I've seen stamped concrete for years, and wasn't much impressed by it. Only expensive commercial applications looked decent, and even that was a stretch. Recently, though, new texturizing and pigmenting trends allow homeowners to introduce stamped concrete to their exteriors.
What is Stamped Concrete?Stamped concrete involves pouring slab concrete for driveways, walkways, patios, etc., and then impressing both patterns and textures onto the concrete before it is fully dry. 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, pigment is usually added to stamped concrete to further duplicate the look of such patterns.
Why Stamped Concrete Instead of the 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 undersurface, 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, cobbles, etc. 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 Stamped Concrete Look as Good as Brick, Pavers, Cobbles, etc?It's all in the eye of the beholder, but in my view it does not. Aesthetically, it's a close second. I have seen stamped concrete that attempts 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. Stamped concrete can have any number of patterns, textures, and colors.
Can I "Do it Yourself" Stamped Concrete?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 of Laying Stamped Concrete?In brief, stamped concrete is laid like this:
- Place the concrete. Concrete should be no less than four inches thick.
- Add color. 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 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.