Concrete colour hardener - coloured concrete floors
01 September 2015

Six ways to achieve a coloured concrete floor

Coloured concrete floors are attractive and distinctive, and can greatly improve the appearance of a building, and reinforce the company’s branding. But what are the options for colouring an internal concrete floor?

1) Paint it

Concrete floor paints are available on the market, some of which are marked for industrial use. However, preparation is vital – if the concrete slab is not porous enough, the paint may flake off once the floor is brought into use. Also, if you want to colour a larger area, such as an industrial floor or warehouse, painting may be very time-consuming, costly and labour-intensive. Painting is probably best suited to a small area with light traffic only.

2) Stain or dye it

Acid and water-based stains form a chemical reaction within the concrete to create permanent colour effects on the surface. You can stain the concrete even if it’s been in situ for a while. You can also create patterns and variety by staining different areas of the floor in different colours. Acid-based stains offer fewer colour choices than water-based; and the nature of the process means that the results may vary from one floor to another. Acid-based stains also tend to produce translucent results, which may mean that stains on the floor will still show through. Water-based colours can be more solid.

Dyes also provide permanent colour, and are usually water-based or solvent-based. They colour the concrete by permeating into the surface, not through a chemical reaction, and the results may be translucent with water-based dyes.

3) Add a tinted sealer

A tinted sealer adds a wash of colour over the concrete, while sealing the surface. Solvent-based sealers give a more solid finish than water-based ones. A tinted sealer may be appealing if a large area needs to be treated with one colour; or if an existing colour needs to be enhanced. Note that water-based sealants may not work well when applied with a sprayer, as the paint and water can separate. It’s not a permanent solution, as the floor will probably need to be resealed after some time, due to normal wear and tear.

4) Colour all the concrete

This method is mainly applicable to new concrete floors, or major surfacing of existing slabs. Adding a pigment to the concrete mix colours the entire batch. This means that the concrete will be coloured throughout its depth, rather than just near the surface. Although good for creating large blocks of solid colour, the major issue is cost – this is typically an expensive way to achieve a coloured concrete floor. To use different colours in different areas of the floor would require different coloured concrete mixes. Also, it has to be queried why concrete several centimetres below the surface needs to be coloured when it will never be seen.

It should be noted that none of these four colouring methods improves the durability or lifespan of the floor, or protects the concrete from impact or abrasion damage. They simply add colour.

5) Apply a resin coating system

This is an option for both new and existing floors. Resin coating systems add striking colour and shine to industrial, commercial and residential floors, and can be used to create decorative patterns too. They are chosen when the surface needs to be highly durable and easy to clean. The liquid components of the system are mixed and applied to the slab, where they set to form a hard polymer surface; and the surface may be built up in two or three different structural layers on top of the concrete base. For existing floors, preparation is key to ensuring a good result – the surface needs to be clean, and permeable enough to accept the resin coating. In any scenario, it may take several days to create the resin floor, as the layers need to cure. Time and cost should therefore be taken into account. If you are considering a resin floor, we recommend you peruse Rinol resin flooring systems.

More information on resin flooring systems can be found on the FeRFA website.

6) Add a concrete colour hardener

A concrete colour hardener – also called a coloured surface hardener – can be applied to both new and existing floors. A common application method is as a dry-shake powder on top of freshly poured concrete. This happens as soon as the concrete has been screeded, so it does not add an extra stage to the construction process. This helps to make surface hardeners a cost effective way to colour a large industrial or commercial floor, or even sections of the floor in different colours. For smaller areas a surface hardener can either be mechanically or manually applied.

Unlike methods 1-4 above, surface hardeners also extend the life of the floor by improving its resistance to damage caused by dropping, scraping or spillages.

Colour hardeners can also be applied to new or existing concrete floors as a pre-mixed wet slurry topping – called ‘wet-on-wet’ application. Although a more expensive and manual method than the dry-shake process, the result is a better colour and a more durable floor. It can be used on large or small floors with equal success. For existing substrates, it is important to ensure an appropriate bonding agent is used first.

You can find out more about our range of concrete colour hardeners here.

We hope this provides a useful summary to help you choose the right coloured concrete floor solution for your project. If you need further guidance on the suitability of our surface hardeners, please get in touch.