Stamped and patterned concrete is not a new concept, but one that has been primarily slated for the commercial sector of exterior design. This is the process of pouring concrete for walkways, patios, driveways and more and then creating textures, patterns and even pigmentations before the drying process is complete. While it has been somewhat available to homeowners in the past, the versions used in residential settings have typically been less than professional looking and didn’t really make the grade. In modern day the process has improved greatly allowing residential homes to enjoy the same type of beauty as the commercial settings.
One of the most attractive aspects of stamped and patterned concrete is that they are never the same. There are many types of patterns and designs to choose from including the look of cobblestones, pavers, brick, wood, seashells, rock and much more. The process that is used to create the stamped and patterned concrete determines the type of results that are yielded. There are a huge number of patterns to choose from and also several types of stamps and tools.
Ridged and Semi-rigid Mats
This type of stamp leaves the best impression with the deepest ridges and easy to see patterns. This said, it also is not very pliable and therefore does not conform to changes in the landscape very well such as contours and hills.
Flex Mats or Floppies
This type of stamp provides the customer with a pliable stamp that can more easily bend around walls, edges and drop offs. The downside of this type of stamp is that they do not have handles and they do not accept much pressure such as being stepped on.
The medallion stamps allow for more customization and are considered semi-rigid. This gives the user more control over how they will look and what they will do with them.
These allow the user to avoid necessary pattern alignment making them excellent for slab edges as they are very pliable. They do not provide a great deal of detail when finished.
Step Forms and Liners
This type of stamp is used for the front of steps and faces of edges. They make it easier to get the continuation of the pattern throughout the area.
The texture rollers allow the user to imprint and keep repeating the same pattern right along. This is excellent for large areas that need coverage and they allow for quick coverage of borders and bands.
These are connecting patterns in distinct circular patterns of different sizes that can be used in multiple ways. They allow for customization in many areas and allow for a variety of patterns to be created. This is excellent for creating something specific to the home or design of the home.
The tools and stamps used depend on the pattern desired, the area that it is being used in and how much space must be covered. In some cases several types of stamps will be used to get the complete overall look and feel. In some cases different stamps are used at different levels of dryness for the concrete finishing with a layered texture.
The process of installing stamped or patterned concrete is not difficult, but is time consuming and requires some attention to detail.
- The concrete is poured in the area it is desired such as in a form for a walkway, steps or a patio slab.
- The concrete is typically less than four inches in thickness when poured.
- If desired, color is added to the concrete. This can be done before the concrete is poured and while it is in the mixer or after using a process of evenly spreading dry color over the concrete surface.
- A release agent is used to help the mats easily come out of the concrete when they are being used. This keeps the concrete intact leaving behind the desired pattern. This release agent is applied after the concrete is laid.
- The mats or stamps are laid on the concrete, removed and laid in the next location. This process is repeated until the entire surface is patterned as desired.
- The concrete must then dry for approximately 24 hours before the next step.
- The release agent is removed using pressure washing.
- A clear sealing agent is applied to the concrete.
Once completed the concrete should have the pattern desired throughout and be ready to use. In some cases additional drying will be necessary once the clear sealing agent is applied to the concrete. This process could take a couple of days to be ready for use.
Weighing the Options
Positives of Using Concrete
Stamped and patterned concrete has come along way in recent years. There are several good reasons to use this method for your home. While cobblestone, brick and rock is very beautiful, it can also be troublesome when it comes to maintenance. When these materials are used for patios, steps, walkways or other similar outdoor uses, they can become worn and require frequent repair. Broken pieces of the materials can cause problems and faster deterioration of the remaining pieces.
In addition, the real materials have gaps between them where they are placed together. These gaps can allow for plant life to grow through, they can catch water, erode away and even catch debris and start to lose the look that they once had. If there is enough erosion the pieces can become disconnected and the individual materials such as the stones and bricks can come lose completely and fall out. This can be hazardous and look run down requiring repair.
Stamped and patterned concrete looks nice from the start and is sturdier than other materials. Since there are no actual gaps between the materials there is little chance of erosion and the walkway, steps, patio or other item will not fall apart as quickly. It is also easier to clean these types of materials as they won’t fall apart under pressure such as that from a pressure washer. Maintenance becomes primarily sweeping and occasional washing of the area to keep it free from dirt, debris and stains.
Negatives of Using Concrete
There are some downsides to choosing stamped and patterned concrete for your patio, walkway, steps and other areas. While in most cases they hold up very well, there are instances where there could be problems with the concrete. If you choose coloring for your concrete, the color could fade over time. While the coloring can be applied later, it may not look the same as what was applied when the concrete was still wet.
In addition, in extreme weather conditions or areas of the country where there are fluctuations in weather temperatures, the concrete could crack. Repairing such issues can be very costly because of the continuation of the project. You would have some trouble replacing just the section properly so that it fits with everything else. It might also mean replacing the entire area in order to avoid future cracking and problems with the pattern.
In some cases the lack of density in the concrete itself may allow for less durability than pavers that have been compressed by a factory. This means you may find that the concrete cracks more easily than an individual paver or brick might. It could cause problems if the ground beneath the concrete is not even or has some dips or areas that wash out below.
Another factor to consider is the texture itself of the concrete. Unless there is some type of aggregate such as sand, small stones or similar added to the concrete, it could become very slippery when it gets wet. This might be an issue if it is used on a walkway with any type of incline or decline to it.
Making the Best Choice for Your Home
When it comes to choosing the right product for your walkway, patio or steps you want to weigh the options carefully. Concrete that has been customized using patterns and stamping can be an excellent choice. It allows you to get the look that really fits your home in an easy process. It requires less intensive work to complete and can actually be more cost effective. The overall look when finished is professional, neat, clean and very specific to your own style. With so many patterns available and the ability to have the patterns created that you want, it is easy to get just the right curb appeal you want.
While the process is fairly simply you will want to consider hiring a professional for the job. Choosing the right concrete, pattern and sealant is vital to the success of the project. It is important that the grade of the ground below the concrete is solid and that you get the best foundation for the concrete to avoid cracking. Consulting with a professional is the best way to start the project and can provide you with direction.