What You Need to Know About Stamped Concrete Driveways and Patios

Using stamped concrete is one of the most popular home remodeling trends for 2019. What exactly is stamped concrete?

Sometimes referred to as imprinted or patterned concrete, stamped concrete is dyed, altered and shaped to resemble a variety of other construction materials, such as brick, tile, wood, flagstone, seashells and other customized patterns and designs. However, stamped concrete patterns mimic their pricier cousins at a fraction of the cost. For patios and walkways, you can create unique textured or embossed designs.

Additionally, if you want a patio that has the look and texture of a stone patio without the cost that comes with a real limestone or slate patio, you can get a stamped concrete patio for up to half the price. You can have fun with it too, by adding leaf patterns, shapes or even dinosaur footprints for a unique and customized look.

Stamped concrete is a little thinner and smoother than normal concrete. As long as it is mixed and cured correctly, it is a relatively inexpensive and simple way of creating a distinctive driveway or patio. Read on to find out more about using stamped concrete.

Stamp Designs and Colors

The designs in the concrete are made by using large flexible polyurethane stamps, which are approximately two by two feet square and one or two inches thick. Before you mix and pour your concrete you need to choose a design and order the stamps. There over 100 patterns to choose from, so you have plenty of options. Visit your local hardware store or contractor to see samples and obtain further information or look at the various stamps online.

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Not only do you need to select a pattern, you also need to decide on a color. As the color can be created to your exact preference, you are only limited by your imagination. Usually the pigment you choose is added to the concrete during the mixing or laying process, but if you are willing to spend a few more dollars, you can obtain concrete that has already been colored.

Deciding on the right pattern and color can take time. Look at other properties with stamped concrete to see what you like best, but also keep in mind the surroundings and look of your own property. If you feel stuck, you can always ask a contractor or designer for help.

The Process

Whether you are using stamped concrete for a driveway or a patio, the process of placing it is the same. Although the process is relatively straightforward, concrete can be a tricky substance to work with:

  • It must have a properly installed base of compacted gravel and sand.
  • It requires special tools to smooth and shape the surface.
  • It sets quickly, so you have to correctly apply stamps before it hardens.
  • It is heavy, so you have to be strong.

Therefore, only highly-skilled DIYers should attempt mixing and laying stamped concrete themselves. Generally, it is best to employ a professional to do it for you. However, if you are skillful enough to do the work yourself, you can save between 20 and 50 percent of the cost.

The first step of the process is to mix the concrete correctly. It needs to be no more than four inches thick. Then:

  1. Place the concrete in position.
  2. Smooth the concrete.
  3. If you require a pattern, make sure the stamp is pressed into the surface while the concrete is still soft and wet. Before the stamps are placed on the concrete, they need to be sprayed with a release agent so that the concrete does not stick to the stamp. Apply the release agent to the patterned side. A colored release agent can be used to accent grout lines and cracks. The person applying the stamps to the concrete can either step on top of the stamps or use a tamping tool to make sure enough pressure is applied.
  4. Add color if required. You can either add the pigment to the cement mixer or after the concrete placement. The former is called “integral coloring.” The latter is called “broadcast or surface coloring,” which involves evenly spreading dry color across the concrete’s surface.
  5. Lay the texturizing mats in succession.
  6. Allow the concrete to dry for 24 hours.
  7. Pressure wash the surface to get the release agent off.
  8. Clear the sealing.

How much is a stamped concrete driveway or patio?

To have a stamped concrete driveway or patio installed by a professional, expect to pay an average of $10 to $15 per square foot. To put that cost into perspective, here are some price comparisons for other materials:

  • Plain concrete. The cost is between $6 and $12 per square foot.
  • Concrete pavers. The cost is between $13 and $20 per square foot.
  • Brick. The cost is between $14 and $20 per square foot.
  • Stone, Slate or Marble. The cost is between $17 and $28 per square foot.

Are there any drawbacks to stamped concrete?

Very few drawbacks exist for stamped concrete but one thing to be aware of is uneven surfaces. You may be tempted to create deeply embossed designs, but uneven surfaces make patio furniture wobble. For driveways, you obviously want them to be as smooth as possible. You do not want to create any hazards by using over-the-top and impractical textured patterns. Accessibility guidelines state ridges and bumps on walking surfaces are to be no more than ¼-inch high.

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It is great that stamped concrete allows you to use colorants but the colorants can flake off over time. Incorporate the pigment into the concrete as it is being mixed. This means the colorant lasts longer.

If you use stamped concrete to create the look of real brick or stone, true aficionados will be able to tell the difference. However, if all you care about is the look of your faux-stone or brick concrete, using stamped concrete is the perfect medium. Though it may look like another substance, it is true concrete and reacts to weather changes just as other concrete does. However, keeping these few things in mind, the wide variety of designs and creative license the product gives far outweighs any issues.

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