Concrete is one of the most used (some would say over-used) materials in the building industry, and you can’t fail to sigh a little when looking at yet another grey tower block.

If not used creatively, it can be pretty uninspiring stuff, however, there’s no doubting that it’s a useful and highly practical medium, and it’s also very cost-effective.

However, there are ways of being creative with concrete and some designers and architects are using it in ways that allow it to not only fulfil its purpose, but look good at the same time.

Integral Colouring

Integral colouring is the procedure of adding the dye to the concrete while it is being mixed.

The main benefit of this method is that it guarantees an even spread of dye throughout the entire mix.

The only downside is that because of its effectiveness, it means that it costs more. This is due to the fact that it dyes the entire slab, not just the visible surface.

Shake-on Colouring

Shake-on colouring is exactly what it sounds like, it is a powder that consists of both the dye and some cement, that is scattered on top of fresh concrete.

The reason that this type of dye cannot be scattered on any old concrete is because the dye/cement mix uses excess water from the fresh concrete to help it bond.

The main drawback of shake-on colouring is that the layer of colour is very close to the surface, meaning once the top layer starts to wear away, be it from usage, weathering, polishing etc… Then the exposed concrete colour will start to seep through.

Acetone Dye

Acetone dye is a solvent based product used for colouring concrete. The two main benefits provided are that the colouring can be very vivid, which is harder to achieve with other methods.

And because it is a solvent, it will dry a lot faster than other methods, which can save a lot of time.

There are however, a few disadvantages with using solvent based dyes. 

First of all, they are both flammable and toxic, meaning it is impractical for indoor use.

Additionally, acetone dye is not UV resistant, meaning any exposure to the sun, will eventually cause the colouring to fade.

Water-Based Dyes

Water-based dyes are a great solution to some of the disadvantages associated with solvent-based dyes.

Solvent-based dyes as mentioned, are flammable and toxic. However this is not the case with water-based dyes. 

These dyes are safe for indoor use and also dry quickly like their solvent counterpart.

Unfortunately, though, these dyes are not UV resistant either and will fade over time if exposed to sunlight.

Acid Stain Colouring

Last but not least is acid stain colouring. As the name implies, the colour comes from an acid that reacts with the concrete.

One of the benefits to this is that the acid stain is equally as durable as the concrete it has stained.

Applying acid colouring takes more precaution than most other methods, as any mishaps will cause unwanted colouring almost instantly.

Once the acid colouring has been applied to the desired location(s), then the locations must be cleaned thoroughly to ensure no excess acid remains.

We hope that this has clarified any lingering questions that you might have had regarding the processes involved to dye concrete.

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