Like so many choices in home improvement, concrete floor coatings have various options with different costs and quality levels. At the beginning of the process, the concrete needs to be cleaned prepared before the actual coating can be applied successfully. Acid etching is the cheap and simple solution, but you should know the pitfalls and consider other options before deciding.

We generally recommend professional grinding to rid the concrete surface of imperfections and give it the optimal texture for the coating to look and perform its best.

However, before talking about grinding, let’s review the advantages and disadvantages of acid etching, since it’s long been a common choice.

Why Acid Etching Has Been Common

People choose acid etching because of its lower upfront cost or because they’re drawn in by the possibility of applying it as a DIY project.

Acid etching usually costs a few dollars less per square foot compared to professional grinding. When coating a concrete floor like a garage or basement, where looks might not be your top priority, it’s tempting to go the cheaper route. Whether it’s cheaper in the long run is up for debate, but the initial price tag is indeed lower.

The DIY crowd can also be enticed by the plausibility of using acid stains to clean concrete. You see photos of interesting color effects, and the instructions don’t sound all that difficult. However, you might end up on of those “Pinterest fails” instead. You can get the color and texture you want without using muriatic acid. By avoiding the acid, you also risk the hazards of its toxic fumes.

Acid Etching Vs. Grinding and Polishing

Acid etching preps concrete for coating by creating a chemical reaction. The muriatic acid basically dissolves the surface layer of the concrete and leaves it with a rough, textured surface. That roughness can create a great starting point to apply a coating — however, getting there is can be dangerous and more difficult than a typical homeowner or handyman can handle. While muriatic is not harmful to the environment after it has reacted with the concrete, the acid produces fumes that can damage your respiratory tract and it can also harm skin if contact occurs.

Diamond grinding is the professional alternative for prepping concrete floors for coating. Instead of dealing with the random variables of applying an acid, the grinding is done by a professional using advanced equipment. This gives the technician control over the situation, so he or she can produce the best texture and consistency.

To summarize:

  • Acid etching can be dangerous to your health if you do not take necessary precautions
  • Acid etching cannot be undone or adjusted easily after the fact.
  • Grinding costs a little more, but if the acid doesn’t work out right you’ll need grinding later anyway.
  • Grinding can be done with better precision and quality.

And on a final note, if you want acid etching because of the attractive colors it can produce, you should know that you can still get those same colors and textures by using grinding, polishing, and coatings.

Overall, grinding provides a superior surface. While acid etching is better than simply powerwashing, or doing nothing at all, it is less effective than a mechanical grind. At White Rabbit, all of our installations include a mechanical grind with our industrial diamond grinders–giving your surface the ideal profile for proper coating adhesion.

Professional Garage Floor Coatings in Chicago

To get the job done right the first time and prep your concrete for the strongest, most lasting coating, contact White Rabbit for a free estimate for garage floor coatings in Chicago.

Ryan Workman


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