Stamped concrete is one of those home remodeling trends that seems to be catching fire and for good reason.
Perhaps you’ve seen it in the past and weren’t much impressed. Only expensive commercial applications looked decent, and even that was a stretch. Recently, though, new texturizing and pigmenting trends allow homeowners to introduce it to their exteriors.
What Is Stamped Concrete?
For many years, a lesser form of stamped concrete was often seen that merely duplicated patterns.
But the newer types of stamped concrete impart textures that duplicate many different surfaces such as cobblestones, brick, pavers, wood, seashells, and more. Also, the pigment is usually added to stamped concrete to further duplicate the look of such patterns.
Why Not The Real, Original Surfaces?
Brick, pavers, and cobbles look great, but since they form a surface of many interlocking pieces, they are susceptible to frost heave and other changes in the underlying surface. Sometimes this can be good if you're trying to cover an uneven surface — the brick, pavers, stone, or pavers will conform to the surface. But if you have a good, flat, and level under surface, you'll want your concrete to be laid the same way. Reinforcing rods within the stamped concrete help to tie the pavement together and strengthen it.
Also, bricks, pavers, and cobbles allow for weed to grow up through the cracks. Since stamped concrete is a solid, continuous surface, nothing can grow up through the "cracks." As you may already know, the "cracks" in stamped concrete are simply impressions in the concrete that only partially go through the surface.
Does It Look as Good as Brick, Concrete Pavers and Cobbles?
It's all in the eye of the beholder, but for some people, it does not. Aesthetically, it's a close second. There versions that attempt to duplicate the look of exterior wood plank flooring. It looks great on its own terms, but it can never be mistaken for the real thing.
As such, you may want to choose stamped concrete that isn't trying so hard to duplicate something else; it can have any number of patterns, textures, and colors.
Can I Do It Myself?
It's not recommended. The process of laying stamped concrete is almost an art. Not only that but special tools and an experienced crew of up to four people are needed. Save yourself the frustration and find a good concrete contractor who has experience in laying stamped concrete.
What's the Process?
- Place the concrete. Concrete should be no less than four inches thick.
- Add color. The color is added either in the mixer or after concrete placement. The first method is called "integral coloring" and the second method is called "broadcast or surface coloring." Broadcast coloring involves evenly spreading dry color across the surface of the concrete.
- Apply release agent. Release agent allows the texturizing mats to come off without taking off the concrete.
- Lay mats. Texturizing mats are laid in succession. Since there are usually not enough mats to cover the entire surface, when one is finished it is applied to another area of the concrete.
- Let dry 24 hours.
- Pressure wash the release agent off.
- Clear sealing.