There's a concrete style for just about any look you're after.
There are two types of concrete stains: reactive and non-reactive. Reactive stains use chemicals that react with the concrete's lime content. Once the chemical reaction takes place, the stain forms a permanent bond with the concrete and won't chip off or peel away. These are the stains to use if you're looking for a translucent or dappled color.
Non-reactive stains are water-based acrylics that penetrate into the surface. They create a more opaque look and are more uniform. You can get stains at your local home improvement store that will run you $2 to $4 per square foot, but often these one-coat stains will chip and peel away after time.
A professional will pour or pump the material onto the surface and then use a spreader to distribute it. The overlay can be left seamless or used as a canvas for a variety of designs. You can also amp up the look of overlays by staining or painting them.
Micro-toppings & skim coats
Some skim-coat and micro-topping systems come pre-tinted in a rainbow of colors, but professionals can also custom-tint them to your specifications. Skim coats are used often by commercial operations to create interesting color-and-pattern interplay.
Although concrete can be colored and textured for so many different looks, concrete specialist Blaine Quillen says most homeowners nowadays opt for some shade of gray. "It doesn't matter if you choose a super-light concrete color or a deeper charcoal, the gray is just a great backdrop for all of their furnishings," he says.
For most homes, says Quillen, resurfacing the concrete takes about five to seven days. While an epoxy coat may run $6 to $8 per square foot, for more complicated overlays (such as Westcott's Liquid Dazzle or Texture-Crete), the prices can range between $5 and $15 per square foot, nearly the same price as quality porcelain tile and stone flooring.
Think professionally Regardless which of these options you choose, it's important to hire a professional to get the job done right. While concrete stains and some textures can be a do-it-yourself job, the finishes homeowners purchase at a local home-improvement store and apply themselves won't last as long as a professional application.
"Homeowners usually won't take the time or have the know-how to properly prepare the surface, and the color will begin to flake off after a short period of time," says Paul Koury, owner of Westcoat Specialty Coatings Systems, based in San Diego.
"It's important to hire a professional because of the unique application techniques and tools required. Often the artistic aspects of a job require an experienced, skilled craftsman. In addition, there is a learning curve to the processes involved."
Innovative Concrete Designs: icdcma.com
Creations in Concrete: email@example.com
Westcoat Specialty Coatings: westcoat.com
The Concrete Network: concretenetwork.com
The Concretist: theconcretist.com