If you are looking to add a patio, walkway, driveway, or other paved surface, you might want to consider stamped concrete. But what is stamped concrete? It's simply concrete that has had color, pattern, and/or texture added to it to make it resemble another material, such as brick, stone, or tile. Past versions of stamped concrete just featured simple patterns pressed into the wet cement. But the modern varieties are almost perfect duplicates of the materials they aim to replicate. And while stamped concrete can mimic these other materials quite well, it still retains the high durability of concrete.
Styles of Stamped Concrete
The stamping process uses rubber stamps or texturizing mats to imprint pattern into wet cement. There are also ways to apply it over existing concrete if your slab is in good shape. These stamps are often designed from molds of the real material to get the appropriate texture. They can make your concrete resemble brick, cobblestone, slate, wood planks, and more. You're even able to add large medallions and other custom accents to a concrete slab.
Moreover, the stamps can be applied vertically as well as horizontally, which makes them good for much more than flooring. For instance, you can give an outdoor concrete fireplace surround a natural stone treatment. Or you can make a concrete retaining wall look like brick.
Plus, there's no reason you can't use stamped concrete inside your home. In fact, it can be both a practical and an attractive finish. A popular option is to stamp a concrete basement floor to make it look like wood. Stamped concrete that resembles tile is also a durable option for the kitchen. But it can be cold and hard on your feet, so area rugs are recommended.
How to Create Stamped Concrete
The process of creating stamped concrete is fairly straightforward. It generally involves the following:
- Pour the cement no less than 4 inches thick.
- Add the primary color. The color is added either in the mixer or after the cement placement. The former method is called "integral coloring," and the latter method is called "broadcast or surface coloring." Broadcast coloring involves evenly spreading color across the surface of the wet cement.
- Apply the color release agent. The color release is an accent color that gives the stamped concrete dimension, and it has a nonstick effect that allows the texturizing mats to come off without pulling up the cement.
- Lay the texturizing mats. Because there are often not enough mats to cover the entire area, they must be applied and then moved to span the whole surface while the cement is still wet. If the pattern has continuous lines, it is important to carefully line up the mats as you reposition them.
- Let the cement dry for 24 hours.
- Pressure wash the release agent off.
- Add clear sealing, and let it dry. The concrete should be dry enough to walk on in 48 hours and to drive on in a week. It takes about a month to fully cure.
DIY is not recommended for this project. The process of laying stamped concrete is an art. Plus, special tools and an experienced crew are necessary. So save yourself the frustration, and find a good concrete contractor who has experience in laying stamped concrete.
Pros and Cons of Stamped Concrete
There are many choices when it comes to flooring materials. So is stamped concrete right for your project? Its main benefit is it’s durable and long-lasting, and there are myriad ways to customize it. And if it’s treated with texture or another non-skid additive, it can be a safe, slip-resistant surface. Stamped concrete is also a design feature that will enhance your home value, yet it’s generally more affordable than brick or stone.
A downside to stamped concrete is you typically can’t DIY the project, as it takes a certain level of expertise. It’s also recommended to reseal concrete every two to five years to keep it looking its best. Moreover, if the concrete ever cracks, it can be difficult to repair and you might not be able to match the stamped pattern to the rest of the slab.
Many options for customization
Difficult to repair
Usually can't DIY
So how does stamped concrete compare to other popular materials, such as bricks and stones? These products also look great and enhance the value of your home. And because they form a surface of many interlocking pieces, they’re helpful if you’re trying to cover uneven ground. It can be difficult to pour level concrete on an uneven surface. However, you'll often see weeds popping up in the spaces between pavers while nothing should be able to grow up through concrete.
Ultimately, it's all in the eye of the beholder. Stamped concrete will never be mistaken for the real material it's aiming to mimic, whether it be bricks, stone, tile, or wood. And for some people that's a deal-breaker. But if you want a material with less maintenance and higher durability than the real thing, stamped concrete could be the option you're looking for.