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Weighing the OptionsWhen making side-by-side comparisons of integral colors and dry shakes, here are some additional factors to evaluate before making a decision:

Cost vs. labor savingsGenerally, integral color will cost more than a dry-shake hardener because you are coloring the entire concrete slab rather than just the surface. But a dry shake may not always be the most economical choice if you factor in the additional labor involved to apply it and work it into the surface. Also remember that when using lighter shades of color hardener, you will need to use more product to get good results.

Using accent colors of hardeners can produce surfaces that replicate the subtle color variations in natural stone. Brickform in Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

Desired color effectsIf you want a greater selection of colors and more vibrant hues, then a color hardener will provide more options. With dry shakes, you can also apply accent colors of hardener to achieve contrast, using one shade as a base topped with as many as four or five different accent colors. Harris recommends using this technique on stamped concrete projects to replicate the subtle color variations you would see in natural stone.

Although it's possible to obtain more vibrant pastel shades with integral color, doing so could be cost prohibitive because you would need to use a white cement and a higher dosage of pigment. Another option is to use integral colors in conjunction with surface-applied treatments-such as color hardeners and chemical stains-to create layers of color.

If you can't find just the right color for your project, ask the manufacturer about the possibility of custom color matching. Suppliers of both integral color and color hardeners are often able to match existing color tones or formulate custom hues to suit your design scheme.

Creating SamplesClark Branum, director of technical services for Brickform Products advises that creating samples or mock-ups of the work to be done are critical to the success of any colored concrete application. "Mock ups with integral color are typically expensive since a minimum of 3 cubic yards must be used to produce consistent color, partially due to the amount of cement paste it takes to coat the drum of a cement mixer. With color hardener, it is much easier to create small panels and mock ups that can easily be reproduced on a larger scale, making it much more cost effective during the front end phase of a project," says Branum.

Jobsite considerationsDry-shake hardeners are not only labor-intensive, they also are messy to apply. Because some of the material goes airborne during broadcasting, it's necessary to protect adjacent buildings, landscaping, and existing slabs with plastic sheeting. This airborne powder can also be harmful to breathe, so it's important to wear a respirator or dust mask when working with these products. These issues aren't concerns when using integral color, since the pigments are mixed right into the concrete.

When applying dry-shake hardeners on extremely hot or windy days, you will also need to take measures to prevent moisture in the surface from evaporating too fast. Not only can this rapid moisture loss lead to surface crusting and cracking, it will make it impossible for you to properly wet out the color hardener. However, you can use an evaporation reducer, such as ConFilm from Degussa Admixtures and Eucobar from Euclid Chemical, to help slow surface moisture loss on hot, windy days.

PerformanceBecause color hardeners improve the strength and density of the concrete surface, they often are a good choice for exterior slabs exposed to freeze/thaw cycles and deicing salts and for interior floors exposed to heavy traffic and abrasion.

Integrally colored concrete will have the same surface strength as standard concrete, but the color is permanent because it penetrates the entire slab. So even if surface abrasion occurs, the color will not wear away.

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