Coloring Concrete: Integral Color or Topical?

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 In the spirit of the Summer Olympic Games 2016 we explore our own competition between coloring concrete methods


Integral Color, through and through…

One of the most popular ways of coloring newly placed concrete is integral coloring admixtures. This gives you a consistent color throughout the entire concrete pour and is added in the truck before the concrete is poured at the jobsite. This type of color is a rich and long lasting, fade-resistant color often used with stamped concrete acting as a backdrop for contrasting accents or antiquing colors, such as pigmented release agents and stains or dyes. This layering of color is what gives the stamped concrete the look of variegated, multi-toned appearance of natural stone. Even if surface abrasion occurs, Intergral color will not wear away.


Topical Colors, more options!

Topical colors are considered acid stain’s, water-borne stain’s and dye’s. All of these are applied to the surface of the concrete. This allows you to take an existing concrete slab and your coloring concrete project a variety of looks.


Acid Stain:

Another hugely popular coloring method is acid stain because of its unique decorative effects for a reasonable cost. Staining is a chemical reaction with the concrete and does penetrate lightly, but not fully like an Integral color will do. Acid Stains are a permeate color, there is no going back. The colors are long lasting, and durable and when properly applied they will not fade, chip or peel away.


Water-borne stain:

Water-borne stain can be applied as light or dark as you would like. They are non-reactive and fill the pores of the concrete surface to produce a colored film or coating, ranging from translucent to opaque depending on the product. Since no chemical reaction occurs, the color is more consistent. Water-borne stains are low in VOS’s and safer to apply because they are free of solvents and acids.



Dye’s are applied on the surface of the concrete and rely on your sealer to bond them to the concrete, thus they are nonreactive. Dyes are much smaller in particle size than chemical stains which allows for easier penetration and color saturation while leaving less residues on the surface. Because of this, there is virtually no residue; minimal cleanup is required, greatly speeding the application process. Dye’s penetrate very fast, leaving little room for error during application.

Not all colors and products are designed for all areas please research and find out what is best for your coloring concrete project.