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Colouring Concrete Countertops With Integral Colour: What You Need to Know

Concrete isn’t just for outdoors anymore. With the rise of industrial-style interiors, polished concrete countertops and flooring are getting more and more popular. This raw, strong, rustic looking style of design is a great way to balance masculine and earthy elements with clean lines and sleek shapes; creating a great modern look that is both bold and neutral.

You might love the look of polished concrete countertops, but what if grey doesn’t really work with the colour palette you’re working with? Don’t give up on it just yet! We have the perfect process for colouring concrete to breathe your unique style into your project; it’s called integral colour.

Example of a Concrete Countertop In a Bar

What is Integral Colour?

Although there are a few methods of colouring concrete, integral colour is widely considered the most popular; creating long-lasting and fade resistant colour. Concrete workers often use integral colour for stamping; achieving a weathered, antique look, or even replicating the look of natural stone. Integral colour can also be used to make a rich and uniformly consistent concrete colour.

Example of a Coloured Concrete Countertop in a BarHow Integral Colour Differs From Other Methods of Colouring Concrete

Where many concrete colouring products involve simply colouring the surface of finished concrete (such as stains and dyes), integral colour involves colouring the entire batch of concrete; adding powder, granules, or liquid directly into the batch during the mixing stage. This allows for a more consistent, all-over colour.

Because integral colour doesn’t involve an application process per se, it requires fewer steps, no specific tools, and no real safety precautions. This sets it apart from other concrete colouring processes and products which often require protection against corrosive materials and solvents, a range of tools for application, and a potentially lengthy clean-up process.

Integral colour performs exceptionally well. It does not fade over time due to the consistent colour throughout the concrete.

Read the Instructions: Mix & Dilution Ratios Matter!

Integral colour works a little bit like adding food colouring to cake batter; if you drop it in without effectively mixing it into the batter, you’ll get a streaky, inconsistent cake. Likewise, if you were to add a little bit of water to the batter, you would not get the same concentration of colour you wanted. The only way to get the perfect shade, colour concentration, and consistency is to closely follow the instructions on the pigment you’re using.

Coloured Concrete CountertopWhat Happens if You Use Too Much or Too Little Colour?

The colour of your finished product is almost entirely based on how much colour is added to your mix. Too much, and you’ll end up with a very dark and concentrated colour. Too little, and you’ll notice the colour is lighter or brighter than you intended.

It’s best not to rely too heavily on the colour card when expecting your colour results. The best way to be sure of what colour you’re going to get from your mix is by making a sample using the actual mix you’re planning to use.

Can You Fix a Bad Mix?

Of course, the potential to fix a bad mix depends on the problem, however, there are some bad mixes can be fixed with the right products and steps.

Sometimes, when concrete is poured in multiple steps, there’s a notable difference in colour from one batch to another. This can be due to a different water ratio, a different brand of cement, or a different curing process.

There are things to be done to fix a bad mix assuming the colour is consistent. However, since integral colour is mixed with wet cement, once the cement is cured, you’ll have to use a different method of colouring, such as stains or dyes.

Since the solution to correcting a bad mix varies greatly based on the problem and the colour you’re dealing with, we recommend coming in and talking to our experts about any issues you might be experiencing.

Other Options for Colouring Your Concrete Countertops

Mixing ConcreteConcrete Dye

Concrete dye can be a good option for colouring your countertop, as it produces a huge variety of colours and shades. While it works wonderfully indoors, it may not be ideal for an outdoor bar or table, as not all brands are UV resistant. This dye can be applied with tools you may already have on hand, such as a paintbrush, roller, or even a low-pressure sprayer. Some concrete dyes are solvent based, meaning you should ensure good ventilation in the work area. If this isn’t possible, you should seek out a water-based dye.

Water-Based Stain

There are two different types of concrete stain: water-based and solvent-based. Water-based stains offer more colour variety and require less clean-up, as the stained surface can just be washed with water and soap rather than aggressively scrubbed to remove the acidic residue. These types of concrete stains can be applied with any paintbrush or roller, and have excellent staying power due to the way the colour soaks into the concrete.

Dry-Shake Colour Hardener

While dry-shake colour hardener comes in a wider variety of colours than integral colour, it doesn’t always offer the same intensity or brightness; working best with muted or neutral colours. Dry-shake colour hardener cannot be used on older cement surfaces like stains or dyes; it can only be applied to new cement. This particular colouring process can be quite messy and labour intensive. It also requires a tool called a bull float to work the product in. One advantage dry-shake colour hardener has over other methods is that it offers additional strength and density to the concrete.

Don’t Forget: We’re Here to Help!

We understand that colouring your concrete can be a little bit overwhelming, but you don’t have to worry; we are concrete experts so you don’t have to be. Hard Rock Developments is prepared to give you great advice and perfect products to help you create your ideal concrete countertops. Read about the importance of sealing your concrete countertops, or take a look at our step-by step DIY guide to concrete countertops.