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CONCRETE STAINS: Creative Choices for Today's Landscape Contractor

By Keith Gibbs and Steve Johnson, Solomon Colors

When creating eye-catching hardscapes, deciding which type of decorative treatment to use can be a creative challenge with today's wide variety of concrete coloring products and techniques. A contractor can create a dramatic walkway with decorative concrete stains and stamps, or produce a beautiful earthen-color retaining wall with colored concrete blocks. Or, perhaps a fountain with integrally colored concrete, and maybe adding a dry shake color hardener to give it an antiqued look... You get the idea.






Concrete stains are a remarkable ready-to-use, after-market staining product for use on new concrete as well as on existing concrete. Here, concrete stains were used on the floors of a country club to create an elegant and unique impact for events. Photos Courtesy of Solomon Colors


With more and more commercial and residential demand for improved aesthetic appeal of outdoor areas, making the most of your concrete with additives and accessories makes sense. Using these products make it easier to compete in today's market and win customers over. Application of decorative concrete treatments is not difficult, and in fact, with minimal instruction and the right products, it can be quite easy. And the results are beautiful, making a lasting impact on the surrounding landscape areas.

Concrete stains are a remarkable ready-to-use, after-market staining product for use on new concrete (cured a minimum of 30 days) as well as on existing concrete. It can be used over an integral color, dry shake color hardener, colored release, or a clear liquid release. Stains also work well on retaining wall block, stepping stones or any other cementious material. When your project is complete, the concrete surface will have a transparent marbling look that is uniquely characteristic of this product.

In addition to creating 'natural stone' looks, you can use stains to design unique flatwork with geometric shapes, saw-cutting outlines and filling in with different decorative stains to accentuate the design. In this project example, owners of an upscale golf course in central Illinois wanted a temporary outdoor building to double as a banquet room and inclement weather shelter for golfers. The course also hosts a national women's golf competition each year, with visitors from all over the country, so aesthetics were important.






Pour sizes were reduced so finishers could work from walk boards in order to tool the concrete joints. Making at least six separate pours on this project was time-consuming, but essential to the incredible finished concrete.


They chose a massive tent, with indoor/outdoor carpet that could be removed as needed. It was decided to create something special for the center of the banquet room.

The contractor worked with the coloring manufacturer and their onsite consultant to create a finished floor that could be covered with the carpet when not in use. They placed the 100 by 40-foot slab of concrete, using a 4-inch thick clap designed with a 6-sack mix, and poured over 8 inches of compactable fill to rise out of the flood plain. Concrete stain was going to be the colorant.

After the floor had cured for 30 days, concrete artists began to lay out the design on the 324 square foot 'canvas' using Straight Cut Tape to create the pattern without leaving messy chalk lines. Because the floor had been poured on two different days and power trowel finished, there were two different gray colors. Adjustments were made on the application of the stains to create a marbled look using a blotting technique on the wet stain. The final product created an elegant and unique impact for events of all types. It has been so successful the owner is adapting the concept for his other high-end golf courses.






The decision was made to reduce the pour sizes so that finishers could work from walk boards in order to tool the concrete joints. Making at least six separate pours on this project was time-consuming, but essential to the incredible finished concrete.


Decorative concrete is easy and affordable with concrete coloring products that enhance and beautify. Whether for residential, commercial or even municipal rehab projects, color makes the difference. In addition to stains, integral color, stamps, colored releases and dry shake all add dimension and appeal to concrete surfaces.

In the retail world, the trend of the casual, relaxing cafe has steadily evolved into a cultural mainstay, becoming part of the social and entertainment canvas for large and small cities across the country. There is a natural appeal to interior environments that combine old-world ambiance with the contemporary look of a casual, inviting cafe.

In this example, the contractor chose to use integral concrete color from Solomon Colors to enhance the new look of the courtyard and service walk of the cafe.

The easy-to-use product allowed them to custom-design the color and texture to enhance the brand image. The architect firm designed the outdoor seating area with a single-color broom finish that created an old-world character to the outdoor courtyard seating with pleasing aesthetics. Adding colored concrete to the brick, stucco and familiar canvas awnings made the "al fresco" venue complete.

The General Contractor had many of the obstacles inherent with fast track building projects - a brick and stucco contractor working in the same general area as fresh concrete. Not a working scenario envied by contractors.

The challenges of keeping scaffolding and other debris away from freshly poured concrete for at least 48 hours is critical when trying to achieve color consistency from pour to pour. To solve this challenge, the trades scheduled days to work in specific areas to accommodate everyone's unique production needs.

The location of the project also added to concrete placement concerns. With access limited to one side of the building, all the concrete was placed using a concrete pump. A job this size could easily be poured and finished in one pour, had it not been for the hand tooled joints 2-feet on center.

Ideal weather conditions would have expedited the completion of the facade, allowing the concrete to be poured without any foot traffic until it had cured to avoid damage. With the possibility of rain and high temperatures in the same day, making a consistent finished product proved challenging. Working together, the architects, designers, contractors and installers developed solutions to ensure the quality and integrity of the finished job, despite the obstacles they faced. This is just one more fitting example of how coloring concrete can enhance the image for commercial retail establishments.

Taking architecture outside is nothing new to landscape contractors. But incorporating colored concrete products into your projects means you are no longer designing to distract from gray concrete. Today landscape projects are designed around concrete with architectural features. With a full pallet of colors available, concrete finishers have stepped in to the category of artists with a very durable medium. Fresh concrete can be sculpted or finished to meet the demand of customers looking for their own unique setting.

So, unleash your creativity with decorative concrete products! The choices may be many, but the results are worth it.


Building Blocks

25 and 50 -Weight of bags, in pounds, of Solomon Colors' SGS Iron Oxides in dry powder form. 600 pound drums for ColorFlo(TM) products are also available.

1 to 49 - Weight range of custom bagging of dry pigments offered by Solomon Colors.

Source: Solomon Colors






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October 17, 2019, 6:31 am PDT

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