What is Coloured Concrete?
Concrete is one of the most versatile construction materials available, and the range of decorative uses are only just starting to be explored. Concrete colouring enables you to use concrete in even more interesting and creative ways; letting you add a new dimension to your home, or building project.
Coloured concrete is as versatile and easy to use as conventional concrete, but it comes with an added benefit because it can be coloured in order to match existing work. It is a material that will help your home or project to melt into the surroundings, or really stand out from other properties depending on the colours that you select and the designs that you choose.
This definitive guide will give you an in depth insight into the history, benefits and uses of coloured concrete, as well as giving you some top tips for DIY coloured concrete design.
History of Coloured Concrete
An early form of concrete was used by the ancient Egyptians in 3000 BC. Since then concrete has been used for a range of industrial uses that include building bridges, streets, and high rise buildings. During the later course of concretes history (post 1850), companies added a range of colours and stains to their concrete mixes to make their projects unique, and interesting.
In the 1900’s, castings were submerged in stains in order to colour them. This method of colouring concrete was popular between the 1920’s and 40’s for colouring luxury homes and public buildings. Also during the 1920’s pigment colour for mixing into dry concrete powder was produced by Lynn Mason Scofield. After the war, the Bromite process was developed to produce cast in place, textured and coloured concrete. At a similar time overlay cement was experimented with and in the 70’s its decorative potential was realised as it was found that it could be combined with colour and sprayed onto concrete. Since then, decorative concrete has grown in popularity and range of uses.
Just as with standard concrete, coloured concrete can be moulded into almost any shape, and it can be used to produce any texture, design or pattern; giving you freedom to create whatever you want. Coloured concrete is sure to add a dramatic design statement to your home.
How to Colour Concrete
There are two main ways to colour concrete.
- The first uses a dry pigment that is brushed across concrete once it has been laid.
- The second uses liquid or dry pigment that is mixed into the concrete before it is poured.
This is possible because the pigment particles are much smaller than cement particles so when they are added to a cement based mix the small particles cover the cement particles and colour them. In both cases iron oxide pigments that have been manufactured or that have been mined from the ground are used.
Check out this article by Chris Sullivan on understanding concrete colouring if you are looking for more information about the concrete colouring process.
The method of colouring concrete that you use depends on what design you are hoping to achieve and what surface you are working on as each method has a range of different advantages and disadvantages.
- For example the sweep over with dry pigment is easy to do, but the resultant concrete can be easily chipped and the dye is less durable.
- The second, combined method, is a little more difficult to do, but if your project is small, or you want to ensure the best results, then choosing it is likely the best solution.
If you would like some help choosing which method to use, take a look at this comparison chart from the concrete network which compares concrete colouring products:
For some more tips to help you choose the right colouring method for your coloured concrete task take a look at this link here.
Four Key Benefits of Coloured Concrete
Coloured concrete has so many great benefits as a building and decorative medium. Here are four key benefits:
Concrete is a very durable material that is sure to last for many years with very little to no maintenance required. Therefore, choosing coloured concrete for your flooring, surfaces or other items, will provide you with a permanent and cost effective solution that will also add a touch of colour to any space in which it is used. Thanks to the durability of this medium, coloured concrete driveways are possible.
As a mouldable material, concrete provides you with design flexibility that is far greater than that of many other architectural materials. What is more, a range of textural finishes are possible and so you can achieve almost any effect that you can think of.
3. Colour consistency
Not only are a wide range of different colours available with extra bespoke options, but coloured concrete is also dyed in such a way that each and every batch produced is the exact same colour so that you can be sure that whatever your design and concrete use is, it will be consistent and look effective.
4. Fade resistant
No matter whether you chose to use coloured concrete inside or outside, an added benefit of the material is that it is fade resistant and weatherproof so the colours will not be lost, no matter how much sunlight or rain it is exposed to. An added benefit is that coloured concrete is permanent and so you will not have to worry about repainting your surfaces- saving you both time and money.
Aggregate Industries has put together a resource page showing more great benefits of coloured concrete.
Coloured Concrete Uses
Using coloured concrete is a little more expensive than standard concrete, but the final effect is worth it as it is guaranteed to make your project stand out, and the medium gives you the opportunity to experiment with a range of effects.
For example, you could create multi-coloured pathways that double as garden art, you could create coloured concrete blocks to build walls, or you could create rustic toned flooring to blend with wooden kitchen surfaces. Check out some inspirational uses of coloured concrete from Pinterest.
Most manufacturers have a huge range of different shades to choose between. From standard grey to orange and yellow, you will be able to create a colourful concrete masterpiece. What is even better is that even more colours can be produced bespoke in order to match your exact requirements. So, no matter what your project is, or what design style you are going for, coloured concrete is a material that be used almost anywhere and is sure to add a stylistic aspect to your project.
Architecturally, coloured concrete can be used to create a feature within a room, for example you could create a unique coloured fireplace surround, or a contemporary kitchen work surface. It could also be used as an interesting flooring surface in a home gym, office or garage. As concrete is such a durable and weatherproof material you could even use coloured concrete outside, for example for your driveway or patio area.
Three DIY Tips for Coloured Concrete
Making coloured concrete is straightforward, and follows much the same procedure as making standard concrete. The only real difference is that the water added contains a colouring agent, typically a powdered dye, that will result in the coloured concrete finish that you are after. Just as with standard concrete, you can make coloured concrete yourself. Here are three top tips to help you do the best job possible.
1. Keep costs down by shopping around for concrete dyes
There are many different types of concrete dyes available in shops and online. Most are in powder form and are very easy to use. They can also be added in variable amounts depending on the colour or shade of concrete that you are looking for. Shop around for concrete dyes online and in shops to find the right one or ones for your project, and budget.
Check out this video which just shows how many different colour options there are: https://youtu.be/1aIJVhdgljE
2. Wear protective clothing and equipment
The colouring agent can get onto your clothes and skin, and if it does it will stain so it is important to always wear protective clothing and any other safety gear that you think is appropriate or that is suggested by the concrete dye manufacture.
3. Buy a small mixer
Commercially large scale mixers are used, but if you don’t have access to such a large mixer at home, then a smaller version will do the job just as well. Mixing your concrete with a machine will prevent unnecessary muscular injuries, save you time and enable you to work on other aspects of your project. Also, the mixer will ensure that your final concrete is homogenous and the colour is thoroughly combined. Buying a mixer is more cost effective and convenient than renting one, even if you are only going to use it for a single job.
The folks at Bunnings Warehouse have put together a comprehensive step-by-step guide and video for how to make coloured concrete that is definitely worth checking out.
For years, concrete was thought of as an industrial material, but it is becoming popular as a material for flooring, furniture and surfaces within the home thanks to its affordability and potential to be moulded easily. Coloured concrete has all the benefits of standard concrete, but as it comes in a range of shades, and tones, it allows you to create colourful concrete masterpieces in your home, garden or workplace.