Many of our customers are interested in coloring grout, stucco, plaster and mortar but have a difficult time finding the right colors, especially blues, and small enough quantities. Direct Colors General Manager, Shawna Turner, is here to talk more about calculating for and mixing custom colors in these materials. Welcome Shawna.

Amie Nolen: Calculating pigment for so many different cement-based mixes sounds complicated. Is it?

Shawna Turner:  It definitely can be. The difficult part is the fact that very few manufacturers report the product contents on the side of the bag. Usually the technical data sheet will include the amount of cement in the mix but that’ s not always available so we often are forced to make an educated guess that many vary somewhat from product to product.

AN: Why is the amount of cement in the mix so important for getting the color right?

ST: Concrete pigment creates color by coating the cement particles with color so other ingredients are a less important part of the color equation. The pigment needed to achieve a specific color from our color charts is based on the amount of cement only rather than the total weight of the mix. Each mix is comprised of a 3:1 ratio of sand to cement and/or lime. If lime is also added to the mix, the cement and lime should be added together for the purposes of calculating pigment load. Whether you are mixing your own material or using a pre-bagged product, having this basic information can help you to determine how much pigment you need for a project. Because grout, stucco, plaster and mortar are cement, sand and possibly lime mixes containing no aggregate, colors can appear somewhat different in fact than they are on color charts. Testing is incredibly important when working with these materials and will help avoid mistakes.

AN:  There are several concrete calculators on the website. Which calculator should a customer use for these mixes as opposed to concrete?

ST: The calculator most useful for coloring grout, stucco, mortar and plaster is called the Custom Batch Calculator. The Custom Batch Calculator requires two pieces of information – the weight of cement and/or lime in your mix and the pound rating for the color chosen from our concrete pigment color chart. We recommend calculating both for batch size as well as the overall project. For example, if you planned to use one 80lb. bag of stucco mix and wanted to integrally color the stucco to Cornflower. You’d enter 20 lbs. for the cement/lime content and a “1” for the pound rating to calculate the amount of pigment needed for the project which is just under a quarter of a pound (.21 lbs.) per bag.

Coloring Grout, Stucco, Plaster and Mortar

DCI Concrete Pigment Color Chip Diagram

If you’re calculating for a sample, the pound output from the calculator is likely to be unhelpful so we’ve provided a link to other calculation options at the bottom of the page. For example, say you have about 5 lbs. of cement/lime in your mix and the amount of pigment needed for the chosen color, Royal Blue, is 0.1595 lbs. 0.1595 lbs. is a difficult number to work with so converting lbs. to teaspoons for such a small batch is very useful. Using a conversion website easily found with a search engine, we’ll need 15 teaspoons to achieve Royal Blue in 5 lbs. of white Portland mix. Calculating from lbs. to grams is also a good option. Gram scales provide more exact measurements, especially when measuring small amounts, and can be used for any small or medium sized project.

AN:  What about sealing? Is it necessary in all instances?

Outdoor stucco applications should be sealed with an acrylic or penetrating densifier sealer to protect the color integrity from the elements. Some customers prefer a light shine and the easy application our Sprayable Satin Finish Sealer offers, especially for stucco projects. Our  DCI Penetrating Lithium Sealer Hardener has a matte finish is perfect for grout projects where gloss isn’t all that desirable. This sealer enhances overall concrete durability and is a one-time application which is super. Sealing for interior projects isn’t necessary but acrylic sealers will deepen color appearance and add some gloss.

Thanks for making pigment calculations for grout, stucco, mortar and plaster mixes easier to understand.  For more information on using concrete pigments in concrete, visit our blog or how to guides and videos page at http://www.directcolors.com/. If you’d like a free design consultation tailored to your project, send us pictures and a description by email or call us at 877-255-2656. We’re ready to help!

More and more people are interested in pouring acid stain ready concrete.  Here with tips and recommendations to make that process easier and more successful is Shawna Turner, General Manager, with Direct Colors. Welcome, Shawna.

Shawna Turner:  Thank you.

Amie Nolen:  What’s the first thing a customer needs to do to get started?

ST:  The first thing to do is have a conversation with your general contractor (GC). Make sure he or she understands your plan to acid stain and what that means for the overall construction process.  Preparing to acid stain begins before the concrete is poured so it should be discussed with the general contractor in the planning stage.

AN: You mentioned preparing to acid stain before pouring the concrete. What does that mean?

ST:  Well, not all concrete is created equal.  Depending on where you live, concrete can contain additives and/or fly ash that negatively impact the acid staining process so it’s imperative that you know what’s going in your concrete BEFORE it’s poured.  How do you do that?  Either the homeowner or their contractor needs to call the ready mix company pouring the concrete to ask for the mix design details. The concrete should not include retarders, accelerators or more than 10% fly ash if it is to be successfully acid stained later. None of these additives are essential but are often used when temperatures are very hot or cold and to cut costs in the case of the fly ash. I’d also avoid using a topical curing compound unless it is self-dissipating and will evaporate within two weeks of application.

AN: That’s very helpful information. What about finishing the concrete?  I know that’s also an important part of the process.

ST:  You’re right. Finishing the concrete properly will yield better final staining results. The best option for indoor floors or patios is either a hand-troweled or light machine trowelled finish.  Stamping or texturing concrete is fine too if you’re working outside.  The objective is to avoid making the concrete so smooth that acid stain can’t readily absorb into the pores. If the stain can’t absorb, the chemical reaction will not occur and the stain will simply wash off during the cleaning process. No one wants that to happen. Overly smooth concrete can be corrected using our Hard Trowel Floor Prep product after the fact if needed.

AN: When should a customer plan to acid stain the concrete?

ST:  We usually don’t recommend acid staining until the concrete is fully cured or achieves a uniform light gray color. That could occur anytime after 20-28 days depending on weather conditions.  The concrete will need to be protected throughout the construction process. Overlapping cardboard works best to cushion blows and absorb spills should they occur. Spills and other contaminants on unprotected concrete only make the home or business owners job that much harder when it’s time to stain. Again, remind your GC to talk to every contractor about not marking the floor or making a mess. Covering the floor can make a big difference but nothing’s better or more effective than a conscientious contractor.

AN:  In the case of interior floors, at what point in the construction process would you acid stain?

ST:  The best time to uncover, clean, acid stain and seal the floors is after the dry wall has been hung but has not yet been mudded in. Dry wall mud is notoriously difficult to get off of concrete. Staining and sealing before that step is the better option for sure.  Once the floors have been stained, neutralized and cleaned, apply one coat of sealer. I prefer the Sprayable Satin Finish Concrete Sealer because it’s so easy to apply and dries quickly. Six hours after application cover again with overlapping cardboard and continue with construction.

AN: At what point should the finishing coats of sealer and wax be applied?

ST:  Just before the baseboards are installed, remove the cardboard, clean thoroughly and apply another coat of sealer. The second coat of sealer will repair most minor scratches on the surface and add additional luster. 24-48 hours later apply three coats of concrete wax and allow to dry for 24 hours before moving in furniture. A polyurethane sealer could also be applied after the second coat of sealer if desired. Wax would no longer be necessary in that case. I highly recommend our how to guide on care and maintenance of acid stained floors. Please give that a read before moving in to avoid unnecessary damage to the floors.

Thanks for this essential staining advice for new construction floors. For more information on acid staining, visit our blog or how to guides and videos page at www.directcolors.com. If you’d like a free design consultation tailored to your project, send us pictures and a description by email or call us at 877-255-2656. We’re ready to help!

Applying acid stain and concrete sealer in the summer months can be challenging especially if you live in a hot temperature climate. Here are a few tips from our own General Manager, Shawna Turner, for outdoor concrete and countertop projects that will help DIYer’s get it right the first time.

Amie Nolen: Welcome to the podcast, Shawna.

Shawna Turner:  Thank you.

AN:  What are some of the challenges homeowners face when acid staining and sealing outdoor concrete in the summertime?

ST: Concrete temperature and wind conditions often determine success or failure for an acid stain project. Hot, dry conditions can cause acid stain to prematurely dry before properly reacting with the concrete. But how hot is too hot? Concrete shouldn’t be more than 75-80F for best staining results. Dry, windy conditions can wick the moisture from the concrete leaving a “blotchy” appearance behind particularly when using both light and dark colors.

AN:  What can be with our outdoor concrete besides wait until Fall?

ST:  Well, it’s not quite as bad as all that. The most important step for homeowners applying acid stain either late in the evening or early in the morning when concrete temperatures are at their lowest. As the day heats up, so does the concrete and air begins to pass through the surface. When temperatures are cooling, the concrete contracts and is therefore a better candidate for staining or sealing. Keep in mind that direct sunlight and ambient temperature are not the same. Lay a thermometer on the concrete surface and cover with a towel. If after 4-5 minutes the temperature is greater than 80°F, do not stain.

Another valuable tip is to lightly dampen not flood the concrete before applying acid stain to add moisture and prevent premature drying. Premature drying can retard color development and isn’t helpful if you’re working with multiple colors outdoors.

AN:  What about sealing specifically? I know hot temperatures can really cause problems. What should customers be looking out for?

ST: Without question, DO NOT attempt to seal in the heat of the day. Colored concrete in direct sunlight, especially dark browns and black, could be several times hotter than the ambient temperature and just a few minutes of sunlight will raise the surface temperature very quickly. If the concrete is too hot, small air bubbles will often appear either during the application or just after. The air bubbles are formed by air rising through the concrete and becoming trapped in the sealer. The bubbles will eventually collapse leaving unattractive concave spots behind. Not very attractive, especially on outdoor kitchen countertops.

Finding the right time of day to apply concrete sealer during the summer months can be a challenge. Sealers, like acid stain, should be applied when the concrete is at its lowest temperature either early in the morning or late in the evening. East facing concrete should be sealed later in the day and west facing early in the morning.

AN:  What time of year do you normally do “maintenance” on your decorative concrete?

ST: Never if I can get away with it! No, I’m kidding. I usually do my resealing in the late spring when you can get a couple of rain free days and if that fails, before winter sets in. Because I live in Oklahoma where the summers are very hot, I seldom attempt to seal my exterior concrete during the summer months. It can be done but most of the time I don’t want to get up that early.

AN: Thanks for the summertime acid staining and sealing advice. For more information on outdoor concrete projects, visit our blog at www.directcolors.com. If you’d like a free design consultation tailored to your project, send us pictures and a description by email or call us at 877-255-2656. We’re ready to help!

After investing a great deal of time and effort into your countertop project, you want the last step to go smoothly. You may not realize that there are differences between successfully sealing indoor countertops and sealing outdoor countertops but there are and here to tell us all about it is Shawna Turner, General Manager for Direct Colors. Continue reading

Our customers often ask us how they can best take care of their concrete countertop sealers and keep them looking great. We’ve given some thought to this question and here to tell us more is Direct Colors General Manager, Shawna Turner. Continue reading

Direct Colors General Manager, Shawna Turner, sat down with us to discuss the best choice to renew pool decks and outdoor concrete color.

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One of the biggest challenges to acid staining garage floors, driveways and patios is oil stains in the concrete. Motor or vegetable oil and animal fats if the spill is around the barbeque can be very challenging to remove and unless properly removed will prevent acid stain, concrete stains or sealer from penetrating the concrete. Shawna Turner, General Manager, at Direct Colors joins us to talk about how to successfully dissolve oils in the concrete surface before staining and sealing.

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This step-by-step video on acid staining outdoor concrete offers step-by-step instructions for evaluating, cleaning, staining and sealing outdoor concrete. Everything you need to know to get the job done right the first time. For more…