Below are brief descriptions of several techniques used in creating decorative concrete surfaces. None of the materials listed below are paints, which have a much shorter expected lifespan. Except as noted, the treatments become permanent elements of the concrete slab:
Acid stain comes is warm earth tones that gives new concrete a variegated, time-worn patina look while also enhancing the aged look of old concrete. It is the most versatile form of concrete stain. Acid stains are formulated to chemically react with the concrete’s lime content and bond color into the concrete surface. The results are not always predictable due to lime leaching, weathering, surface texture, or exposure to other chemicals, and results may vary widely from project to project. The full depth of color may not become apparent until the concrete sealer is applied to the surface.
Solvent-based or alcohol based dyes can be used to achieve brighter, more vibrant colors and increase the palette range as compared to the more limited options of earth tone hues found in traditional acid stains. Dyes are for interior concrete surfaces only and packaged in concentrated form, allowing more flexibility to achieve the desired look. Dyes can be used full strength to attain greater depth of color or, dilute with water or solvents to produce paler shades or a lighter, more translucent color wash.
Dyes are generally composed of fine acrylic pigments mixed with a quick drying solvent or alcohol. With little to no residue left from the stains, clean up is usually minimal and dry time is almost instant. Unlike acid stains, dyes do not react chemically with cement-based materials. Instead, they contain very fine pigments that penetrate into the concrete surface. This allows for little down time and quicker applications on most jobs.
These products bond to the surface rather than chemically react with the concrete like traditional acid stains. Because of this, water-based stains can be made with a broader range of colors, applied with more versatility, and leave little if no residue to clean up. They can be applied full-strength or diluted to create a more translucent look. With glazing techniques they can be made to look like faux marble or stone.
Polished concrete is a mechanical grinding process that utilizes industrial diamonds and liquid densifiers to level, harden, and polish concrete flooring surfaces. Heavy-duty polishing machines equipped with progressively finer grits of diamond impregnated discs are used to grind surfaces in an 8-12 step process. With more polishing and the use of finer grits, up to 3000 grit in some cases, concrete floors can reach very high levels of gloss without the use of waxes or sealers.
Polished concrete is one of the most innovative and economical flooring options available today and can be seen in warehouses, retail stores, manufacturing facilities, restaurants, show room floors, garages and even residential interiors.
Not only is polished concrete attractive with its glossy surface and high light-reflectivity value but with no waxes or sealer to be reapplied every few months they are very economical and easy to maintain and clean. Polished concrete can be scored and stained in an variety of colors and patterns.
Micro-Toppings can be applied in layers as thin as a credit card or up to several inches thick without delimitation or failing. They adhere mechanically and chemically to existing concrete flooring surfaces and resist damage from UV exposure, chemicals, moisture and abrasion.
Allowing the designer the ability to create an original piece of work, overlays can open the door to unlimited design potential. They can be used to repair your existing concrete or simply improve the look of a dull surface, creating a new canvas for the unimaginable.
To create geometric designs and patterns professionals create a series of shallow-cuts in existing concrete surfaces to suggest tile grout lines or separate colors.
To flatten an irregular surface, or add pattern stamping professionals lay a thin layer of cementitious material over the existing concrete floors.
Sealing and Polishing
The final step in the decorative concrete process, sealers and waxes are applied to waterproof and protect treated concrete surfaces. Polishing colored concrete with special machinery intensifies the hue and add gloss and bring out the out the depth and luster of treated floors.