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Painting with Colored Cement

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This deals with the use of colored cement as a paint to colorize cement structures. 
 
Humidity passing through a cement roof can cause ceiling paint to blister and peel.  Not so with colored cement, which sticks like crazy to cement, even wet.  With luck, an interior cement "paint" job is a lifetime paint job. 

On the outside, cement paint helps seal cracks. 
 
I use a pressure sprayer for preliminary cleaning.    

One interesting advantage to using cement as paint is that spiders appear to not like raw cement.  There are very few spider webs where surfaces are painted with cement.  If you paint them with house paint, the spiders come.  Some insects (butterflies?) taste through their feet, I think.  Although not insects, that may explain why spiders don't like to hang out on raw cement.  Whatever the reason, fewer spiders in the house is good.  Fewer cobwebs to clean results in less time spent cleaning. 

 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
The basic materials needed are cement and pigments to colorize the cement.  Concrete acrylic fortifier can also be added to improve bonding and perhaps weather resistance on exterior surfaces.  I'm not sure if adding acrylic fortifier decreases the spider-repelling properties of the cement.  For interior painting it may not be as important to use it, anyway.

I use both regular gray Portland cement and white cement, depending on the colors I am after.  For darker colors, I use gray cement.  The more pigment you use, the more intense the colors will be.  The cement is the binder, though, so an excess of pigment could mean not enough binder and result in a chalky surface. 

Pigments for cement come in liquid and powder form.  I prefer the dry powder form, since I can mix the pigments with cement and store them for later use.  (Water in the liquid pigments would harden up the cement.)   One way to mix the different powders is to put them in a closed container, such as a plastic bucket with lid, and shake them. 

Unlike the powdered pigments available from some art supply stores, the pigments from hardware stores are more limited in color, and a lot less expensive.  Red is sort of a "red oxide", yellow is sort of ochre.  There is also a green, blue, and black.   With those basic colors, which are not true primary colors, you can mix a range of colors.  



This Wikipedia link will tell you way more than you need to know about Portland Cement.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portland_cement

Shandelar4 years ago
My basement is below grade and has a really bad mold problem. I'm looking for a way to fix this without the major expense of excavating and laying drain pipes along the foundation, not to mention ripping out the wallboard. What do you think of the idea of using a not-too-thick layer of painted cement to slather over the wallboard? Would that keep the moisture out?
Thinkenstein (author)  Shandelar4 years ago
By wallboard, I take it you mean gypsum board, with paper on both sides of a gypsum core? The problem I see there is the paper. Cement might stick to it for a while, but if the paper decays, the cement would fall off. Cement would probably stick better to the raw gypsum core, but then you lose the strength from the paper. -- If it wasn't for that, the cement would probably be a good surface. I made an underground tunnel and plastered it with cement. It still looks like new and has been up for maybe 15 years or longer. -- It might not keep the moisture out, since cement is porous, but there are cement base sealers that could hold back moisture. Then again, you might have more of a condensation problem if the surface is sealed. Cement likes humidity. The moisture won't harm the cement, at least. -- Anyway, keep thinking about it. It's late and I'm not thinking too clearly right now.
Thank you. I didn't realize you'd replied until today, almost four months later. I have another question. You said you plastered your underground tunnel with cement. Did you apply cement directly onto packed earth or did you use some intervening building material?
Thinkenstein (author)  Shandelar3 years ago
The floor and walls (including the ceiling) are covered with Nylon Cement .... nylon fishnet and the same 3:1 mix of sand to cement that is used for plastering.

After shaping the dirt, I splashed it with a soupy mix of cement and water with a big brush to make an egg shell-like layer of cement on the dirt. When that dried, I plastered the walls, without fishnet, embedding staple-shaped pieces of galvanized tie wire -- the points sticking outward from the cement.

When that hardened, I used the wire legs to hold the fishnet in place while I plastered it. The wires prevent a run-away failure if some of the cement lets go and pulls the net, which can make everything fall down. Because of the wires, the run only goes so far and stops.

After that layer hardens up, you can paint it with tinted cement. I did a first coat of yellow, followed by a couple splash coats of other colors and a final touch-up with a textured roller.

Cement from the ceiling falls on the floor, so you plaster the floor after plastering the ceiling.

Here are some recent photos.
10-9-20 tunnel (10).jpg10-9-20 TUNNEL (23).JPG10-9-20 TUNNEL (21).JPG
Great photos! I love the skylight and the cat is a really nice touch. :-)
gemtree3 years ago
Is there a place to buy the dry pigments cheaply?
Thinkenstein (author)  gemtree3 years ago
I live in Puerto Rico. A sack of yellow pigment recently cost me $100. I would guess it weighed about 60 pounds. It might be cheaper where you live. Ask around at hardware stores.
Thanks. Are you going to write an instructible for that roller?
Thinkenstein (author)  gemtree3 years ago
It's on my do-list now. Thanks for your interest.
gemtree3 years ago
Aw, you just saved me HUNDREDS of dollars.
'what is the wire nest thingy on the roof?
Thinkenstein (author)  janetsellers084 years ago
It's a trellis made of rebar. It connects to the ground on the back side of the house. Vines that grow on it shade the house and provide food.
Wow. Brilliant. Is it a seasonal plant?
Thinkenstein (author)  janetsellers084 years ago
Some of the vines live for more than a year. Most don't and have to be replanted.
Ninzerbean4 years ago
 Wow! I love it, this may sound crazy but do you think I could do this to the sidewalk in front of my house?
You might get in trouble if it's owned by your local authority...
 I wish, then they would fix it. It's all broken but fixing it up is my responsibility, some people in my neighborhood have bricked theirs. I just cleaned mine in a checkerboard pattern with a pressure washer.
IMG_0180.jpg
Really nice job with the pressure washer- reminds me of a graffiti project I saw somewhere.  Lucky for me (wife and neighbors would scream) our walks don't discolor so I can't use the front walk for my random rants and political views.
 Thank you, not one single neighbor has said a word about it since I did it (about  9 months ago).
Can we have this pattern next time please?!
25283490.pavementpatterns.jpg
 I'll have to be more bored but sure, why not?
.  The techniques should work just as well on a sidewalk as on a roof or any outside wall. Pigment choice becomes more important than with inside walls to avoid UV bleaching.
.  Other than adding the pigment(s), follow the same procedures you would use for building any sidewalk (eg, forming, reinforcing, &c).
.  As Thinkenstein points out, too much pigment will probably weaken the concrete.
.
.  BTW, very creative job with the pressure cleaner. Didn't happen to get pics for an iBle did ya?
 Ha ha - dirty side walk + pressure cleaner + being really bored.
Ha ha that's amazing!

The phone for your mum works now by the way. Building a case for it this week then submitting it. Should be building a cheaper, more flexible version in the next few months.
 I know we shouldn't be talking here - but when can I get one? She just turned 97 so it's not like she is going to need it for long and then I can give it back to you...
Thinkenstein (author)  Ninzerbean4 years ago
Yes, it should work.  I did it on my walkways.

Pressure clean the area first.

One part cement.  One part sand for non-slip texture.  Pigments.

Brush it on with a broom head, scrubbing to work it into the pores of the old cement.

Best to work in the late afternoon, after the heat of the day, letting it harden overnight.  If it dries out too fast, it dries chalky.  Spray mist with a hose if you see it drying out too fast. 
wenpherd4 years ago
Wow! thats really cool where is that located? It looks like a tropical rain forest place.
Thinkenstein (author)  wenpherd4 years ago
Backwoods Puerto Rico.  It is tropical rain forest, or almost. 
dchall84 years ago
Wow!  I had to go read your other cement projects.  Good stuff!! 

How are your zipper steps holding up now that they've gotten some use and some weather? 

I don't see that the fish net you use offers much in the way of anything with the very real exception that when you cover it with a layer of cement, you are guaranteed to have a layer that is as thick as the netting.  Otherwise the coat might be thin and thick in spots. 
Thinkenstein (author)  dchall84 years ago
Yes, the fishnet guarantees a minimal thickness.  It also holds the pieces together if the cement cracks, as it always does.  That is the main advantage.  The cement protects the nylon from ultraviolet sunlight.  They work together to make a long-lasting combined material. 
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