How Do Different Concrete Floor Finishes Compare?

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Coloring and Staining

  • Concrete finishes have come a long way in the past few years. Covering your indoor slab or having the same old drab walkway outside is no longer a requirement. There are a few ways to add color to concrete. You can also do some beautiful staining to make it look like marble or stone. Integral coloring is the process of adding a liquid or powder to the concrete mix before pouring it. This process will give you a uniform color throughout your concrete and is usually a light tint of color. If you want a darker coloring, color hardeners are a good option. They are a crystal-like material that is sprinkled over freshly laid concrete. The moisture from the concrete activates the crystals making a denser concrete. Since this coloring is only on the top of the concrete, it is darker and more intense than the integrally colored concrete. Staining concrete is a process of using an acid-based or water-based stain to penetrate the concrete pores after it has completely cured. This process can be done years after the concrete is in place. The acid stain has a darker coloring and is more translucent than that of the water-based stain.

Scoring and Stamping

  • Scoring the concrete can be accomplished by making shallow cuts with a circular saw to create designs or separate colors. With scoring you can create the look of tile grout lines or unlimited patterns. Concrete stamping is normally used to create the look of wood, brick or stone. The imprinting tools vary in size and can be used to make one stone, for example, at a time or a whole group of them. You can actually grout the lines to make it look more real or stain the individual pattern. However, these tools can be very expensive.

Concrete Sealers and Waxes

  • Sealing and waterproofing is done on almost all concrete flooring. There are sealers and wax products that also contain a colorant. Using the same color as used in the integral coloring can make the color deeper and adds shine. Clear coats can bring out some of the features that staining brings to the concrete. Waxing can be from a light sheen to a heavy duty buff that protects the floor in high traffic areas. Sealers and waxes may need to be reapplied if there is a lot of traffic to the floor. It is usually a simple process of mopping on a coat once a year or so.

Comparing the Finishes

  • If you want a dramatic design or the look of a marble floor, you will want to use an acid stain with a high gloss wax. If you want the floor to look like stone or slate you may want to do some stamping and then stain the floor. If you are pouring a slab around the pool and just want it to have color, then the integral coloring is the product for the job. If a new walkway or driveway is in the future, you would want to use the color hardeners. There is just no excuse for plain old concrete any more. Now you can have beautiful concrete surfaces, most for less than the flooring to cover it.

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  • Photo Credit Serghei Starus
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