If you want to completely change the color of a concrete floor, there are a variety of products you can apply topically to achieve opaque or semi-translucent color effects. While these products are sometimes called concrete “paints,” they are really dyes or water-based acrylic stains formulated specifically for concrete. Don’t be tempted to use the same paint you would use for walls or other surfaces. Because of concrete’s porous nature, they are likely to peel, especially when applied to concrete slabs on grade (see Repair Tips for Peeling Paint). True concrete stains and dyes breathe so any moisture within the concrete doesn’t get trapped beneath the surface, causing the topical color to blister.

Water-based stains

Water-based stains (typically a blend of acrylic polymers and pigments) penetrate the concrete to produce permanent color, ranging from translucent to opaque depending on the product. They go beyond the subtle translucent color effects of acid-based stains and come in a much broader spectrum of hues. Most manufacturers offer dozens of standard colors, including black and white and even metallic tints. (See Creating Excitement with Color.)

Concrete dyes

Unlike stains, which react chemically with the calcium hydroxide in concrete, dyes are nonreactive and impart color by penetrating concrete or other porous cementitious surfaces. Dyes are much smaller in particle size than chemical or acrylic stains, allowing for easier penetration and color saturation. Dyes are available in water- or solvent-based formulations and produce looks ranging from monotone to translucent. Water-based dyes typically produce more marbling and variegation (similar to the look of a chemical stain), while solvent-based dyes tend to be more monotone and uniform in color. (See Concrete Dyes Expand the Color Palette of Concrete Stains.)

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Tinted sealers

If you want to achieve more subtle, semi-transparent color effects, tinted sealers are a good option. They provide all the benefits of a sealer while serving as a stand-alone, low-cost coloring method. They can also be used to color-correct or enhance existing colored concrete. Both solvent- and water-based sealers can be tinted, depending on what you are trying to accomplish. Learn more: Tinted Sealers What Are They?

Before you begin

If you are considering “painting” a concrete floor with a penetrating stain or dye, be aware that some color variation is likely to occur. Ask your contractor to prepare a sample of the color you have in mind so you know exactly what to expect. Also ask to see color swatches and photos of finished jobs to help you decide on the best colors for your project.

Be aware that concrete floors to be stained or dyed must be free of existing coatings, sealers or curing compounds. Otherwise, the color will be unable to fully penetrate and bond to the concrete.

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