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Problems with colored concrete: Common problems, why they occur, and how to avoid or fix them
Colored Concrete Specs from Davis Colors: MSDS and tech safety sheets for tilt-ups, paving, cast-in-place, masonry, and precast
Guide to Buying Concrete Stains and Dyes
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Colored Concrete

Davis Colors-John Siskin

The best attribute of decorative concrete is that each installation is totally unique. Concrete can assume nearly any shape, design, pattern or texture. But colored concrete, whether used subtly to blend with nature or boldly to make a dramatic design statement, is by far the most popular enhancement.

Frankly, unless you're a purist and prefer concrete in its natural gray state, there's no reason not to enhance it with color. The number of different products for coloring concrete has never been greater, and many manufacturers offer an extensive palette of shades to choose from for colored concrete.

And although you'll pay more for colored concrete, the amazing transformation will be well worth the investment. In the hands of a creative concrete contractor, these coloring mediums permit an endless array of decorative effects, from rustic earth-toned sidewalks and patios that harmonize with the surrounding landscape to vibrant multicolored floors that double as works of art.

Ways to Color Concrete
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HOW DO YOU ADD COLOR TO CONCRETE?

To help you sort through your options, here's a roundup of the most common methods for coloring concrete:

With the exception of integral color, all of these products can be used on new or existing concrete. However, not all coloring methods are suitable for all exposure conditions or types of projects, and some have limitations in terms of color availability and intensity. But when you choose appropriately, you'll end up with rich, permanent color that will take your concrete from utilitarian to spectacular.

Comparison Chart: Concrete Coloring Products

WHY COLORED CONCRETE?

With colored concrete, the creative options and color choices are endless, making it possible to achieve the perfect look. Colored concrete can transform a room or patio from plain to spectacular. Many manufacturers offer a broad palette of colors to choose from, ranging from earth tones to vibrant hues (color samples).

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Also, colored concrete can be used to simulate the look of brick, flagstone, pavers, or tile. Not only is concrete coloring a beautiful design option, but it is also affordable and compatible with both new and existing concrete. With the right products, techniques, and a creative contractor you can produce results that will transform concrete into works of art.

Finishing (texturing) techniques for colored concrete

Colored concrete can be paired with other concrete finishing techniques to create a striking affect. These techniques include broom finishing, sandblasting, exposing of aggregate and more. Broom finishing can create shadow effects, "swirl" and "fan" patterns on colored concrete. Sandblasting can be used to create designs, or to give the concrete a two-tone appearance by removing a layer of color. Exposing of aggregate gives the concrete a natural textured look by letting the stone or gravel in the concrete show through.

Using colored concrete to break up large areas

Multiple colors can be used side-by side to break up large areas. Also, color can be paired with other decorative techniques such as stamping (see patterns), sawcutting, brooming, or sandblasting to make the look even more personal. Another option for breaking up large areas of colored concrete is insetting materials such as granite, marble, tile or personal items.

Colored concrete to mimic nature

Color schemes are often chosen to blend with each other and blend with nature. Sometimes concrete is colored and finished to look like a gravel path.

Often it is necessary to have the permanence of concrete (and the durability). But where plain concrete's gray color would draw attention to a drainage ditch or path, colored concrete can be used to avoid drawing attention to these features and help those features blend with the other landscape elements.

Hiding future stains by using colored concrete

Most driveway, parking lots, and other parking areas are light gray concrete and soon become stained with oil and grease, tire marks, and dirt.

Many property owners will add a dark integral color to parking area concrete and then expose the aggregate in the concrete by sandblasting (medium to heavy) or by using a surface retarder. Roll curbs can be treated the same way. The lighter salt and pepper grays of the aggregate blend with the dark gray matrix of the cement paste.

Grease and oil stains will be much less apparent, lost in the different shades of gray. Tire marks also do not show as bad on exposed aggregate.

Review these frequently asked questions about colored concrete from Davis Colors.

Find a Contractor for Colored Concrete

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TIPS FOR GETTING THE BEST RESULTS WITH COLOR

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Think in terms of what effects you want to achieve.

Each coloring mediums can produce dramatically different results. First decide what look you're after (such as earthy tones vs. bright primary colors and uniformity vs. marbling or antiquing effects), and then work with your decorative concrete contractor to determine the best product or combination of products for your design needs.

Don't rely on color charts alone.

The color charts or cards provided by the color supplier may not precisely represent what the final results will be on your project. With integral pigments, the final color will vary depending on the cement color, sand color and the amount of water used in the mix. With surface-applied treatments, especially reactive chemical stains, the color can vary widely depending on the condition and original color of the base concrete. Always conduct a trial application of any color treatment you plan to use.

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Consistency counts.

For new concrete, it's important for every batch of concrete used on the project to be consistent, including cement type and brand, aggregates and water-cement ratio. When different batches of concrete vary slightly on the same job, they may absorb stain or dye differently, resulting in noticeable color variations. Inconsistencies in finishing practices, timing of operations, and curing and sealing methods can also result in slight color variations.

Consider custom color matching.

If you can't find just the right color for your project, ask the color manufacturer or your decorative concrete contractor about the possibility of custom color matching. Many color suppliers are able to match existing color tones or formulate custom hues to suit your design scheme. With most stains, it's possible for the applicator to achieve custom shades by mixing two or more colors or by applying one color over another. Most dyes also allow flexibility in the end color because they are packaged in concentrated form and can be diluted or blended to produce custom hues.

HOW TO GET COLOR INSPIRATION FOR CONCRETE WORK

Popular Concrete Colors for Interior Floors

This infographic shows the most popular color options for concrete floors, based on a recent survey of decorative concrete flooring projects on ConcreteNetwork.com.

View the infographic

Colored concrete has become a very popular request in recent years. Most consumers know that concrete can be colored, but they don't know what a wide array of options they have. As their contractor it is your job to introduce them to their options and guide them in making their color selection. The best way to determine the right color, or colors, for your client is to get to know their personality and tastes. Here are 15 ways you can get color inspiration for a project:

Here are 20 ways to get color ideas for decorative concrete surfaces:

Interior Color Ideas Using Concrete
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How to design with color.

  1. Your client's favorite color

  2. Your client's favorite food or drink

  3. Your client's favorite sports team

  4. Your client's favorite piece of art

  5. The colors of the furniture and walls in your clients home

  6. The interior design of the home, such as modern vs. traditional

  7. Your client's favorite piece of clothing

  8. Your client's favorite vacation spot

  9. A photograph your client loves

  10. Your client's company's colors

  11. Your client's love for bling - think metallic coatings

  12. A mood your client would like to create:
    • brown = stability
    • black = sophisticated
    • gray = practical
    • red = excitement
    • orange = energetic
    • yellow = optimistic
    • green = refreshing
    • pink = innocent
  13. Nature - the ocean, a river, flowers, leaves, an animal's coat

  14. Other building materials - granite, marble, wood, etc.

  15. Religious symbolism - use colors that represent your client's beliefs (especially appropriate for church buildings)

  16. Take cues from the exterior and interior style of the home or building

  17. Use Color Palette Generator to take any image on the web and instantly generate a dull and vibrant palette. Try playing with some of your client's favorite personal photos that they've uploaded to Facebook or Flickr until you find a palette they like.

  18. Browse the user generated palettes on COLOURlovers for ideas. If you sign up for a free account you can save palettes and create your own color combos based off of a single color or a photo. This tool is great for coordinating the color of the concrete with existing elements, such as walls or furniture.

  19. Browse our photo gallery to see what colors people have used for decorative concrete projects. You may even consider plugging one of these into the tools mentioned above (#15 and 16).

  20. Stick with the favorites, such as browns and grays

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Color choices will vary widely from client to client. Generally speaking, residential clients will pick safe, neutral colors, while commercial clients will pick something unexpected and exciting (see our Artistic Concrete gallery for ideas). You may want to remind your residential clients to keep the resale value of their home in mind - going too extreme may turn off potential buyers. However, one of the best things about decorative concrete is that it can be personalized. Spend some time getting to know your clients and discussing color options. Give them a unique product with colors that reflect their personality, lifestyle or brand and they will be thrilled with the result.

Learn more about color selection:

How do I pick the right stain color?

Concrete color charts

Brown Concrete Floor Pictures

Gray Concrete Floor Pictures

Video: Selecting colors for concrete flooring

MAINTAINING COLORED CONCRETE

When properly protected and cared for, colored concrete will retain its beauty for decades. Maintenance requirements will vary depending on the type of color used and the exposure conditions. Ask the color manufacturer or your decorative concrete contractor for the best the care and maintenance procedures for your installation. You can also review this section about cleaning concrete.

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For most projects, manufacturers will recommend applying a clear sealer to newly colored concrete for additional protection from abrasion, chemicals and UV exposure. A sealer can also provide aesthetic benefits by adding some sheen and intensifying the color effects. For exterior surfaces or concrete subject to heavy wear, it may be necessary to reapply a new coat of sealer every year or two to preserve the color.

For more information, see these maintenance and protection solutions for decorative concrete.

Integrally Colored Concrete Maintenance

Related Information
Which Color is Right For Your Home? See how colored concrete can enhance nearly any style of home, from coastal to colonial.
Concrete Style Guides Download these design sheets for concrete paving ideas in modern, old-world, or traditional design schemes.
Decorative Concrete Videos Watch an assortment of videos showing how stains, dyes, integral colors and color hardeners work.