Concrete Stain Tips
Every fall my large concrete driveway apron gets stained. The large silver maple tree by my garage does it for free. The autumn leaves that drop from the tree contain strong natural dyes that deeply stain the concrete a brown color. Rain, soap even my oxygen bleach Stain Solver product will not touch these stains! However, each spring the stains magically disappear. The ultraviolet light from the sun does the job for free as well.
I never cease to be amazed at how well the concrete accepts these simple water based stains. I'm quite sure Native Americans used these leaves and similar vegetable products to dye their garments. Modern technology has advanced permitting you to use powerful long lasting dyes and stains to colorize already installed concrete.
This is an ideal way to change that dull, gray patio, driveway or sidewalk into an attractive asset, not a drab liability. If you have a red or brown brick home with a concrete sidewalk, imagine how the sidewalk might look as a light shade of brown or red? Do you live in Florida? How would you like a pastel green or light blue sun porch slab? I think I know the answer......
How Some Stains Work
The stains with the boldest coloration actually work chemically with the concrete. Some grab onto the carbon ions in the concrete. Concrete actually reacts with carbon dioxide in the air to become harder. The process is called carbonation - just like soda pop. What actually happens is that more calcium carbonate crystals form near the surface. Calcium carbonate is simply the chemical name for limestone. You know how hard and dense this material is if you live in Cincinnati!
Other coloration methods simply deliver pigment particles into the open pores of the concrete. This is a very effective method of colorizing concrete. Of course the texture of the concrete affects how well this process works. For example a slick, steel troweled slab will be tough to stain. The surface of the slab has been sealed tightly by bringing the ultra-fine cement particles to the surface. Wood-floated or broom-finished concrete will produce rich coloration as the pigments can easily soak into the concrete matrix.
Watch out for imitators. There are some products out there that say they are stains when in fact they are films that lay on top of the concrete. In other words, they are like a paint. A true stain is a liquid material that has color particles floating in suspension. The color particles are so small that they soak into the material and colorize it without hiding the natural grain, appearance or texture. Paints and film formers are not stain - plain and simple.
Haven't Poured Yet? Great!
Are you thinking of pouring a slab and want to color it? You should really look into dry-shake color/hardeners. These are powdered pigments that are mixed with fine silica. The material is cast on top of concrete that has just been poured. The color is then worked into the surface with the bull floats and trowels. This method can colorize the concrete to a depth of 1/8 inch or more. You have an unlimited palette of colors from which to choose.
In addition, the added silica helps to make a denser, less porous surface that will help to retain the color for long periods of time. A friend of mine colorized his patio this way and it has maintained its medium green color for nearly seven years. It looks magnificent.
If you have seen the stamped or Patterned Concrete® slabs, you have seen dry-shake colors. I urge you to explore this method if you are getting ready to pour new concrete.
DIY Job? Maybe Not.....
Are you thinking of doing this job yourself? If it is a small area, you may be able to handle it. If it is a large driveway, I would recommend you hire someone with experience.
Remember, you only get one chance with concrete stains. If you mess up and do something wrong, your driveway, patio, etc. will look like a bad tattoo.
To find professionals who know how to work with concrete stains, I suggest that you contact the manufacturers of the stain products. They almost always will tell you of local distributors and/or installers who work regularly with the product. Don't just start blindly calling people from your Yellow Pages.
The local distributors of the stain products will absolutely be able to give you names of contractors in your area. Be sure to VISIT places where they have stained concrete. You really want to see results before hiring an individual.
It will be some work to get through these hoops, but the end result will be the talk of your neighborhood, trust me!