Frequently Asked Questions
About Decorative/Stamped Concrete Products and Processes
Q-1: What is the best choice of sealer for “RE-sealing” my stamped concrete?
A-1: This is the number one most-frequently asked question we get from homeowners and contractors alike. The answer is, for once, simple.
In nearly all cases when sealing a concrete surface that had previously been treated with a sealer, the best choice is…(drum roll, please) the same product that was used last time.
For concerns that any new introduction may disagree and be incompatible with the minor remains of a previously-used sealer, its ALWAYS best to avoid creating a problem. If you were unsatisfied with the original sealer for any reason, you may choose to learn about upgrading to another product. This may require complete removal of the old product/s or an education on sealer chemistry and how to avoid mixing products that would be incompatible with one-another. Best to ask your installer or material provider.
Q-2: What is the best way to color concrete?
A-2: Wow! Where to begin? While there are Stains, dyes, pigments, and hardeners, lets try to narrow the field and focus on the choice between Integral color (raw pigment), and color hardener for stamped concrete. (If you are curious about how this question may differ in response when considering some other application, please email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org) Integral Color involves the use of a raw pigment, either dry or liquid in form, that is mixed with wet concrete prior to discharge from the mixer.
This method will pigment the entire slab concrete from surface to base. Most pigments of the sort are UV stable and offer a wide variety of colors. On the negative side, Integral Color will often vary slightly from batch to batch and can never be absolute as it is dependent on the cement content and base color within the mix, water consumption, and even environmental conditions. Cost can vary widely as well from low-cost colors at $15/ yard to expensive and more-intense colors that easily exceed $100/ yard. Don’t forget, however, most ready-mix suppliers will need to efficiently clean out their equipment after you use it to mix color and that expense is typically added to your bill.
Color Hardeners are designed to color only the surface of the concrete. They are floated into the cement’s surface once it is laid down and cure with it to add strength. Since they are pre-blended and packaged at a color manufacturing plant and do not get mixed into a long list of other ingredients, color is more consistent and controlled. Intense colors and colors that require a white base can be achieved. Application of Color-Hardener is more labor-intensive and can be extremely difficult under certain weather conditions.
If the color you would like to achieve is very bold and intense or very, very light in color, ask your installer about color hardener. Color Hardeners are seemingly used less any more although, personally, I feel that they offer a very strong argument for a comeback. Do not be consumed with the bogus argument that we hear all the time…”Get integral color because it will not show if the concrete chips.” If your concrete chips, cracks, or gets up and flies away, you are gonna see it as plain as day regardless of method of coloring. In fact, many minor touch-ups are more successfully repaired with color hardener.
Q-3: Can you use solvent-based sealers or other solvent-containing products indoors?
A-3: YES! …one caveat…it will stink for at least a while and make absolutely sure that conditions permit adequate ventilation, safety from ignition sources, and that your choice to employ such a product does not affect others who may have to deal with the fumes.
Q-4: How do I prepare a surface to be acid-stained?
A-4: There are a number of ways to do this but keep a couple concerns in the fore-front of your decision-making process. You should avoid using an acid solution prior to an acid stain. Its similar to trying to start a campfire with charred wood…the fuel is largely consumed and rendered far less effective.
Also, you do not want to damage the concrete and mark it with swirl-marks and/or scars that will be highlighted by the stain so avoid aggressive grinders, scrapers, or scarifiers. Super Blue is a chemical detergent that combines a detergent with two mildly acidic ingredients. This is enough to clean the floor and mildly open the pores of the cement to prep it for better stain acceptance. Mild dish soap like Palmolive and Dawn work very well and will not leave a soapy residue behind causing extra efforts with rinsing several times. Burned or power-troweled floors are a very difficult surface to prep for an acid stain. Consider acetone-based dyes for such situations.
Lastly, and most importantly, always consider the preparation requirements of your sealer or coating as well. This should never be an after-thought.
Q-5: Is there something available that helps make my stamped concrete less slippery?
A-5: YES! There are many products with many names, most of which reference an animal such as a shark, monkey, or rhino for some reason. Typically, these are additives for acrylic sealers. They are powdered polypropylene spheres that add some small amount of slip-resistance to a surface.
If you have a pool deck that is stamped concrete, you should insist on something and even, perhaps, sample something more aggressive like “skid-tex.” If your surface is to be sealed with epoxy or a urethane, you should ask your installer about Aluminum Oxide. Note that the addition of slip-resistant additives will usually shorten the products’ lifespan and may lead to more frequent re-seals. Further, slip-resistance often comes with sacrificing a level of gloss.