You are on page 1of 15




Colour and Texture

in Concrete Walling
An unlimited range of colours and textures can be provided on the surface of
concrete. The method of achievement varies depending on whether the treatment is
undertaken when the concrete is in the plastic or the hardened state, and whether
walling is cast insitu or in a precast factory. This publication provides an overview of
colouring and texturing concrete and outlines the key points to achieve the required
finish. Additional information about off-form concrete finishes can be found in the
CCAA’s publication Guide to Off-form Concrete Finishes.

Overview It should be noted that colour variations are

more apparent in plain surfaces than textured
Colour surfaces where they are – to varying extents –
General masked by the texture.
Colour consistency is usually an important
consideration in architectural concrete. Its Cements
achievement requires an understanding of Cements in Australia are produced in grey and
the many factors that can influence the colour. off-white colours. White cement is imported.
These include the concrete constituents and The availability of concrete made with off-white
their proportions, pigments, method and and white cement should be checked with the
duration of curing, form oils, release agents, supplier prior to specification. Concrete made
and the type and absorbency of the formwork. with off-white cement is generally available in
The key to colour consistency is to keep all most major cities; the availability of concrete
aspects of the concrete composition and made with white cement is limited.
construction method as consistent as possible.
Pigments Chemical stains, dyes and tints
Most pigments are oxides of iron – Chemical stains are liquids that
reds, yellows, browns and black. They penetrate into the concrete and
can be naturally occurring minerals react with the constituents of the
or manufactured, with the latter often concrete to permanently colour it.
referred to as synthetic oxides. Some Along with dyes and tints (coloured
colours such as blues and greens liquids), which can be used to
may cost more as they are special produce vibrant colours and extend
metal oxide pigments. Titanium white the palette of available colours, a
oxide pigment is also available, and vast range of colouring solutions is
used with off-white cement may be possible for both small and large
an economical way to obtain a ‘white’ projects. Because these products rely
concrete. Pigments can be added on penetrating the concrete surface,
directly to the concrete (integral they are more commonly used on
colour), contained in a topping or horizontally cast elements where the
render, or applied to horizontally cast stain can be allowed to pond on the
surfaces by using the ‘dry-shake’ surface. Due to the variability with
method. which they penetrate the surface, a
uniform colour cannot be achieved,
Black pigment used to colour precast rather a uniquely mottled finish will
retaining-wall panels be produced. The colour intensity
depends on various factors such as
the cement colour and permeability
of the concrete surface, which in
turn will be affected by the degree
of concrete compaction, curing and
surface trowelling. As chemical stains
react with the calcium hydroxide
produced by the hydration of the
cement, the time of their application
will influence the colour intensity
Aggregates come in a range of sizes achieved. Chemical stains should
and colours be used in accordance with the
manufacturer’s recommendations.
The fine and coarse aggregates will Chemical stains produce mottled
influence the perception of colour finishes
in exposed-aggregate finishes. The
colour of sand or fine aggregate
(and the cement matrix) will tend
to dominate in the case of light
abrasive blasting or acid etching; the
colour of the coarse aggregates will
dominate with techniques such as
heavy abrasive blasting, tooling, water
washing, honing and polishing. The
size and colour of the aggregates,
along with their proportions should be
specified if they are to be exposed.

Pigments used to colour the concrete

for a building facade (General Purpose
North 3 Building, The University of
Queensland) Variable absorbency of chemical
stains can add to the affect

Page 2 Briefing 03 september 2006

Dyes and tints (used for flowers and Applied finishes Textures
red background) produce vibrant Applied finishes include cement General
colours. Green area was chemically renders, applied coatings and Textures available for concrete
stained paint. They are normally specified finishes vary from smooth/patterned
if a consistently uniform colour is off-form finishes to an extensive
required over a large area, as a range of other treatments providing,
moisture/durability coating, or to for example, highly polished surfaces
provide some texture to the surface. or an assortment of fine- or coarse-
Advances in paint technology have textured finishes. Often a number of
resulted in longer-life paints and a alternative methods are available
greater range of applied finishes. to achieve the same appearance at
perhaps a lower cost. For example,
Acrylic paint coating used to produce acid etching and abrasive blasting
uniform colour over large areas can produce similar results to bush
hammering, while formliners can
replicate the textures of most finishes.

Concrete can reflect even the finest

detail of the surface against which it
is cast. (National Emergency Services
Memorial, Canberra)

Acrylic paint coating used to provide

uniform colour for individual concrete
panels Off-form
Off-form finishes are produced by
Coating containing powdered copper casting concrete against a mould,
was applied to formwork prior to formliner or form face which impart
Four coats of red dye sprayed onto concrete placement to produce green their textures or patterns to the
walls to achieve deep yet translucent copper oxide colour with weathering surface of plastic concrete. Smooth
red colour. (Shrine of Remembrance or plain faces are among the most
Courtyards, Melbourne) common. Some of the earliest
examples of texture were board-
marked surfaces and simple liner
details from timber battens. Not only
do these earlier finishes continue to
be refined but also innovative ways of
imparting texture continue to develop.
Various formliners are now available
that replicate almost any texture –
from timber, rope and tooled finishes
to various brick, block and stone
profiles. Note that as the aggregates

Briefing 03 september 2006 Page 3

are not exposed in off-form finishes, Stencilling
they do not contribute to the colour of Stencilling involves embedding a
the wall surface. Also, as formliners cardboard stencil into the surface of
can generally be reused many times, the plastic concrete and applying/
greater repetition will offset the initial working in a thin coloured topping,
cost and make their use economical. typically in the form of a dry shake
material which is hand-cast over the
Varying board thicknesses surface or coloured spray-on coating
used to give three-dimensional which can be applied over stencils on
board‑marked finish new or existing concrete. Once the
concrete and topping have stiffened
Rope finish at 45° provides texture sufficiently, the stencil is removed
and banding by alternating direction to reveal the colour of the generally
of rope. Integral colour used grey concrete below. The contrast
with the coloured topping defines the
Layers of formply used to create pattern, which may vary from brick
three-dimensional image on surface. and tile to various stone patterns.
Integral colour used While normally carried out on walling
panels cast horizontally, recent
developments extend the application
to vertical surfaces, providing
the potential for use with existing

Stencil pattern and dry-shake topping

used to achieve brick pattern on
precast walling elements

Scoring the surface with tools or
brooms is done when the concrete
has stiffened but before it has
hardened. In the past, makeshift
rakes comprising nails and timber
battens have been used to score the
surface, producing interesting results.
A number of formliners are now
available to more easily produce this
finish. Stiff bristle brooms can also be
dragged over the surface to produce
Timber battens used to create coarse textures that reflect the
details to resemble stone foundation. movement of the broom. Panels must
Applied coating used be cast horizontally to enable scoring
to be carried out.

Existing vertical surface is coated

Textured surface (left) produced with a thin topping which allows
by casting concrete against plastic embedment of stencil and application
sheeting over packers (right). Raked finish produced with a of colour [reproduced with permission
Integral colour used makeshift rake of nails and timber from 'Concrete' Vol. 40 No. 3 April 2006]

Page 4 Briefing 03 september 2006

Stamping Exposed aggregate Applied finishes
Stamping or imprinting the surface Exposed-aggregate finishes can Depending on the finishing technique
with moulds or other tools is done be produced using a variety of and equipment used (eg textured
when the concrete has stiffened techniques that result in different rollers), a variety of textures can be
but before it has hardened. Metal depths of exposure and texture. provided to cement renders, applied
dies and textured rubber mats are Techniques vary depending on coatings and paints.
widely used to replicate stonework, whether the panels are cast vertically
but any device can be used to make or horizontally, and whether they Textured granosite coating to
impressions in the surface. Quite are carried out before or after the concrete walls
intricate patterns are possible. Note concrete has hardened. They include
that wall panels must typically be abrasive blasting, high-pressure
cast horizontally (ie precast in a water blasting, acid etching, water
factory or on site) to allow stamping washing (often in combination with
of the surface. An alternative method a surface set retarder), rope and
suitable for both new or existing work various tooled finishes such as bush
is to provide a thin render coat to the hammering, point tooling, grinding,
vertical surface and use stamping honing and polishing. Needle
mats to profile the surface with scabbling tools can also be used to
various textures/patterns. locally remove the surface paste,
allowing intricate patterns and text to
Stamped patterns can have intricate be engraved into the concrete surface.
designs. Concrete chemically stained
Angle grinder with abrasive disc
(pictured) used to locally expose
aggregates to create ‘stone’
pavement appearance. Pattern
lines cut using small diamond blade
(yellow) on angle grinder. Surface
chemically stained

Acrylic paint to precast concrete

walls. Polished concrete floor with
integral colour [architect Strine
Stamping of vertical surfaces Design Pty Ltd with permission]
[reproduced with permission from
'Concrete' Vol. 40 No. 3 April 2006]

Needle scabbling tool used to expose

dark aggregates and create intricate

Briefing 03 september 2006 Page 5

Key points for specifiers n As the colour achieved is affected Key points when using coloured
and builders by the pigment concentration and toppings and render
the tinting strength of the pigment, n A monolithic topping is a layer of

Colouring colours should be specified by concrete that is placed on top of

Key points when using off-white and either selecting a particular colour an insitu or precast panel while
white concrete from a manufacturer’s range, or it is still in the plastic state. This
n There are many different shades specifying a colour in conjunction allows bonding of the two as they
of off-white and white, and if these with the manufacturer. harden simultaneously, effectively
colours are required, a test panel n The colour of the cement will affect producing a monolithic unit. The
should be provided to confirm the the final colour of the concrete. appearance can be the same as
acceptability of the concrete colour. n If pigments are added on site, the for integral colour, but of course
n To minimise the risk of colour concrete should be thoroughly the colour appears only on one
variations it is advisable to specify mixed to ensure an even side. Cost savings are possible as
that the cement be from a single distribution of pigment. a result of the reduced amount of
source for the duration of the n The use of pigments will generally pigment required.
project. mask minor colour variations n Dry shake topping products are

n Colour consistency over large between different batches of a form of monolithic topping and
areas tends to be less of a concrete. can be supplied as pre-bagged
challenge with off-white concrete, mixtures of pigment, cement and
as it is more consistent in colour Pigments come in a range of colours sand. They can also contain a
than grey concrete. for any application surface hardener to increase the
strength of the concrete surface
Key points when using pigments and consequently its resistance
n The use of pigments is the most to abrasion. The method involves
common method of colouring the broadcasting the powder by hand
full depth of concrete, providing a onto the surface of pre-hardened
coloured surface on all faces of a concrete, following the evaporation
concrete element and eliminating of bleed water. The surface is
the need for subsequent surface floated and finished in the same
coatings/paints. way as general concrete. Curing
n Pigments are available as either requires care to avoid patchiness
powders, granules which dissolve, of colour. After hardening, a thin
or liquids. The ultra-fine particles monolithic coloured layer results.
of pigments do not dissolve and n Bonded toppings are thin layers
stain the concrete materials, but of coloured material applied to
disperse as fine solids throughout the surface after the concrete has
the concrete matrix and are bound hardened. Preparation, bonding
into the concrete in the same of the topping to the existing
manner as the aggregates. surface and timing of application
n Pigments are not affected by are critical aspects if delamination
ultraviolet rays (eliminating fading), is to be avoided. For a concrete
are insoluble (do not leach out of topping mix containing a 10-mm
the concrete), chemically inert aggregate, a practical range would
(do not react with the concrete be a thickness between 20 and
constituents), alkaline resistant 40 mm.
and once bound into the concrete n Renders are a form of bonded
matrix they provide a permanent topping typically applied to vertical,
colouring solution. rather than horizontal surfaces.
n As a guide, the amount of pigment See Key points when using applied
required is generally 5% to 8% finishes.
of the mass of the cementitious n Regardless of the method of
material in the mix. At these topping/rendering, consistency
percentages pigments are not of the colour is important.
expected to affect the potential Pre‑bagged products should
strength of the concrete. Integrally coloured concrete blends be from the one production lot
n For exposed aggregate finishes, with red rock environment and the same quantity of water
the amount of pigment required added to each bag when mixing,
is typically reduced to about 1% or as variations may cause colour
2% as the predominant colour will changes. Similarly, all pre-mixed
come from the aggregates. concrete should be from the

Page 6 Briefing 03 september 2006

same load or batch. If more than Colour of aggregates will Key points when using chemical stains
one batch of concrete is required, predominate once exposed. n As the colour intensity is affected
provision should be made to Point tooled finish by the colour of the cement and its
allow for some colour variation content, these should be specified.
between batches, albeit minor. If For example, portland cement (Type
hand batching smaller loads, the GP) will produce more-intense
proportion of all ingredients should colours. A high cement content will
be kept constant, and minor colour also be beneficial in this regard.
variations between mixes should n Concrete supply, placement,
be expected. compaction and curing should be
as consistent as possible to ensure
Key points when using exposed a reasonably even penetration of
aggregates the stain. While stains will always
n The size of the aggregate should produce a mottled finish, the
reflect the scale of the element intensity of colour may vary between
and the viewing distance. As a batches and areas where finishing
guide 10- to 20-mm stones are and curing procedures have varied.
appropriate for a viewing distance n Spray application should be used
up to about 12 m, 20- to 25-mm for consistent colour over large
stones up to about 20 m, and 25- to areas. Work should proceed
32-mm stones up to about 27 m. uniformly from one point and
n Single-sized aggregates achieve a spray pattern should overlap
better density of aggregate on the the previously coated area. The
exposed surface, especially if the applicator should stand on
water-washing technique is used. unsprayed areas and work away
n Expensive aggregates can be Stones embedded in surface of from completed work to avoid
seeded onto the surface and precast sound barrier panels marking the surface.
trowelled in (for horizontally cast n Application by brush should be
elements) to avoid using them While the aggregates do not cover limited to small areas or those
throughout the concrete mix. the entire surface, their scale and where some brush marks and
n For specific applications, the viewing distance provide a coloured lighter/darker areas can be
proportion of different aggregates and textured solution. tolerated. For applications where
within the mix can be specified, non-uniform finishes are required,
eg 80% of a particular river gravel brush marks may enhance the
and 20% white quartz. appearance.
n Tooled finishes such as point n Application on vertical surfaces
tooling, hammered nib and can be made using a sponge
abrasive blasting can be used for to prevent runoff and allow
insitu work. Techniques such as absorption into concrete surface.
acid etching, water washing and However, it is generally easier
seeding the surface, generally, and more cost effective to apply
require the element to be cast stains to horizontal surfaces such
horizontally. as precast and tilt-up walling
n Increased cover to reinforcement panels. The ability to pond stains
may be required to allow for the on the surface will typically result
depth of tooling or exposure of the in greater stain penetration and
aggregates. therefore improved colour intensity.
n Exposed aggregate finishes can
also be achieved by embedding
stones into the surface of elements
cast horizontally. The size and
spacing can be designed to achieve
various results.

Stones embedded in precast panels Applying chemical stain to a stamped

used for the Hull Bridge at Mt Hotham vertical surface using a sponge
[architect Fooks, Martin, Sandow & [reproduced with permission from
Anson Pty Ltd (FSMA) with permission] 'Concrete' Vol. 40 No. 3 April 2006]

Briefing 03 september 2006 Page 7

Off-form finishes liners such as polyurethane or Panels produced with plastic
Key points for smooth finishes silicone rubbers to allow the mould formliners
n Smooth finishes from materials to be stripped without tearing the
such as plastic-coated plywood concrete from the panel.
and fibreglass should not be used n Good seals at joints of abutting
on surfaces that will be viewed liners prevent leakage of cement
close-up, ie from closer than paste. In the case of rigid
three metres. This is because it formliners, it is advisable to stop
is difficult to ensure that such the moulded surface short of
surfaces are blemish-free and the panel edges to control the
very difficult, if not impossible, to tightness of joints, and minor
repair areas and have them match misalignment of panels.
the adjacent finish and/or colour. n The release agent must be
However, they are appropriate for compatible with the formliner
surfaces visible only from greater material.
distances. n Cement hydration increases
n Achieving consistent colour the concrete temperature. High
over large areas can be difficult. temperatures may degrade some
Without any texture on the surface formliners. Stripping the forms
to mask minor colour variations, after 24 hours avoids prolonged
smooth finishes tend to highlight exposure to increased temperature.
any colour variations. Also, the forms should be shaded
n If colour control is required, from direct sun during the casting
similar to other types of finishes, process.
all aspects of the construction n The concrete should be well
from concrete material to placing, compacted by vibration.
finishing and curing must be kept n The forms should be cleaned
consistent. The absorbency of the before reuse.
form face must also be uniform Formliner used to create rough
to avoid colour variations. Lightly Panels produced with rubber texture (note rebates used between
sanding the form face with fine formliners panels to produce clean lines and
sandpaper will help improve avoid joints in formliners)
colour control as will ‘pickling’ the
formwork surface before use.
n Joints between form face sheets
should be tight and preferably
sealed, to avoid grout or water
loss that may cause staining of the
surface or areas of honeycombed
concrete. Horizontal construction
joints may also need to be sealed
to avoid grout loss and staining of
completed work below.

Key points when using formliners

n Textured or modelled surfaces
disguise imperfections in concrete
n Formliner materials include
styrene foam, rigid plastics,
fibreglass, polyurethane rubbers, Formliner used to create recurring
silicone rubbers, profiled steel pattern – integral colour used
sheet and timber battens. The
choice of the formliner material
will be based on the complexity
and depth of the modelled
surface, and the number of reuses.
Undercut surfaces, for example are
formed with flexible, elastomeric

Page 8 Briefing 03 september 2006

Exposed Aggregates abrasive blasted or etched prior to
Key points when using honing and polishing the surface.
polishing n For panels containing different
n Honing is the process where the finishes, areas to be honed/
surface is ground with 30 to 220 polished should be separated by
grit abrasive to expose the either wide grooves or be slightly
aggregates and give a matt finish. higher than adjacent areas to allow
Polishing the surface requires the grinding machine to grind to
further grinding with finer the edge of the area.
abrasives and generally produces n Convex surfaces with a radius of
a surface that has a high lustre 3 m or more can be polished by
resembling polished granite. computerised polishing machinery.
n Not all aggregates will polish to However, concave surfaces are
a high lustre. Most commercial unsuitable as the polishing head,
quartzites, limestone and basalt even in smaller hand tools, is
can be honed but not highly generally flat. Polishing of concave
polished. Granites can be highly surfaces can be achieved as either
polished and are available in a a series of narrow, flat strips or
broad range of colours. Quartz, by profiling the grinding head: the
and river gravels composed latter is rarely employed due to the
primarily of quartz, can also be increased cost.
highly polished, although the n Columns ranging in diameter from
colour range is limited. 200–1200 mm can be polished and
Identical panels integrated to achieve n A concrete mix with continuously- should be sized to allow rotation
unique appearance as a whole graded aggregates in the usual under the available polishing
(Art Panel at Galleria Apartments, proportions will generally result in machine.
Brisbane) a non-uniform distribution of the n Sharp edges are vulnerable to
coarse aggregates. chipping during polishing and
Fine casting against a formliner n To achieve uniformity, the transporting. Bevels or chamfers
can produce intricate patterns intermediate aggregate sizes are of a minimum of 10 mm are
resembling wall paper [reproduced often omitted in what is called a recommended. These can also be
with permission from 'Concrete' Vol. 40 gap-graded concrete mix. In gap- polished.
No. 3 April 2006] grading, a larger percentage of n If it is necessary to have lifting
coarse aggregate and a smaller ferrules in a polished surface
percentage of fine aggregate – they should be stainless steel and
sufficient for workability – are used. recessed. Attempting to disguise
n Aggregates should be stockpiled in them with flush filled patching
sufficient quantities for a project to is not recommended; the use of
ensure uniformity of colour. stainless steel cover plates or caps,
n Test panels should be used as a or polished reconstructed stone
basis for specification, tendering plugs is preferable.
and quality control during
manufacture. Polished concrete panels provide
n The cement matrix can be coloured excellent weathering characteristics
with pigments. See Key points with no sealer required
when using pigments.
n Areas requiring hand work should
be minimised to reduce costs.
n For surfaces with projections,
the corners at the base of the
projections will require hand
polishing unless rebates around
the projection can be incorporated
to provide an edge capable of being
machine polished.
n Polishing machines will pass over
grooves and other rebates leaving
them unpolished. To reveal the
aggregates, the grooves can be

Briefing 03 september 2006 Page 9

Key points when using acid etching Light blasting removes the surface
n Diluted acids are used to remove skin to reveal the fine aggregates
the surface skin of cement paste to (sand) and a little of the coarse
reveal the underlying aggregates – aggregate. The sand dominates the
usually sand and the smaller colour; the colour of the cement
stones. paste and the coarse aggregates
n Concrete must be well compacted, are secondary. Light blasting can
cured for a minimum of 7 days, Acid etching process (above) and be done between 7 and 45 days.
free from cracks and have light and medium textures (below) Medium blasting exposes the
sufficient cover for reinforcement coarse aggregate so that it
to allow for depth of etching. projects about 6 mm from the
n Textures resembling fine surface. As two-thirds of the stone
sandpaper are commonly specified, should remain embedded in the
although deeper etching that concrete, this will dictate the use
reveals coarse aggregate is of a minimum 20 mm aggregate
possible. size. Coarse aggregate should be
n Contractors should be experienced. hard enough to resist the extended
Etching involves controlled and blasting so it too is not eroded
deliberate action over small at the same rate as the cement
areas at any one time. Different matrix. To assist with the removal
operators may produce slight of the cement matrix, medium
variations in finish; results blasting should be carried out at
are usually better if the same an early age, usually before seven
operator works on the entire panel. days from the time of casting.
Operators should be coordinated Heavy blasting results in exposing
to improve consistency between up to one third of the coarse
adjoining panels. aggregate. To increase the texture
n Precast panels or elements should achieved, a larger aggregate could
be inclined during etching to be used. To achieve uniformity
prevent ponding, which should be a higher proportion of coarse
avoided. Key points when using abrasive aggregates is generally needed.
n After etching, the surface must be blasting The colour is dominated by the
thoroughly washed with water to n Abrasive blasting using either coarse aggregates. Heavy blasting
remove any residual acid. sand or grit (boiler slag or should be carried out prior to any
n Acid etching is often done to carborundum) produces a substantial strength gain in the
improve the colour uniformity cost-effective finish with good concrete, usually within 24 hours
of panels. However, during the weathering characteristics. The from the time of casting.
manufacturing process different sand or grit can be either airborne n A surface set retarder is
panels may be subjected to varying or air/water borne. The choice recommended for medium and
levels of ambient humidity. Initially, of medium is best left to the heavy blasting. This will generally
tonal variations in colour might be contractor. help achieve a more uniform finish
considered unsatisfactory, but are n The concrete should be at lower cost.
likely to moderate when the panels properly placed and compacted. n Sample panels are recommended
have balanced moisture content. Sandblasting may reveal air to assist in making selections and
n The combination of etching voids/blow holes or areas of to become the basis for approvals.
and honing produces a surface honeycombed concrete resulting
characterised by flat coarse from inadequate placing and Light blasting produces a coarse
aggregate, which is slightly compaction. sandpaper-like texture
proud of the underlying matrix. n Abrasive blasting is usually
Pedestrian pavements are followed by a light acid wash to
treated in this way to improve slip clean the surface.
resistance. n Grades of abrasive blasting may be
described as follows:
Brush blasting produces a light
surface texture that feels like
sandpaper. It does not reveal the
coarse aggregates. The resulting
colour is that of the cement matrix.
Brush blasting can be done at any
time after seven days from casting.

Page 10 Briefing 03 september 2006

Key points when using water n Alternatively, the surface of panels Selective exposure of aggregates
washing can be ‘seeded’ with selected produced by painting set retarder
n After stiffening, but before final aggregates, which reduces the onto form face, followed by water
setting, the concrete surface is cost by eliminating the need for washing
washed with water and lightly expensive aggregates throughout
brushed to remove the cement the mix. They are cast over the
matrix to the specified depth. Often surface and tamped/bull-floated
the surface may be re-trowelled to embed them beneath the
and the washing operation surface. The surface is floated and
repeated to improve the uniformity trowelled, and washed in the
of aggregate in the surface. same way.
n Exposure of the fine aggregates
(sands) or coarse aggregates Key points when using surface set
(stones) will contribute significantly retarders
to the overall colour of the surface. n Set retarders slow the setting
To ensure adequate bond into the process without impairing the final
concrete, no more than one third of hardening or the ultimate strength
the stone should be exposed. of the concrete. Once stripped, the
n The low absorption of the concrete surface should be washed
aggregates results in reduced or blasted to remove the retarded
staining from airborne grime, and cement paste as soon as possible,
in improved weathering over time. and before the concrete surface
n Dense coarse aggregates such as hardens.
river gravels, crushed granites and n Different types of surface set
quartz with a rounded or cubical retarders are available to suit
shape are the most suitable. different applications and
n A gap-graded aggregate, or one conditions. Some are solvent
with a single sized stone, is based, some water based.
preferred. Water washing can n Different grades of retarder
remove the smaller stones from result in different depths of paste
a continuously graded mix. This removal.
reduces the aggregate density at n The mix design will influence
the surface and could result in a the degree of paste removal.
non-uniform appearance. Proportions of water (water-
n While the stone size is typically cement ratio), aggregate grading,
10–14 mm, larger stones can be admixtures (eg plasticisers), and
used to create coarser textures to the type of cement will all affect
suit the scale of larger buildings/ the depth of paste removal. Test
spaces. Larger aggregates panels are essential. Heat curing
increase the amount of cement (steam curing) reduces the degree
paste that needs to be removed of paste removal.
from between stones. Returns and n Thicker elements or high strength
reveals are also more difficult to concrete can develop high
detail. temperatures at an early age. This
n Fine and coarse aggregates should may result in an increased rate
be stockpiled for a project to of strength development, which
ensure uniform colour throughout in turn, may affect the depth of
the work. paste removal. Test panels should
n The cement matrix can be coloured be based on the actual panel
with the selection of cement, sand thickness.
and pigments, to complement or n Careful placement and compaction
contrast with the stones. of the concrete is required to
n Panels are normally cast ‘face-up’. ensure that the surface set
However, ‘face-down’ casting is retarder (applied to the form face)
possible by applying a surface set- remains in its correct location.
retarder to the face of the form. n Use of fugitive dyes may assist in
Water washing commences after achieving a uniform coverage of
the panel is removed from the the surface set retarder.

Briefing 03 september 2006 Page 11

Key points when using tooled finishes Veneers
n Tooled finishes involve mechan- Key points when using stone veneers
ically tooling or hammering an n Stone veneers are large relatively
off-form finish to produce a rough thin pieces of stone fixed to a
texture. Tooling should be carried structural concrete panel/wall.
out after the concrete has reached n The method of attachment should
its design strength. Additional take account of concrete shrinkage,
concrete cover to reinforcement stresses from handling and
must be provided to allow for the transport, different coefficients of
depth of removal during tooling. thermal expansion, and service
n The depth of removal depends loads, particularly wind suction.
on the process being used. Bush n Mechanical anchors for stone
hammering may vary from veneer should be flexible to allow
removal of the surface cement relative in-plane movement.
paste to extensive removal of the n The precast backing panels should
matrix and possible fracturing of be low-shrinkage concrete with a
the stone. The depth of hammering thermal expansion coefficient that
must be specified (typically approximates that of the stone. The
1 to 8 mm) and the appearance coefficient of thermal expansion of
verified by a test panel. Hammered nib finish concrete can be varied by changing
n Point tooling provides a very coarse the aggregate type.
texture about 15 mm in depth. It Hammered nib using ‘V’ shaped nib n Direct adhesion between stone
will generally remove or conceal and larger aggregates. Note how and concrete should be prevented
any surface imperfections; a large from a distance the aggregate colour by installing a bond breaker
aggregate should be used. Note predominates such as membranes or spray-on
that this type of coarse texture is compounds between materials.
generally suited to larger-scale n A moisture barrier between the
projects or spaces. concrete and the stone should
n Hammered-nib finishes involve prevent efflorescence on the stone.
producing a smooth off-form n Impact drilling for anchors may
striated finish and then hammering induce micro cracking. Diamond
the nibs to produce a rugged tip drills should be used.
broken appearance that highlights n Thickness of stone should
the coarse aggregate. The base generally be 30 mm or more.
striated finish and degree of n Repairs, if required, should be
hammering must be specified. made with a mixture of epoxy,
Striated finishes can vary from stone dust and colouring agent.
square and curved profiles to n Split rock and cobbles can be
triangular shapes, while the embedded in concrete panels by
options for hammering range first laying them in a sand bed in
from producing a continuously the bottom of the form and placing
fractured nib, to hammering only structural concrete backing over
at specific centres (eg 250 mm) them. After removing the panel
or hammering alternatively from from the form the sand is washed
each side of the nib. from the surface.
n The strength of the aggregates n The subsequent treatment of
should prevent excessive the surface will determine the
fracturing or wearing away of the strength of the stone to be used.
stone during the tooling process. For example, bush hammering
will require a higher strength than
Abrasive blasted finish on left. polishing.
Point tooled finish on right. Hammered nib finish replicated
with silicon rubber formliner. Note
absence of exposed aggregates to
provide colour

Page 12 Briefing 03 september 2006

Key points when using brick veneers situations. Note that scabbling
n Thin brick tiles or batts can be the surface of concrete will not
embedded into the face of concrete improve suction but will increase
panels by laying them face down in the surface area for adhesion and
purpose-made rubber formliners provide some mechanical bond.
or plastic carrier-guides which, n Shrinkage and cracking are
when removed after casting, form essentially related to the water
the ‘joints’. content of the render. The more
n Reinforced concrete is placed to water the greater the likelihood of
form a structural, backing panel. shrinkage. The demand for water
n A thin coloured layer of concrete can be reduced by careful choice
can be placed over the bricks to of sand (ideally well graded) with
vary the ‘mortar’ colour between negligible clay fraction and of good
the brick units prior to placing particle shape (rounded or cubic).
the remainder of the panel with n Admixtures that improve
normal grey concrete. workability, such as acrylic
n Panel lengths and corner returns polymers, have been shown to
should be designed to match the reduce the requirement for water
brick pattern so that joint locations and impede evaporation, which in
have a regular bond pattern. turn reduces shrinkage.
n Smaller areas divided by joints will
Brick batts used as a surface veneer reduce the risk of cracking.
on selected areas of precast panels. n Joints should be provided at all
changes of material and direction
Randomly shaped pieces of marble and at built-in items such as damp
are mechanically fixed to the backing courses.
concrete with anchors and separated n Joints should be provided in render,
with a bond breaker. These panels and aligned with joints in the
have been honed and polished. background panel. Render should
not be continuous across joints in
Stones laid in sand bedding and the structure as movement at the
backed with structural concrete joints may cause cracking.
panel. Feature brickwork corners n Textures range from smooth
conceal joints between panels surfaces (similar to fine
sandpaper) produced with a variety
Applied Finishes of hand-held floats, to coarse
Key points when using cement textures such as ‘bagged’ finishes
render (a relatively low-cost rustic-style
n Cement render bonds to the finish that masks the defects),
substrate through the chemical and a machine-sprayed coarse,
reactions of the cement particles spatter‑texture finish. Other
that are drawn into the surface decorative finishes are made by
of the substrate by the suction combing or raking the surface, or
of water (containing the cement using special tools.
particles) from the render. The n Cement render can be coloured
degree of suction is adequate with pigments.
on low-strength concrete (eg
20 MPa) but is inadequate on Coloured render being applied to wall
high-strength mixes (eg 50 MPa [reproduced with permission from
or more) or other non-porous 'Concrete' Vol. 40 No. 3 April 2006]
substrates. Any debonding agents,
curing compounds, paint or
other coatings which could affect
the bonding mechanism must
therefore be removed prior to
application of render. Providing a
mechanical bond by, for example,
using metal lath fixed to the wall
is an alternative solution in these

Briefing 03 september 2006 Page 13

Key points when using stencilled and Key points when using applied
stamped finishes coatings and paints
n The correct timing of the n Surfaces should be clean and
cardboard stencil and colour free of oil, release agents, curing
hardener application is critical to compounds, laitance, efflorescence
the success and durability of the and any other material that may
finish. If the cardboard stencil is affect the bond of the coating/paint
inadequately bonded to the surface to the concrete surface.
it may adhere to the topping and n Surfaces should be prepared
leave ragged edges when removed. and the coating/paint applied
The colour may also penetrate in accordance with the
beneath the stencil and colour the manufacturer’s recommendations,
pattern lines formed by the stencil. especially if a waterproofing or
If the concrete is too wet and durability function is required from
stencils are embedded too deeply, the coating/paint.
they will be difficult to remove n Product should be thoroughly
and also leave ragged edges and mixed to ensure uniform colour
uneven ‘joint’ depths. is achieved. This is particularly
n The timing of stamping is also important for cement-based
critical to avoid crusting of products where regular mixing
the surface (from drying) and may be required to prevent
consequent cracking of the settlement of the constituents and
concrete where stamps are colour variations.
pressed into the surface. n Coating/paint should be alkali

n Joints should be incorporated at resistant as concrete is highly

existing joints in the building. alkaline. A suitable sealer may be
n The colour should be applied in required.
two stages at 90° to each other n If applying close to the ground
to ensure an even distribution where moisture or rising damp
of colour. For dark colours, may exist, a suitable moisture
the application of extra colour resistant coating/paint should be
hardener (third coat) should be used. If coating/painting rendered
considered to ensure no lighter surfaces near the ground, a joint
coloured areas remain and result should be incorporated at the
in a mottled finish. damp course level to prevent rising
n The surface must be cured to allow damp affecting the adhesion/colour
the cementitious colour hardener of the coating.
to gain strength for durability. n Cost savings can result from

n The release agent used for pre-priming and painting precast

stamped finishes (to prevent panels before delivery to site.
moulds from adhering to the n If cement-based paints and
concrete) must be thoroughly coatings are used, any specific
removed prior to the application requirements by the manufacturer
of the surface sealer to ensure relating to the curing of the
adequate bond to the surface and material should be followed.
minimise the risk of efflorescence.
Pigmented cement-based paint can
provide permanent colouring of walls

Page 14 Briefing 03 september 2006


Level 6, 504 Pacific Highway
St Leonards NSW Australia 2065
Locked Bag 2010
Briefing 03 September 2006 supersedes Briefing 03 July 2000 St Leonards NSW 1590
TELEPHONE: (61 2) 9437 9711
FACSIMILE: (61 2) 9437 9470
Other Briefings available online from are:
Briefing 01 Colouring, stencilling and stamping concrete flatwork Level 14, IBM Building
348 Edward Street
Briefing 02 Exposed aggregate finishes for flatwork Brisbane QLD 4000
TELEPHONE: (61 7) 3831 3288
Briefing 04 Concrete panel homes FACSIMILE: (61 7) 3839 6005

Briefing 05 Polished concrete floors 2nd Floor, 1 Hobson Street
South Yarra VIC 3141
Briefing 06 Form liners achieving surface relief and texture TELEPHONE: (61 3) 9825 0200
FACSIMILE: (61 3) 9825 0222
Briefing 07 Concrete floor heating
Briefing 08 Concrete panel buildings 45 Ventnor Avenue
West Perth WA 6005
TELEPHONE: (61 8) 9389 4452
Briefing 09 Passive solar design
FACSIMILE: (61 8) 9389 4451

Greenhill Executive Suites
213 Greenhill Road
Eastwood SA 5063
PO Box 229
Fullarton SA 5063
TELEPHONE: (61 8) 8274 3758
FACSIMILE: (61 8) 8373 7210
PO Box 243
Henley Beach SA 5022
TELEPHONE: (61 8) 8353 8151
FACSIMILE: (61 8) 8353 8151

PO Box 246
Sheffield TAS 7306
TELEPHONE: (61 3) 6491 2529
FACSIMILE: (61 3) 6491 2529



Layout: Helen Rix Design

Disclaimer: Cement Concrete & Aggregates

Australia is a not for profit organisation sponsored
by the cement concrete and aggregate industries
in Australia to provide information on the many
uses of cement and concrete. This publication
is produced by CCAA for that purpose. Since
the information provided is intended for general
guidance only and in no way replaces the services
of professional consultants on particular projects, no
legal liability can be accepted by CCAA for its use.

CCAA respects your privacy. Your details have

been collected to provide you with information on
our activities, publications and services. From time
to time your details may be made available to third
party organisations who comply with the Privacy
Act such as affiliated associations, sponsors of
events and other reputable organisations whose
services we think you may find of interest. If you do
not wish to receive information from CCAA or wish
to be taken off the database please write to the
Privacy Officer, CCAA, Locked Bag 2010,
St Leonards, NSW, 1590

ISSN 1447-199X

Briefing 03 september 2006 Page 15