|Concrete Finishes and Colors
Concrete floors can be a fantastic way of
providing a gorgeous finish floor and particularly
comfortable if they are heated by radiant tubes run within the
Endless variations allow incredible
Our usual favorite is an integral color -
steel troweled to a smooth finish with wax as a finish sealer.
Weather inside or outside - broom, acid
washed or smooth - color varies widely and depends on site
conditions at time of installation. Exterior slabs also
tend to fade and lighten even more than interior slabs so it can
be a good idea to start strong on the color.
Decorative Floors and Other
What do you get when you cross an artist with a concrete
contractor? It’s no joke; you get great decorative concrete
surfaces (floors and pavements). Through the use of stains,
stamps, dyes, colored pigments, white cement, textured patterns,
ornate sawcuts, epoxy overlay, and more, concrete floors are
becoming increasingly attractive for home and facility owners.
As techniques for decorative concrete finishes are developed,
other decorative floor coverings are being replaced by concrete.
For both interior and exterior applications, varying looks
are achieved by employing one or more of these techniques. This
page provides a sampling of some of the available techniques for
adding visual interest to a concrete surface. See the list of
available references at the end for more detailed information
about the processes.
of the most popular and enduring decorative concrete finishes,
exposed aggregate uses the texture of the rock or stone in the
concrete to embellish the surface. In this technique, concrete
is placed and floated as normal. The concrete is left to set and
the surface paste is later removed by washing and/or brushing.
In a variation of the method, select aggregate is cast over the
fresh surface and embedded prior to setting of the concrete.
Washing and brushing follow as before to remove the mortar from
the surface, fully exposing the natural color and texture of the
aggregate. An acid wash may also be performed to further remove
paste from the aggregate and brighten the surface.
which can be used for both interior and exterior concrete
surfaces, has literally made a big impression over the last
several decades. Stamped surfaces are created by supplementing
finishing operations on fresh concrete with patterned or
textured mats and templates. Having started as simple shapes and
minimal textures, stamping tools and techniques have continually
evolved to an advanced stage.
Truly realistic textures can be enhanced with color additions,
mimicking natural stone, rock, wood, brick, and more. The only
limitation is the designer’s imagination.
Standard procedures for placing, finishing, and curing
concrete flatwork apply – with a few added steps. Using a
stamping tool or pattern, fresh concrete is imprinted after the
initial float pass and application of a release agent. If color
is to be used, a dry shake color harder may be applied during
finishing. The stamping procedure effectively replaces steel
troweling, and the effect is a unique surface in both pattern
One way to reduce the cost of materials
for colored flatwork finishes is to place the color only at or
near the surface. There are two common approaches for doing
this: Dry-shake finishes or the two-course method. Both are
compatible with stamped finishing techniques.
Integral Colors, Staining, Tinting, and Dying
There are many ways to color concrete—before it has hardened
or afterwards. Integral pigments are mixed into fresh concrete
to create through-body color. Alternately, stains, tints, or
dyes can be applied to hardened surfaces to impart color.
Chemical stains react with hardened concrete to become an
integral component of the floor surface. Pigmented tints or dyes
deposit finely ground pigments into the substrate. To allow for
the greatest range of colors, including pastels and deep,
vibrant hues, white portland cement provides a neutral tinting
base for adding color. Alternately, it enables bright white
finishes when used in combination with white aggregates.
and other creative designs made from a combination of stains and
dyes accentuate the lobby of a commercial building.
Stains enhance the inherent irregularities in the concrete
surface with color to resemble a marble appearance.
Chemically reactive stains are water-based, acidic solutions
that contain metallic salts. These metallic salts react
chemically with calcium hydroxide compounds (hydrated lime) in
hardened concrete. Such reactions form the insoluble colors that
become a permanent fixture of the hardened concrete surface.
due to the irregularity in finishing patterns and partly due to
the inherent variation of the concrete materials, stain
chemicals react in a very irregular pattern – giving it a
decorative effect. As a result, mix constituents and finishing
techniques will greatly influence how effective the staining can
be. Controlling these parameters is important for achieving the
best effect from the stain.
Stains can be applied to old or new concrete; to colored or
gray surfaces; and may be used in conjunction with other
decorative techniques and creative joint patterns. Combining
chemical stains with dyes presents an unlimited palette of
colors to create floor patterns and designs. To protect and
enhance the color of the floor, using a sealer is an important
step. However, just as material selection for the concrete is
important, selection of the appropriate sealer is also important
for the performance and durability of the floor.
joints are installed using either an early-entry saw after
concrete finishing or a conventional saw after concrete setting.
Alternately, jointing tools (rather than saws) can add pattern
lines to fresh concrete surfaces. Since joints should be used to
control concrete cracking anyway, this is a simple—and
purposeful—method for adding greater interest to concrete
Out of this world! This concrete slab at the Kennedy Space
Center in Melbourne, FL uses creative sawcut joints to enhance
the outer space ambiance in the rocket graveyard.
stencils and paint, the concrete slab becomes the artist’s
canvas. Some designs are very detailed and intricate and require
etching tools to create fine lines.
Artists at World of Concrete in Las Vegas demonstrate their
abilities of transferring elaborate drawings onto concrete slab
Architectural Pervious Concrete
In today’s environmentally conscious climate,
the benefits of pervious concrete to sustainability have
reinvigorated interest in these free-draining pavements. But,
although it’s appealing for its technical benefits, pervious
concrete hasn’t necessarily been attractive…until now. Renewed
attention to pervious pavements has led some people to
experiment with improvement of the surface aesthetics—and
spawned a new type of concrete sometimes referred to as
“architectural pervious concrete” (APC).
Most pervious concrete has a sort of
popcorn look about it: Uniformly sized aggregate, falling within
a narrow aggregate gradation, leads to a concrete with open void
areas that promote fast drainage of large volumes of water. Some
like the organic, rough-textured look of plain pervious
concrete. But for those who want a different look, there are
several options for enhancing the aesthetics. Treatments include
color, stamping, jointing, and grinding. More.
More information on these and other techniques can be found
in these resources.
Finishing Concrete with Color and Texture (PA124)
Exploring the Art of Concrete (CD028)
Bob Harris’ Guide to Stained Concrete Interior Floors
Bob Harris’ Guide to Stamped Concrete (LT284)