A long time ago, in another universe (or so it can seem like) concrete came in only one bland color — grey.
And while basic concrete is quite functional, to say it is aesthetically pretty would warrant an emergency appointment with an opthamologist.
And when coupled with concrete polishing, nowadays indoor and occasionally outdoor locations can be colored to resemble a jewel-like finish.
The Six Primary Methods of Coloring Concrete
There are six basic methods of coloring concrete. In this article, we will discuss briefly all six methods as well as any pros and cons about any of the methods used.
The first method, integral coloring, involves adding a liquid or powder into the basic cement mix itself.
This method lends itself well when one basic color, for example Autumn Gold or Brick Red is desired.
The major cons of Integral Coloring is that it is somewhat expensive, because if a slab of concrete is 4 inches thick, all 4 inches will be completely colored in the coloring additive you have added to the mix.
In addition, while it’s possible to get mixed colors, integral coloring is too expensive for a half a load of concrete in red for example, and half in gold.
The major advantage of course, is that integral coloring can be polished.
Shake on colors
Dry color shake on color hardeners are applied after the concrete is laid down. Unlike integral colors, only about 1/8th to 3/16 of an inch of the surface is colored.
The one big advantage is that there are a lot more color choices available. to shake on colors.
A minor disadvantage is that most manufacturers recommend you apply half the shake on colors, work it with a bull float (smoothing procedure which looks like a large squeegee) and then apply the shake on color again to get a smooth consistency and color.
It may take up to 6 work hours, adding color to colorize around 500 square feet of concrete.
Naturally shake on colors can only be added to freshly poured concrete, and the floor cannot be polished.
Acid stained concrete floors produce a nice, mottled-look, which can then be polished over to make a very nice looking floor.
Acid stained concrete dye floors are nearly indestructible. They don’t peel, chip, discolor or fade, and they are highly water resistant.
The main difficulty is in the application. Drips and spills can permanently mar a floor, and workmen must be very careful to remove excess acid when applying, and of course must be careful for their own safety.
Acetone dyes are another concrete dye technique. Acetone dyes very quickly, and color combinations can easily be mixed using acetone dye techniques.
The variety of color combinations available, and like acid stains, everything is distinctly worked into the surface of the concrete.
Acetone is highly flammable however, so workmen must be experienced in applying the dye and until it dries, the toxic fumes pretty much guarantee you’ll need to vacate the premises until it dries.
The real advantage of acetone stained floors is in the variety of colors that can be made and applied to the floors.
Water based dyes
Water based dyes are lesh harsh than acetone or acid stained floors. They are odorless, dry quickly and allow for an infinite variety of color mixes. However, the floor must be then sealed to protect the water based dyes from fading.
In addition, caution has to be made against sunlight, as water based dyes have no UV protection.
Suspended in water, these hardners are frequently used outdoors, although they are not UV resistant and will fade. They are fairly cheap and easy to apply.
While a protective sealant isn’t required, it’s a good idea if you want your outdoor project to last. Color hardeners cannot be polished.