Concrete can be colored in a multitude of ways, turning plain gray concrete into decorative concrete. Colored concrete will always add cost to the job but its transformational quality is worth the extra cost.
Concrete is an amazing building material. It can be poured, molded, shaped, carved, stacked, or sprayed into nearly any pattern, texture, or shape you need. What’s even better is that it can be made into nearly any color you want, as well. It can be bold, subdued, blend in with the surroundings, or made to stand out.
Choosing a color method can be an imposing task since there are so many choices. Some projects make it easy to color the concrete upfront, and others do better when the concrete is colored later. The upfront choices are typically integral color or color hardener.
Integral color is very traditional and is used by simply adding a pigment to the concrete as it is mixing, either in the redi-mix truck or by hand. It is often referred to as concrete dye, though is not related to true dye at all. It colors the concrete all the way through, so it is often a good choice for slabs that will be subject to a lot of traffic and abuse, as chips are not as noticeable. Walttools Tru Hue colors are very potent and there is a variety of colors to match most environments. Color hardener will provide a similar look, except that it is used after the concrete is poured and is being finished. The installer broadcasts this specialized color pigment cement blend onto the wet surface and it is worked in, giving color to the top layer of concrete. Since it is not colored all the way through, it is usually less expensive but may be more noticeable with deep chips. This product also is known to fortify the top surface a bit, hence the name “color hardener”.
When concrete stamping with texture tools, a release agent must be used to prevent the tools from sticking to and pulling on the fresh concrete surface. Traditional powder release agents are colored so that they provide a contrasting color, providing an “antique” look. Although it’s considered a “messy” product, that contrasting look really contributes to the decorative aspect of stamped concrete. The liquid release is another option and is normally clear. This is often used when the installer plans to stain the concrete after the pour or must avoid the mess that of powder release. Some installers go a step further and blend a small amount of the powder release into the liquid release to add some color toning as they texture. A better solution for those contractors would be Tru Tique. It is an antiquing agent that mimics the look of powder release. It is a colored powder pigment mixture that is added to water, liberally applied to the plain textured surface, and then spread around with a broom or brush. The specialized pigment settles into the low textures and is allowed to dry. The dried look is very close to the antique look done with powder release, but without the mess. Needless to say, it is becoming increasingly popular.
By nature of the word, Concrete Stains will color/stain your concrete. Stain is a general term for any sort of liquid that is applied topically to the surface and leaves color. Stains are either reactive or non-reactive and will have different abilities to color depending on the makeup of that surface. Rough, smooth, indoor, outdoor, etc. factors all play a role in concrete staining.
Lastly, there are concrete dyes (true dyes, not the integral color “dye” mentioned earlier), which are related to stains. Concrete Dyes are very deep-penetrating colored solutions that are mostly used indoors and/or on very hard or polished concrete surfaces that are more difficult to penetrate with water-based stains. They are quite popular when doing concrete countertops because they can be polished after application without removing many colors.
As you can see, there are a lot of options to choose from. Take a look at each product category in closer detail and decide what will work best for you.