Coloring concrete cheaply?

linnea2(z5 NY)April 25, 2004

I've been doing some research on concrete color.

Most of my findings are pretty expensive.

Green in particular, one quote was $200/wheelbarrow (copper oxide)

Green is the first color i want to use, so that was a bit discouraging!

Does anyone have experience or knowledge of ways to color


Can you use stain on finished concrete?

Any information?


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I don't know too much about coloring crete, but if you go to the hypertufa forum, you will get some good advice.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2004 at 1:35AM
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Lowes sells concrete colorant for about five dollars a bottle. It says on the bottle it's good for 2 80 lb bags. I'm not sure they had green...I got black and I know they had a reddish/terra cotta color. Article below gives recommendations on coloring concrete and there is a phone number.


Here is a link that might be useful: add color to concrete

    Bookmark   April 26, 2004 at 6:41AM
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And Sherwin Williams has concrete stain...

Here is a link that might be useful: Sherwin Williams

    Bookmark   April 26, 2004 at 6:45AM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

Hi guys and thank you!
I'll look into the colorant at Lowes, H.D. said they don't have any.
I'll probably have to use colorant, since it's a top coat of
stucco I want to do, vertical in other words.

I have some other projects where stain may work.
I'll post on the Hypertufa forum as well,
thanks again!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2004 at 8:52AM
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Monte(6-NE NJ)

Coloring concrete can be done either by adding bulk pigments to the wet mix or by staining it after it has set.

With the bulk pigments, many redimix companies won't do this as they are concerned that residual colorant left in the drum may contaminate future batches.

For paint on stains, Home Depot has a line of concrete stains that are simply painted on like, well paint.

You also can go to a more professional process like acid etching. Acid etching can create some spectacular results and is much more permanent as the acid stains react cheimicaly with the minerals in the concrete and bond with it forever. The Kamiko company is one that is well known. The cost of acid stains runs about twice what good quality paint costs for the same area of coverage. Maybe $50 per gallon which covers about 400 sq ft.

The site below is a clearing house of suppliers and installers of all manner of decorative concrete and many pages of tutorial info in the how-to's of some of the processes. Hundreds of pages of info on everything from pattern stamping to etching to sandblasting patterns and some things you may have never seen. I suspect you will find a number of interesting areas to investigate there.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Concrete Network

    Bookmark   April 26, 2004 at 9:21AM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

Thanks Monte, great link, lots of information!

I did go to Lowes today, they had charcoal, red and buff.
Not too bad, but i need green first.
While i was asking, an older gent from Florida said:
"Just buy some cheap latex paint and throw it in the batch,
used to do it all the time, it works great!"

I'll have to at least give that a shot for experiment,
I have a source for great discount paint, besides old left-overs
sitting around, for smaller projects.
Oops, I forgot to check out the stains!
Oh well, next trip, thanks!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2004 at 5:41PM
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We have used tempera paints to color our projects. Works great.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2004 at 6:31PM
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garden_grl(z9 ca)

i know this is probably a bit too late to help any, you probably already found this , i went to OSH's but i am sure you could find it in any hardware store, i bought a quart of green stain, its for wood , i paid $7.99 , i think that my be more of a price your looking for rather than that expensive stuff, i also saw some concrete stain in green , mason selects is the name i believe , it costs about twenty bucks.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2004 at 1:44AM
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gardeners_hands(8, coastal WA)

hi Linnea, (typing quickly as I can 'cause I'm supposed to be somewhere at 10:00, it's 9:12 a.m. here)

This isn't green... but maybe you can use in a future project.
(love your entrance pillars! WANT THEM!)

This was discovered accidentially, I had my yard bunny collection all through my Dad's garden. He went to s-i-l's auto repair shop and came home with small box full of metal filings (almost like a powder, or finely grated cheese). Apparently they grind metal stuff at repair shops... wish they'd grind my bill down to size) Dad says it's good for the rhodies and sprinkles it all over (read::: dumps it).

It coated one of my CEMENT bunnies and now she looks like she's cast of iron, totally rusted, even the little iron bits look like bunny fur. I did not like having my bunny altered (get it? bunny/altered? never mind) but soon I appreciated how cool she looked, an addition to my collection that I couldn't have found in a shop. I have to REMEMBER she is not iron and avoid dropping.

I'm not saying I approve adding bizarre unknown chemicals (who knows what's in that repair shop) to my garden, but if you treat an object on plastic or cardboard and situate it away from edibles.... it is easy... AND FREE.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2004 at 12:06PM
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gardeners_hands(8, coastal WA)

... not like me to forget safety...

eye protection, you really wouldn't care to have a sliver of metal in your eye.

hand protection, not fun to have a metal sliver either. Note; TINY bits of dangerous metal that stick out will soon rust off, bigger bits should be picked out while still 'fresh' or the rust sticks 'em permanently.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2004 at 12:48PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

If you want little bits of iron for this kind of purpose, go to a place that grinds brakes. I can't remember the real term, but it produces very fine grit. A neighbor used to use it for desert chlorosis in plants.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 2:55AM
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julie_mn(z4 MN Henn)

I have tried many ways to color concrete type materials. The best colorant is purchased VERY cheaply at masonry supply stores. It is dry and sold for a couple of dollars for a "lunch-bag" size bag. You need only 2 Tabelspoons to 1/4 cup colorant to a whole bag of mix. It does not sun fade like almost everything else I have used. I prefer it to the colors at home depot ect. It is much richer and can be blended to more shades. Try it.... You'll like it!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2004 at 3:08PM
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Julie, was that stain or paint? Which masonry store did you use? I visited Sherwin-Williams today was greatly dissapointed that they were selling pain at "stain". Do I look dumb?

    Bookmark   November 28, 2004 at 7:23PM
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I'm going to try adding some new coffee grounds -I figure it will go brown and it can't be worse for structure that peat moss. Anyone try it?

    Bookmark   December 21, 2004 at 6:10AM
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Check out the Hypertufa forum, lots of us over there have tried coffee grounds with varying degrees of success.

One thing is for sure, I wouldn't waste 'new' coffee grounds in it!


    Bookmark   December 21, 2004 at 9:50AM
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dans_le_jarden(z7 AR)

I mix a few drops of acrilyc in ceramic morter and paint it or rub it on my concrete; It is water based and just soaks in. The paints come in any color at Walmart. Barb

    Bookmark   December 22, 2004 at 9:01PM
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david52 Zone 6

A few years back, we redid our back patio with large 18" square colored concrete blocks, the thingie where 4 of them make a sunray pattern. We used about 50 of them. They were colored red. Many of them began to crumble after the first few winters, and I went back to the concrete factory to check this out. It seems that adding color and accelerator at the same time = lousy concrete.

I would go for a stain.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2005 at 9:45AM
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Lowe's sells concrete coloring, powdered that you mix in while mixing the concrete. They also sell concrete stain which you can use on a finished piece. I bought a gallon of it & stained a large cherub birdbath last year. It turned out great & has held the color well. Betty

    Bookmark   January 5, 2005 at 2:29PM
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I had some experiences using Mason�s Select Transparent Concrete Stains that may be of interest to others. I had a concrete patio and walkway about 20 years of age in good condition with no cracks, but with surface stains. I liked the unique finishing techniques suggested by Mason�s and the Safe Solution Concrete Etcher which I thought would be easier on surrounding plants. I undertook this project in Southern California in the middle of the summer so rain would not be an issue.

I followed the directions on the containers to prepare the concrete. I thought the Safe Solution Concrete Etcher had a less vigorous reaction that the muriatic acid I had used on other projects, but otherwise seemed similar. I then neutralized with Concrete Cleaner and Degreaser. After letting the concrete dry out for several days I began staining the concrete. My technique was to use a garden sprayer, followed by back-rolling for the base coat. I used Fieldstone for the base color and allowed it to dry. I then applied splatter textures using Terra Cotta, Patina Green, Sandstone, and finally Black using the sprayer. I used the splatter technique to simulate a granite look. This requires some artistic skill as the pressure inside the sprayer and the setting of the spray tip both affect the size of the spatter dots. I had a cotton cloth that I would use to touch any big globs that hit the concrete and these can mostly be eliminated if touched with the corner of the rag immediately after spraying. I also had a cardboard box lined with multiple layers of newspaper as my "practice area" for getting the sprayer settings just the way I wanted them. I would practice with the sprayer inside the box and when I had the pattern the way I wanted it I would immediately move over to the concrete and being spraying. I made the droplets for the different colors different sizes and applied them at different pattern densities using a random application pattern. I did not try to get even coverage as I thought the irregular appearance was more natural looking. The splatter colors were not backrolled.

Many of the colors grow fainter as they dry, but the Black was the color that really made a difference in the looks. After adding the black as the final color, it really looked like granite.

I was very satisfied with the results for about two months, when I noticed "bubbles" raising under the base coat. On closer inspection it seemed the base coat did not penetrate the concrete and "stain" it, but rather stayed on the surface of the concrete in a way that I would associate with a "painted" surface. Over the next couple of months the surface became pock marked with numerous areas where the stain was lifting off the concrete leaving a bare concrete surface underneath. I concluded that the concrete was wicking ground moisture up through it, and when it hit the base coat (which was an impenetrable layer of plastic coating) it raised the base coat where a chemical bond had not formed between the base coat and the concrete. I finally concluded that the Safe Solution Concrete Etch had not done the job of getting the surface properly prepared.

After agonizing for some weeks I concluded the surface just looked to bad and began trying to remove the Mason�s Transparent Concrete Stain. Good luck ! Where it had not formed a chemical bond you could easily remove it with a wire brush, but where it had decided to stick it was almost impossible to remove. I tried wire brushing it, burning it with a torch, and epoxy paint removers. None were totally successful. I then rented a terrazzo grinding machine. This very heavy piece of equipment is about the size of a dishwasher and has a number of rotary grinding wheels on the bottom. It is used to level concrete or remove a surface layer on concrete before laying tile. It worked to remove the stain in many areas, but since it is designed to create a perfectly level surface it would not reach down into dips or other surface irregularities unless you wanted to grind off a lot of concrete. This very noisy and dusty machine was somewhat successful. Finally I used a rotary grinding wheel tool (like a car polisher) with nylon abrasive wheels to clean up the low areas. This turned out to be the most effective removal technique but it is slow and labor intensive.

After finally removing all of the old base coat I was back where I started with a discolored patio and walk. I concluded that the problem was the base coat with the back rolling was creating a barrier to water and that even with a ground down surface I couldn�t be sure the same problem would not reoccur. To conclude the story, I used the spatter technique without a backrolled base coat and achieved a very nice faux granite look. The surface has now lasted a year without any problems and continues to look very attractive without any bubbling or lifting. I like the Mason�s products, but do not recommend the Safe Solution Concrete Etcher for your project. I would also think carefully about whether a backrolled base coat is your best option.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 12:23PM
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