When it comes to decorating the outdoor areas of our homes, there may be a thousand ideas we come up with. A fresh coat of paint, house flags, trees, and flowers are a few of the most obvious. But we often forget what’s underfoot. That’s right, the actual surfaces we walk on aren’t just a way to get from “here” to “there” without muddying our shoes. Our driveways, walkways, and patios present wonderful opportunities to boost the appearance of our property. And stamped concrete is an awesome material to use for them!
What Stamped Concrete Is
Even if you’ve never heard of stamped concrete, you’ve probably come across it – walked across it – without realizing it. That’s because of the incredible versatility of appearance it has. At the same time, it offers all the durability of concrete.
Stamped concrete is concrete with a design embedded in the surface. It starts with concrete mixed and poured as usual. Some contractors mix color into the full batch of concrete. Our own preferred method is to cast the coloring onto the surface when the concrete is poured. This gives a fuller, richer, and more consistent color.
Once the concrete is poured but before it’s dried, stamps are used to create a pattern in the surface. Some popular designs include brick, cobblestone, hewn stone and pavers. It’s even possible to simulate the appearance of wood! That means that it can go with almost any architecture or “feel” you want to create for your home or business location.
Advantages of Stamped Concrete
So if stamped concrete basically creates the appearance of other materials, why should you consider it instead of the “real thing?” Well, it provides several advantages, including durability, versatility, and cost.
This might seem obvious: it’s concrete. It’s not a material we expect to fall apart or dissolve. But it’s often a replacement for stone, so it has to offer advantages over them as well – and it does.
Other types of stone are laid in place but tend to shift over time as they settle. That can lead to unevenness. And that can mean you have a tripping hazard, or just a haphazard look. Brick can easily get chipped as can the corners of pavers and other kinds of stone.
On the other hand, stamped concrete is a sheet of solid concrete. While it, too, can suffer from settling, it’s minimal and the concrete is laid in a way that isolates cracking. There’s a real texture to the surface so it’s not totally smooth, but it’s unlikely to produce the huge unevenness that can arise with stone.
Of course, when used to create the look of wood, concrete will hold up longer and better than even treated wood. And you’ll have fewer worries about denting, chipping, or splinters!
As we’ve mentioned, stamped concrete can be created with a huge variety of appearances. Whether your architecture and neighborhood are colonial or modern, you’ll find a pattern that fits your needs. Colors from light browns and greys to richer, darker tones will make for a great complement to the rest of your construction and grounds.
Another big advantage for many people is that stamped concrete is usually more cost-effective than other surfaces! Stone, brick, and cobblestone can be quite pricey. Pavers generally are at the lower end of the price scale, but stamped concrete prices are usually about that level.
Of course, you could try this as a do-it-yourself project too. But unless you have a high level of experience in pouring concrete, it’s not recommended. It does require a good understanding of how concrete dries in order to be able to apply the stamps correctly and achieve a great, uniform appearance.
Where It Can Be Used
The versatility of stamped concrete isn’t limited to just its final appearance. It works well for just about any surface you can imagine, too!
Driveways are a fantastic place to use this material. Concrete driveways hold up to the heavy-duty wear and tear placed on them. And the size of a driveway really allows you to show off the pattern. It can become a great architectural feature for making your home really feel connected.
Of course, continuing that look to your front walkway creates consistency look right up to the front door. If you’re in a colder climate, you can have a heated driveway system installed to help cut down on snow removal expenses and the hazards of slips and falls.
A backyard patio or an outdoor kitchen are other great places for a stamped concrete installation. You can create the relaxed atmosphere you want from the ground up and even include further decorative concrete elements like countertops, a firepit, and more!
Another option is your swimming pool deck. Yes, that’s a wonderful idea also! If you have an inground pool, the addition of a stamped concrete deck allows you to create a tough yet comfortable surface. It tends to stay cooler than many competing materials, too, so no more burnt toes!
If you’re concerned about the upkeep for your new patio or other surface, there’s no need to fret. Stamped concrete is actually quite easy to maintain.
When the concrete is poured, it’s sealed with a thin coat of sealant. That will help preserve the color and pattern. Under most circumstances, that seal is going to hold up for about two years. At that time, the surface should be resealed, which your local contractor would be glad to do. It could be done as a DIY project, too, but it’s important to use the correct sealant and to make sure it remains an extremely thin coating so that the surface preserves its beauty.
Other than the resealing every two years or so, there’s not much to the maintenance.
As for cleaning, you can sweep the surface or power-washed it when needed. In case of grease or other stubborn stains, a mild detergent is usually sufficient to clean it.
If you notice spots where the sealant seems to have worn off more quickly, you can have the whole surface or spots resealed. You can tell that the sealant might have worn out if water is absorbed quickly into the concrete rather than beading off.
There are a lot of options for upgrading the outside areas of your home, but it’s hard to compete with stamped concrete when you want beautiful and functional surfaces at a reasonable cost. With this great look, you’ll really set your home apart for its beauty.
About the Author
Bill Michaels works for Patterned Concrete as a media outreach specialist. The company is an expert and pioneer in stamped concrete since 1972. It has grown from its Toronto-area roots to have franchises across North America. If you’re a concrete mason and interested in stamped concrete work, get in touch for info on how to become a part of the family!