What can I use to clean, color, and seal my radiant-heat, concrete floors that will not give off toxic fumes during heating?
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I want to acid-stain my floors. I also would consider paint/staining them. But I am afraid of the toxins from the products that I would have to use to clean, color, and seal -- not only while I use them, but more importantly, I need to know if any harmful chemicals will be emitted during the radiant heating of the floors for years to come.
There was a time when acid-staining concrete floors was the only way to achieve permanent color in concrete. The results were not predictable, as it is a chemical process reacting to the particular mixture of the concrete, and there were many unsuccessful jobs that could not be altered. With the shift in the construction industry to sustainable methods and materials, new products and methods are now available.
EcoProcote, a company based in Phoenix, Arizona, has developed a line of environmentally compliant finishes made from soy, which is not only a natural material, but is taken out of the waste stream from the residue of soy used for making Vitamin E.
SoyCrete, their bio-based semi-transparent penetrating concrete stain, is acid-free and ultra-low VOC (<25g/l). It comes in a variety of colors with the appearance of an acid stain, but with more consistency. It is also easier to control and faster to install. As the process itself is not chemical, there is no waiting for the results. One can easily mix colors to achieve the desired coloration and variation, with colors ranging from natural in appearance (sandstone, beige, and leather brown) to more vibrant blues and reds.
The more porous your concrete is, the better stains and sealers will adhere to the concrete. To check the porosity, drop water on the concrete at several locations and see how long it takes for the concrete to absorb it. The faster the concrete absorbs the water, the more porous it is. Should the water sit on the surface, you will need to prepare the concrete.
EcoProcote carries a product, Eco-Etch Pro, which is a water-based, noncorrosive, biodegradable concentrate concrete etching and cleaning solution. It is ideal for preparing interior or exterior concrete for optimum penetration and adhesion of stains and sealers. It also removes dirt, clay, rust, and efflorescence.
If there are no issues with your concrete’s porosity, you might then choose a surface cleaner, such as EcoProcote’s Soy-It All-Purpose Degreaser. Once the surface is dry, you can apply the concrete stain, SoyCrete. This comes by the gallon but also is available in 2-oz. test cans. It can be applied manually with a cloth or a squeegee, but for larger areas you might find a floor buffer more convenient. When you are satisfied with the color and variation, you can seal it with EcoProcote’s Acri-Soy Sealer.
As for your radiant flooring, all of these products are environmentally safe and will not emit any harmful chemicals, nor will they be adversely affected by the radiant heating.