The best thing about concrete is how customizable it is. Concrete can be used for everything these days. Not only can it be used for those plain gray sidewalks everywhere, but it can be used for countertops, indoor flooring, patios, vertical projects, sculptures, etc. It can be poured, molded, shaped, carved, stacked, or sprayed into nearly any pattern, texture, or shape you need. It is super durable and it has SO much design potential with all the options for textures, colors, shapes, additives, coatings, molds, and more. Colored concrete (or any customization) will always add cost to the job, but its transformational quality is worth the extra cash.
Let’s break down the concrete coloring options one by one.
Integral color is probably the most basic and simple way to color concrete. To use integral color, you just put the pigment powder bags into the red-mix truck (or whatever container it’s being mixed in) and make sure it is thoroughly blended with the concrete. When the concrete slab is poured it will have a nice uniform, monochrome, traditional look. It colors all the way through the concrete which makes chips less noticeable, so it is a good choice for high-traffic areas where the ground is more likely to get chipped.
Color Hardener // Dry Shake
Color hardener, also called dry-shake, will provide a similar look to that of integrally colored concrete, 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 works it in, usually through bull-floating, giving color to the top layer of concrete. Since it is not colored all the way through, it is usually less expensive but deeper chips will be more noticeable. Color hardener fortifies the surface, thus the name. It makes the surface more resistant to moisture and de-icing salts. Since the color sits on the top of the slab, grinding or polishing the concrete is not an option because the colors would be removed.
Note: This coloring method is also very messy. Everything surrounding the area to be colored must be shielded from the pigment.
Colored Release (Accent Release)
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. 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. This method of coloring can be used in conjunction with integrally colored or color hardened concrete.
Antiquing Agent (Tru Tique)
A less messy alternative for the antique aesthetic of colored accent release is 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,