John Stefanowicz says that there are two truths about concrete: “It gets hard and it cracks.” His company, Stefanowicz Concrete, Wimberley, Texas, has been working with concrete since 1981, building residential and commercial foundations, driveways, sidewalks, patios, and using concrete in interior architectural applications. A sister company, Applied Color Concrete, has offered color stain options for flooring and other surfaces since 1991.

Color hardener produces uniform color that penetrates about 1/8 inch. To protect the color, seal with acrylic or epoxy, and reseal as needed depending on wear. Applying wax over the sealer means there's no turning back ó the only option is to maintain the wax.
Emily Werbow Stefanowicz Color hardener produces uniform color that penetrates about 1/8 inch. To protect the color, seal with acrylic or epoxy, and reseal as needed depending on wear. Applying wax over the sealer means there's no turning back ó the only option is to maintain the wax.

There are several options for creating color in a remodeling situation. It can all begin with a 2-inch-thick surface cap. “When structural depth permits, a cap will create a new clean floor surface that can be treated with a wide range of coloring options, including color hardener, integral pigment, and chemical staining,” Stefanowicz says.

A chemical stain brushed onto the concrete adds color. Additional coats affect the intensity of the color, and layers of different colors affect the hue. Before sealing with a water-based acrylic, the surface is buffed to ensure good adhesion.
Emily Werbow Stefanowicz A chemical stain brushed onto the concrete adds color. Additional coats affect the intensity of the color, and layers of different colors affect the hue. Before sealing with a water-based acrylic, the surface is buffed to ensure good adhesion.

Color hardener, troweled into wet concrete, penetrates approximately 1/8 inch into the surface. The hardener actually changes the concrete's PSI rating, making the surface harder, less porous, and more stain resistant than untreated concrete. More than one color can be blended in for a variegated look.

Another option is integral pigment, which is applied at the time the concrete is placed, while it is still in the truck. The integral pigment produces a uniform color surface, although the colors are not as rich in appearance as those achieved with color hardener. This method is well suited to concrete countertops, where the appearance of color not only on the top surface but throughout the edges is desired.

The mandala pattern is created freehand by snapping chalk lines, marking the lines with a pencil, then scoring them into the concrete using a 1/8ñinch diamond blade on a saw cart with wheels.
Emily Werbow Stefanowicz The mandala pattern is created freehand by snapping chalk lines, marking the lines with a pencil, then scoring them into the concrete using a 1/8ñinch diamond blade on a saw cart with wheels.

A third method is called chemical stain. Also known as “acid etch” because of the hydrochloric acid used to apply color to the concrete surface, chemical staining produces an uneven, translucent color effect. The results can be beautiful, but it is the least predictable and dependable method for achieving color. It's also the most popular, because it's the easiest process. “Spray, rinse, seal, and you're done,” Stefanowicz says.

The completed chemical-stained mandala is one of many in the company's repertoire, for which Stefanowicz's wife, Emily, creates the colors and patterns.
Emily Werbow Stefanowicz The completed chemical-stained mandala is one of many in the company's repertoire, for which Stefanowicz's wife, Emily, creates the colors and patterns.

Whatever the coloring method, finishes can range from a super-smooth high gloss to a textured surface for slip resistance.

“All options with concrete surfaces are time sensitive and the sooner you get your concrete expert on the job the better,” Stefanowicz says. “All processes require floor protection during construction and the floor needs to be respected by other tradesmen.” For more details on color concrete flooring visit www.appliedcolorconcrete.com.