DIY Guide: What To Do About Concrete Losing Color

Imagine this, you recently installed brand new concrete around your house. A while after the installation happens, you notice that the color is starting to fade! What now?

You can fix color fading or discoloration on your concrete by resealing your concrete, repositioning objects surrounding your concrete, avoiding any form of excessive weight, and removing any chemicals that can damage your concrete. If all else fails, you should seek professional help.

Each type of cement will have its own type of problem as to why it is losing its color. We will be talking about the most common issues, from biggest to least, then we will talk about characteristics of good concrete and what you can do moving forward.

Solution One: Resealing Your Cement

For those who deal with discoloration with their stamped or regular colored concrete, the most common issue with the lack of color is the fact that the cement is not sealed.

When concrete is set in, professionals usually seal the concrete to keep the color intact for a long period of time. However, most sealers only last about 6 months to 3 years, which means the color can only do its job for so long before the elements kick in. Source

Here is a step by step process on how to do this:

1. Find a sealer that works for you.

The best kind of sealer depends on the type of cement you are trying to take care of and the kind of look you are trying to look for. Some recommendations are the Foundation Armor AR50 Sealer for a more low-gloss look in general and decorative areas. The Radonseal Lastiseal Penetrating Sealer is also a great option to highlight your original color and have a highlighted waterproof capabilities.

2. Obtain a Sprayer

It is best to go on the more expensive end because bad sprayers can literally destroy the chemicals that are meant to protect your concrete in the first place! You can also deal with stains and poor-looking concrete if a good sprayer is not used. Source

3. Clean the concrete

After cleaning the concrete you should wait 24-48 hours, then wait to be sure the surface is completely dry before you start spraying it.

4. Fill the sprayer

You should fill the sprayer about 3/4 full of sealer. After, tighten the top and pump the sprayer with air pressure until it is really difficult to pump. You may need to pump a few more times while you are spraying as the air pressure decreases.

You will need one gallon per 500 sq. feet that you are covering with the sealer. Source

5. Begin Spraying

You should be spraying in a circular motion from one end to the other, being sure to spray as thoroughly as possible. Follow the directions carefully that are given to you by the sealer company. The first layer should be very thin, as you will need to apply three separate layers to the concrete for the best results. Wait 20 minutes in between each of the layers. Source

6. Do Not Reseal When…

  • “When the temperature is 80 degrees or hotter 
  • When the temperature is below 55 degrees
  • In direct sunlight in the middle of the day
  • Early in the morning when there’s dew on the ground
  • When it rained the day before (remember, allow a full 24-48 for concrete to dry)
  • When there’s a chance of rain the day of
  • When it might rain the day after
  • When it’s windy outside
  • When the existing sealer just looks like it’s too thick (this is when you’ll have to strip it off and start over)” Source

Solution Two: Reposition Your Concrete

Another very big culprit for discolored concrete is the effects of UV sunlight on your concrete. Not even sealant can protect from the rays of sunlight, but here are some ideas on things to do moving forward:

  • Occasionally spray over your concrete with a hose or sprinklers every few hours. As someone who lived in Arizona, my parents grew up doing this to help their colored concrete.
  • Cover your concrete with a tarp, curing blanket, burlap, vinyl film, or any other material that can fully cover the surface of the concrete you wish to protect. Source
  • Reposition objects around your cement; Some have noted that they can just move common household objects such as grills, sheds, lawn equipment, etc. to places to cover the cement. It might take some creativity, but it can work. Source
  • If you are trying to protect a driveway or some other cement landscaping household, consider installing a drain. This can keep the water from settling into the concrete and ruining the color. Source

Solution Three: Excessive Weight

When concrete is faced with a lot of extra weight (say a lot of cars, construction vehicles, etc.) the paint can easily wear and tear. Position your vehicles in various spots as opposed to one direct spot to avoid discoloration.

Solution Four: Remove Chemicals

Sometimes, chemicals can be exposed or spilled onto the concrete; such as acid stains, chlorine, water, and items with acrylic-based stains and/or dyes. This is usually the case in circumstances in which the discoloration is rather small.

Here are some tricks that others have found effective in getting those stains out.

  • Brush and scrub the concrete scrub with hot water for stains that have longer-lasting, blotchier stains. Source
  • Use a pre-made concrete solution. Source
  • Use a 20-30% water solution of diammonium citrate. Leave it on the concrete, then brush it away. Source
  • Dampen the concrete, then use an acidic solution of 1% concentration of hydrochloric acid and or dilute solutions with a concentration of 3% for a very powerful formula. Source

Solution Five: Professional Work

If all of these solutions do not give the results that you need, the problem could be within the structural foundations of your concrete. Here are some common issues that can cause discoloration:

  • The concrete was poured with rain or too much water got in the solution, requiring the ratio to get mixed up. Source
  • Poor Finishing Techniques Source
  • Weather and Site Conditions Source
  • Was sealer placed when the concreted pored? If the surface is unnaturally dry compared to other types of concrete, there is likely no sealer present.

Characteristics Of Good Concrete

If you are one of the people who will need to start over, it is very important to focus on getting good quality concrete to avoid discoloration. Here are some things to look for:

  • How would the concrete be set? The setting of concrete is the process in which the material becomes hardened and the way the concrete gets its strength. Keep in mind that the process of setting concrete depends on the water ratio, the temperature when the concrete is poured in (it should not be too humid or too rainy), and the amount of aggregate in the cement. Source
  • How much does the concrete cost? With concrete, professionals recommend getting the best, more expensive kind of concrete as opposed to just getting the biggest bang for your buck, as concrete can either be very brittle and cheap or very strong and expensive.
  • What is the date of packing on the cement? Cement should be used before 90 days from the date of manufacture, also known as “the date of packing. Even a year after manufacture, the strength of the cement is reduced by 40-50%, and the cement starts waring off almost immediately. For example, the cement that is poured only two months after it is manufactured decreases in quality by 20 percent! Source
  • What is the color of the cement? The best type of cement is grey with a slight hint of green. If the cement is uniform in color, then you should also be good to go. Source
  • Does your cement have lumps in it? Good cement has no lumps. Lumps are formed within poured and un-poured concrete due to the concrete taking in extra moisture. Source

When you are buying and installing the cement:

  • Good quality cement should cost around 4-8 dollars per square foot.
  • What is the temperature of the cement? If you push your hand inside a bag of good cement, you should feel a certain coolness. Bad cement feels warm in your hand.
  • Does the cement float? Good quality cement will float for a while compared to other types of cement.
  • Call whoever is installing your concrete beforehand and make sure he is qualified for the job. Some seem to appear as experienced and knowledgeable when they know very little about how to do it well.
  • Some things to ask for when installing concrete are a portfolio of previous work, references, how long the project will take (if they say more than three days they are usually disqualified), the permit process for their project. If they do not know any of these things, skip them.
  • Establish a contract with whoever is working on your project before they start working. This will help the project go smoothly and also help you get the biggest bang for your buck, as some might try to put in extra fees that are not necessary.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Concrete usually only lasts about 10-50 years, so if you fit in that boat it may be time to get some new concrete
  • Concrete usually costs $3 and $10 per square foot or $109 and $159 per cubic yard for the installation and labor costs. Source
  • If your concrete was recently installed, it is best to wait around 90-120 days for the concrete to settle in before making any judgment calls about the discoloration. Source

Ricky Kesler

With all of the projects I've done over the years, you'd think that I work on my house full-time. But I actually enjoy other things like spending time outdoors and time with my family.

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