Homeowners pour concrete driveways, patios and walkways outside of their homes. Concrete is also used inside the home with the concrete countertop trends or adding a floor to certain rooms in the house. It is a strong and enduring surface. It stands up well to changes in weather, foot traffic and use.  When poured is a slushy mix, but when dry forms a one piece surface that will be around for a very long time. More homeowners might choose concrete over pavers outdoors or marble, granite or solid surfacing outdoors if the color choices were better than the dull gray concrete typically comes as. Plain concrete is boring and not very welcoming or warm inside the house or outside. Thankfully, concrete doesn’t have to remain gray. There are many concrete dye and stain options available to change the color of concrete to match the décor of the house.

Concrete-dyes and stains come in a wide variety of colors ranging from bright, light colors to the deepest shades of browns or blacks. Coloring offers homeowners more options that are usually much less expensive than other types of materials. Some concrete dyeing and staining techniques can be successfully done by a handy do it yourself type homeowner, while others require a professional.

Concrete-Dyes – How to Use Them

Concrete dye comes as a powder that is mixed into the concrete before it is poured.

When choosing a dye look for a water insoluble, soluble salt free, acid free and colorfast or sun-fast dye to add into the wet concrete while it is being mixed.

To mix light colors or add subtle color to a masonry surface; mix 1 1/2 pounds of  dye into one bag of dry cement mix. For deeper darker colors you can add up to 8 pounds of dye for each bag of dry cement mix.  Adding dye to the mix will change the color.

Write down the amount of  dye you used to color the bag of mix so that your project will have a consistency of color from one bag of concrete to the next. Concrete dyes are offered in a wide variety of colors, allowing you to choose a color that will best fit into what you image your driveway, patio, garage floor or concrete countertop to be.

Using a dry color mix is best for new, small masonry projects such as garden stepping stones or if you decide to mold your own pavers for your patio or walkway.

You can also have concrete dye mixed into a load from a ready mix delivery company.

 Coloring it with Pigmented Hardener

Many homeowners, builders and masons use a masonry hardener over freshly poured concrete to help set the concrete. Concrete hardeners come as colorless or with an added pigment. Dyes or pigmented masonry hardeners form a surface only color rather than permeating through the concrete as do dyes.

To Use a Dye or Pigmented Hardener:

After pouring new concrete and readying the surface, while the masonry is still wet a dyed or pigmented powder is shook evenly over the wet surface. The powder is then allowed to mix with the moisture and soak into the topmost, approximately 3/8 inch, layers of concrete, which usually takes 10 to 30 minutes depending on the water content in the concrete and the outside temperature and humidity. After the dry pigmented powder has absorbed into the masonry surface,  workers wet the surface or better known as float the concrete and then trowel or broom finish the surface. Broom finishes leave the newly poured masonry surfaces with a rough textured finish while trowel finishes leave the slab, patio or floor with a smoother finish.
Many builders use both a dye and pigmented or dye color hardener together to deepen the color or add dimension. Typically, both the dye and pigments are used in stamped concrete projects.
Curing Compound Comes in Colors

Colored curing compound is a spray that helps to set new pours. Pigments or dyes are added to the clear setting agent to create a surface color. Homeowners and concrete workers spray a thin, even layer over the top of wet concrete and let the slab, block or stepping stone cure. Pigmented or dye based curing compound add to color to the surface of the concrete only. Over time and through use the color will wear away and leave the dull gray concrete visible. Using a pigmented curing compound offers homeowners a less expensive way to add color, but the results won’t stand the test of time. After the surface color wears away, the surface will require refinishing.

Coloring  with Paint

Coloring masonry surfaces with paint is a perfect project for the do it yourself type homeowner. Epoxy based paints and specially formulated concrete paints are recommended to complete the project. Paint adds a color only to the surface and will wear away over time. A painted concrete surface has to be maintained more so than other methods of coloring concrete.

Adding Color with Sealer
Pigmented sealers are the least expensive and easiest to apply out of all coloring dyeing and staining choices.  Sealers are available in a wide range of colors. Pigmented sealers do not require as much surface preparation as an epoxy based paint, but they do not last as long. Depending on weather conditions and foot or vehicle traffic, the sealer can peel, fade and discolor. Sealers are best for very low foot or vehicle traffic areas and best to use for decorative touches.

Staining masonry surfaces will yield the best results in terms of color. Unfortunately, color staining is best left to a professional rather than attempts by homeowners. Concrete stain is made from metallic salts, water and an acid based solution. The stain is applied over the top of the masonry surface so the acid can etch the pigment into the surface. Stains create a mottled and abstract color finish. Stains are durable, but will wear and fade in high traffic areas and through exposure to various weather conditions. Some newer products are easier for do it yourselfers to apply.