GLOSSARY OF TERMS | butchbandoconcrete

Glossary of Concrete Terms

Concrete Coloring Terms

Acid Stains

Acid staining is a coloring process applied after the concrete is initially poured and cured. Acid stains are translucent and accentuate rather than cover flaws in the concrete. This technique gives concrete a mottled, variegated, marble like look. Acid staining should not be expected to be uniform or have an even tone, and yields different reactions from slab to slab. You may see different coloration patterns even on the same job. Acid staining does not permeate the entire depth of the surface but resides at the upper surface and is subject to damage from abrasion or scratching. Acid stain can also be used on existing concrete surfaces with proper surface preparation. After acid stain is applied, the surface can be sealed and or waxed to protect the stain and add shine and depth. A 30-day curing period is required prior to application to new concrete. Early consideration should be taken when determining the mix of the concrete and the curing method when acid staining is desired.

Antiquing or Color Release Agents

Color Release Agent is used when stamping fresh concrete surfaces. The release is designed to create a lubricant and release membrane between the imprint tool and the concrete surface providing an antique effect to the surface of the imprinted concrete.

Colored Concrete

Color can be added to concrete using manufactured colors added into the mix (“integral”) or dusted on to the surface (“Dry Shake”). Color added into the mix is uniform throughout the depth of the concrete. Surface applied color resides on a thin layer at the surface and can be affected by abrasion or scratching.

“Dry Shake” Colored Hardener

“Dry Shake” colored hardener is a surface colorant which also increases the surface ware resistance of ready mix concrete. The product is broadcast over the slab, allowed to absorb some moisture and finished with a float or power trowel. Colored hardener is a surface applied treatment and does not penetrate through the depth of the concrete.

Painting Concrete

Existing or well-cured concrete can be painted for artistic or practical effects. Concrete may be painted to camouflage a repair or update the look of an existing installation.

Stained Patterned Concrete

Existing concrete can be decorated by sawcutting patterns into the concrete and staining sections with different concrete stains. Blending stain colors one on top of another can create variegated looks.

Stained Overlays

Broom Finish is a textured finish that can be created using light or coarse broom bristles. Brooming can provide a non-slip surface.
A thin layer of polymer cement is applied over existing concrete or wood base and chemically stained with single or multiple translucent colors. Decorative patterns can be sawcut in varying shapes and patterns to enhance the look of the floor.

Concrete Finish Terms

Broom Finish

Broom Finish is a textured finish that can be created using light or coarse broom bristles. Brooming can provide a non-slip surface.


Etching is the treatment of a surface with an acid in order to dissolve loose particles or provide a profile.

Exposed Aggregate

Rocks may be added to the entire mix of concrete for visual effect. Washing away the top layer of cement with water, chemicals or sandblasting exposes the rocks on the surface resulting in an interesting finish adding texture and color variance.

Float and Trowel Textures

Textures and patterns can be made on concrete using a variety of tools. Coarse, medium or smooth texture can be created in swirls, arcs, waves or other patterns. Steel trowels create medium or smooth finishes.

Hand Tooling Concrete

Decorative lines for special effect or control joints can be placed in concrete with “jointers.” Jointers come in various depths and widths. Hand tooling serves the same purpose as saw cut joints but does not serve the same purpose as expansion joints. Hand tooling is placed in the concrete when it is wet.

Patterned Concrete

See stamped concrete.

Sawcutting Concrete

After concrete has hardened, a power concrete saw can be used to cut patterns into the concrete surface for architectural or decorative effect. Almost all concrete must have control joints cut into it to help concrete crack in desired locations because all concrete will crack. Sawcutting attempts to encourage a place for the concrete to crack in a controlled and desirable manner. Sawcutting does not serve the same purpose as expansion joints.

Stamped Concrete

Concrete can be imprinted or “stamped” to look like a wide variety of three-dimensional patterns, colored and then sealed. Combining stamping with colored concrete can yield fabulous results. The resulting surface combines the durability of concrete with the beauty of masonry. Pattern choices include slate, brick, granite, cobblestone, tile, flagstone, seamless texture, and more. Multiple patterns and colors can be used together with custom bandwork, edging, and decorative centerpieces.


Decorative flatwork can be enhanced by installing an epoxy overlay on the surface. Critical in this process is good surface preparation and achieving a good bond. This process can make existing concrete more durable and appealing.

Concrete General Terms


Aggregate is material such as sand, gravel, or crushed stone used in and on concrete or asphalt.


The term batch represents a quantity of either concrete or mortar mixed at one time.


Base is the layer of materials on which a slab or area of pavement is placed. It may be made up of different types of materials ranging from soils to crushed stone or gravel.

Expansion Joint

An expansion joint provides a separation between adjoining parts allowing small relative movements (as those caused by temperature changes) to occur without one part affecting adjacent parts.

Polymer Cement Overlays

Polymer cement overlays can be applied thinly or up to several inches thick, without delaminating, as a surface restoration material for concrete surfaces. Polymer cement overlays are much more resistant to damage from salt, petrochemicals, UV, harsh weather conditions and traffic wearing than conventional concrete surfaces. This treatment can be used for concrete resurfacing, regrading and in conjunction with stamping and staining.


Spalling occurs when the finished surface breaks away from the base aggregate of a concrete slab. The most common cause for spalling is when the concrete is improperly maintained or improperly sealed and is exposed to winter de-icing chemicals, such as salt and calcium chloride, as well as typical freeze-thaw associated with winter weather. It can be as little as the salt that drips from automobiles onto driveways or in garages. Spalling can occur at any time… even in less than a year.

Vapor Barrier

A vapor barrier is used to prevent or limit the amount of moisture which may rise upward through a slab. A vapor barrier is desirable when people and/or animals are intended to inhabit an area on a regular basis. It helps ensure proper insulation and function for surfaces such as tile, carpet, etc.


Waterproofing products are added to a concrete mix or on to a concrete surface to prevent moisture from flowing through the masonry materials. This is typically applied to vertical poured concrete and block foundation walls.

Weep Hole

Weep holes are formed openings placed in the bottom of foundation walls to encourage water movement from the exterior of the foundation wall into the interior drainage tile and sump system. When used in retaining walls, a weep hole allows the water which strains through the dirt to exit the retaining wall area, reducing hydraulic pressure and chance of wall collapse.

Concrete Key Terms

Borders / Bands

Bands are the border areas which surround concrete flatwork. Bands can be any type of plainly finished or decorative concrete such as stamped, exposed aggregate or colored concrete and add emphasis and contrast.


Fields are larger areas of flatwork that go inside the “bands” or are individual flatwork sections if no bands are used. Fields may have the same decorative color or finish or be different in a graphic or random pattern.