Staining concrete walls in the basement transforms the space.

One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to improve a basement is by staining its concrete block walls. Giving a clean uniform coating to the walls can transform them, but the real work lies in clearing the space and creating access to the walls especially if it's jampacked with stuff. It's a good time to sort and purge what's there.

For a masonry surface we found concrete stain works better than paint because it's designed for the rough surface of dry concrete foundation walls; and stain seals and protects the surface while adding color. Staining is a multi-step process that begins with cleaning and deglossing, followed by etching and priming so the final topcoat of stain can penetrate the concrete and provide lasting protection.

This is a labor-intensive job, so it's good for a handy homeowner, and doesn't require particular skills and expensive tools. A painting contractor will charge $1,480 to clean, prepare and stain 1,200 square feet of concrete walls or approximately a 25-foot-by-50-foot basement with 8-feet-high walls. That includes labor and material. You can do the job for $500, the cost of the materials, and save 66%. Since drying time is required in between applications, a homeowner can plan the job and schedule the various phases.

You'll find concrete cleaners, etchers, primers and stain sold at paint retailers, hardware stores and in the paint department of home centers. Follow the application directions carefully.

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Pro Cost -- DIY Cost -- Pro time -- DIY Time -- DIY Savings -- Percent Saved

$1,480 -- $500 -- 3.1 -- 10.0 -- $980 -- 66%