Decorative stamped concrete is appealing for many reasons. First, it's an economical alternative to pavers and natural stone, especially for applications such as patios, driveways, walkways, and pool decks. It also requires less maintenance than those materials because it has no joints where weed growth can occur. Adding to the value of stamped concrete is the material's longevity. When properly installed and maintained, stamped concrete will last for decades.
From an aesthetic standpoint, stamped concrete is hard to beat when it comes to pattern and colour options, which are virtually unlimited.
Natural stone patterns, such as slate and fieldstone, are the most prevalent, with brick and cobblestone running a close second. Seamless textures that resemble natural stone, but without joint lines, are also growing in popularity. The most popular colours tend to be grays and earth tones. However, brick patterns are often colored in red or russet hues.
Stamped concrete looks very realistic because most stamping mats are molded from the actual materials they are designed to replicate. To achieve natural-looking color variations, such as you would see in real stone, stamped concrete contractors often use integral or dry-shake color in conjunction with surface-applied colouring mediums. If anything, stamped concrete looks better than the real thing, because you won't get weed or moss growth in between the joints, and it won't rot or splinter (if you are mimicking wood planking).
Stamped concrete is one of the most durable and long lasting paving materials available and is highly resistant to cracking when installed correctly. There are some basic steps you can take to minimize cracking and ensure good performance.
Even if stamped concrete experiences minor cracking, the cracks are often hard to detect because they will often blend in with the pattern and joint lines. If the cracks become an eyesore, there are methods you can use to disguise them.
Efflorescence, weathering, dirt and traffic can take their toll on the color of stamped concrete. You can minimize any colour change by periodically cleaning and resealing the concrete. Even if the color has faded due to years of neglect or lack of maintenance, it can often be restored to its original state by cleaning and resealing.
Existing concrete that's in good condition can be covered with a stamped overlay, which will give you the same look as conventional stamped concrete. Stamped overlays can be used to upgrade the appearance of plain concrete driveways, patios, walkways, pool decks and even interior floors.
Because stamped concrete is a textured surface, it is often more slip resistant than conventional concrete. However, just like natural stone, it can become slippery when wet or if a film-forming sealer has been applied. If stamped concrete will be installed in a high-traffic area, such as an entryway or pool deck, there are a number of things you can do to increase its slip resistance.
You should avoid using deicing salts on stamped concrete, especially during the first winter after the pavement is installed. Using deicers can cause surface damageprimarily scaling and spalling-by forcing the thawing and refreezing of moisture. Products containing ammonium nitrates and ammonium sulphates are especially harmful because they will actually attack the concrete chemically. Rock salt (sodium chloride) or calcium chloride will do less damage, but they can harm vegetation and corrode metal. As an alternative, use sand for traction.
Many people get inspiration from their surrounding landscape and home's architectural style when choosing a color and pattern. For example, if your house has a brick exterior, consider echoing that theme in the stamped concrete, whether in a simple brick-patterned border or the entire driveway.
Stamped concrete can be expensive, depending on the costs for materials and labor in your local market and the complexity of the job. But the old adage, you get what you pay for," really holds true for stamped concrete. For your initial outlay, you'll get a pavement that lasts longer and requires less maintenance than most other paving materials, which can add up to big savings over the pavement's lifetime. You'll also add curb appeal and aesthetic value to your home, allowing you to maximize the return on your investment.
Like conventional concrete, stamped concrete will last for decades when properly installed and maintained, even when exposed to harsh winter weather conditions. In some cases, stamped concrete can be even more durable than standard concrete, especially if a color hardener has been applied to the surface. Most contractors also apply a sealer to stamped concrete to protect it from wear and abrasion and make it easier to maintain.
As when choosing any contractor to do projects around your home or business, you should get several written estimates and check their references carefully.
With stamped concrete, it's especially important to find a contractor who can show you a portfolio of their work and provide actual samples of the patterns and colors they offer. Some decorative concrete contractors have showrooms with all their samples on display. Another option is to visit the contractor's website, where you'll often find photos of their projects and a description of the types of decorative concrete they specialize in.