How to Decide What’s Best For Your Project

So you’ve decided that you want decorative concrete installed at your home or business, but are overwhelmed by the color choices. After all, once your concrete project is finished, it is difficult to change its color. There are many things to consider when choosing colors. Below are some useful tips for avoiding a costly mistake.

The very first thing to consider is that the color of the finished concrete WILL NOT be an exact match for the color you choose from your color chart. Concrete coloring is not like paint, manufactured and applied in a controlled environment. There are so many factors that affect concrete’s color such as cement, aggregate, and even weather, that it is nearly impossible to get an exact match to the chart. In my experience, colored concrete usually turns out about two or three shades lighter in reality than it appears on a chart.

Therefore, color charts can only give an idea of one possible shade that the concrete might turn out. Do not expect your patio to turn out just like a photo you’ve seen, or that it will exactly match the colors you picked from the chart. It will likely be close, but certainly not an exact match. Therefore, don’t get too caught up in choosing between subtle shade differences. Any one of those similar shades will so closely resemble the others that you probably couldn’t tell a difference in the finished project anyway.

Okay, with color disclaimers out of the way, let’s learn how to actually choose a color for your project.

If you are planning on stamped concrete (as opposed to simply a brush-textured finish), then you probably expect to see contrasting “highlight” colors. These highlights are provided by an antiquing agent. Antiquing your stamped concrete gives it a much more realistic two-toned appearance. If a contrasting antiquing color is not used, the entire surface will be the same color and look painted.  About 98% of the time, the antiquing color should be a darker color than the base color. If one were to instead choose an antiquing color lighter than the base color, the antiquing color would almost completely disappear when sealer is applied, leaving a single-colored “muddy” appearance. On the other hand, dark antiquing colors are greatly enhanced by solvent acrylic sealers and really stand out from the base color. Either way, adding an antiquing color will change the overall appearance of the job. What you will see with properly antiqued concrete is the base color, the antiquing color, and countless combinations of those two colors. Click here for more information on the stamping process and how antiquing works.

Many customers speak of “matching” the color of their concrete to that of their home. This is often a bad idea.Matching implies that the colors are identical.Seldom would you want a color to match. More likely, you would want it to complement or “go with” the colors on your home. If you actually succeeded in matching a color, it is very likely that there would then be too much of the same color and the aesthetics of the project would suffer. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, truly matching a specific color would be almost impossible anyway. Trying for an exact match and failing is much worse than choosing a complementary color to begin with.

One way to bring a project together visually is to choose colors similar to those on some part of the nearby structure, such as the trim or the roof. For example, if your home has Terra Cotta colored brick and a brown shingled roof, then a brown patio would probably look good, because the orangey colored bricks would be framed between the browns of the roof and the patio. If your roof is greenish gray or black, often times a greenish gray slate-colored patio looks best. Almost any color will look nice against a white building.

Sometimes color and pattern should be considered together.Because stamped concrete is meant to resemble natural building materials, choosing the wrong color for a particular pattern could be a mistake. Try to think of what your real local building stone looks like. Is it a light buff color? Or is it a deep brick red color? Probably the former. If you are striving for a realistic appearance, stamped stone in a brick red color may not be a good choice.

A final thing to consider when choosing color is how it is affected by sunlight. Dark colors absorb heat from the sun, whereas light colors reflect it. This means that dark colors may be extremely hot and would not be a good choice for pool decks or other barefoot zones. They may render the concrete too hot to walk on. However, these same dark colors might be a very good choice for a driveway. In addition to hiding stains from leaks and oil drips, their absorption of the sun’s heat will aid in melting snow and ice more quickly.

Color is one of your most important choices when considering decorative concrete. If you follow these general guidelines, you are much more likely to be happy with the choice you make.