The drab old gray of plain concrete is definitely a thing of the past. From backyard patios to kitchen counter tops to foyers and lobbies, modern concrete often boasts distinctive designs and patterns or tasteful colors to match a design aesthetic.
You can apply most decorative concrete techniques to dried concrete. So, adding a little design flair to existing concrete is often a cost-effective renovation choice. Additionally, the cost of colored or patterned concrete beats that of renovating with stone or tile per square foot.
Over the last decade, it’s become more and more common to see concrete enhanced with color in both interior and exterior design. Here are the three most common techniques for adding color to both new concrete projects and existing dried concrete.
The image above shows an outdoor stain treatment that emulates stone with concrete.
One decorative concrete method is to apply an acid stain to clean, dried concrete. After a 12-24 hour drying period, the chemical reaction between the acid and the calcium hydroxide in the concrete is neutralized. Then the concrete is sealed. A wide variety of stain colors are possible, and patterns can even mirror the look of stones like slate and marble. With particular finishing treatments, some stains can even mimic the look of wood or brass.
Instead of relying on a chemical reaction like stains do, dyes, either water-based or solvent-based, depend on the porous nature of concrete to do their job. Because of this, dyes offer more uniformity in color than stains. However, they are better suited to indoor use as UV rays can alter color over time. An additional drawback to enhancing concrete with dye is the speed at which it is absorbed and dries. This leaves little room for error so it may be best to hire a contractor rather than attempting a DIY concrete dye.
A vibrant pattern from a mixture of dyes imitates wood for this interior concrete floor. The epoxy finish completes the look with an attractive sheen.
Colored Epoxy Finishes
Glossy or matte finishes from resin and metallic materials add a thin, decorative coating to dry concrete. Emulating a variety of stones and metals, epoxy finishes help to both soften the appearance of concrete and compliment the intended aesthetic of a room’s interior design. Epoxy finishes are also helpful as a protective layer to increase the longevity of garage floors.
Transforming a surface into enhanced concrete with patterns of geometric patterns or patterns that mimic certain shapes can be achieved via several methods. The most common methods used by concrete contractors are scoring, stamping and engraving.
Rather than investing in a big-ticket item such as stone pavers or designing and laying out tile brick patterns, stamping an outdoor or indoor surface can achieve a similar look at a more cost-effective price. When combined with a coloring technique, concrete stamping can mirror a variety of stone and tile surfaces. Unlike scoring, stamping isn’t limited to straight lines or simple curves.
A stamped brick pattern softens and ages the appearance of the concrete driveway in the above photo.
This fairly simple method requires contractors to lay down chalk outlines of the pattern on dried concrete. Then, using a circular saw, the pattern is scored into the concrete. Although many home improvement websites, such as this one, showcase DIY methods, using an experienced contractor helps to ensure the pattern is perfectly laid out and cut at a consistent depth with professional grade equipment.
The terrace in the above photo boasts a geometric scored design of circles and lines as well as engraved concrete pillars.
Engravings and Overlays
Engraving and overlaying concrete achieves the same effect through different techniques. Using special tools, concrete finishers can engrave elaborate images such as logos, monograms or patterns into concrete. A sealant is not required for this technique but can be added and staining can add color to the engraving.
With overlays, the same complex images, lettering or other designs can be added as a polymer layer to concrete and then sealed. Because they’re not carved directly into the concrete, overlays may wear away or the sealant bond may break.