Coatings at (469) 389-5807 for a free quote

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