Stamped concrete is a style that mimics the appearance of many paving materials such as bricks, wood, tiles, and stone. The patterns, colors and textures available in this option make it suitable for various applications from concrete driveways, to porches, patios and even walls.
How is stamped concrete created?
The stamping technique is done before freshly poured concrete starts to harden. The large aggregate particles of the concrete are worked down into the concrete while it is still wet. Then, large rubber mats are stamped into the concrete’s surface, leaving a pattern or texture behind when the stamps are lifted. Typically, before the concrete is stamped, the surface is dusted with coloring or the color is added to mix. Also, a release powder is distributed across the concrete surface to prevent the stamps from adhering to the concrete. This powder produces an antique effect on the surface further enhancing its look.
One of the biggest advantages of stamped concrete is its cost-effectiveness. In general, stamped concrete costs less than pavers. Also, stamping concrete is typically less labor intensive unlike installing other pavers that can really take up much time. The best thing about stamped concrete is its extremely versatility. Aside from the wide range of designs that can be done with it, other techniques such as staining and scoring can also be used to enhance its look.
It also does not pose any tripping hazard because it’s a single continuous surface not like individual pavers that can become loose or uneven and, therefore may pose a safety risk. When it comes to maintenance, stamped concrete has very minimal requirements unlike pavers which can be high maintenance. All you really need to do to keep stamped concrete in good condition is to apply a clear sealer over it every year or so depending on the amount of traffic the surface has to contend with. With pavers, however, you need to check for any pieces that have settled to remove any tripping hazard, not to mention pull up weeds that grow between the pavers to keep the area tidy.
The one big disadvantage of stamped concrete is the fact that almost all types of concrete surface inevitably cracks. A stamped concrete driveway can eventually crack due to heavy loads like large delivery vehicles regularly passing over it or the settlement of the soil underneath. Concrete contractors are aware of the tendency of concrete to crack so they place control joints in the concrete paving to make the cracks occur neatly at the joints. Occasionally, however, concrete can still crack outside of the joints.
When this happens, repairing the cracks can become very difficult because it’s hard to match the original material’s properties. Likewise, changes to the surface if not addressed properly, can be very obvious and unappealing should you try to alter the concrete’s shape or add on to it. However, with advances in decorative concrete every year, it is becoming more and more likely that you will be able to match the existing concrete quite closely.
With pavers, it is less likely that you will have to worry about cracking with pavers. Also, because they are individual units, repairs, replacements and modifications are easy and in most cases there is usually no problem with finding matching pavers.
However, do note that proper concrete installation greatly minimizes cracking if not altogether. So, it is very important to choose a seasoned contractor to do the job and also to use high quality products to ensure that you get a beautiful stamped concrete surface that will last a long time.