Posted by Margot Lynch | Sep 02, 2009

Stamped Concrete

The fabulous alternative to paved driveways, marble floors, and stone walkways

When the department of public works pours concrete for our sidewalks and leaves the area overnight, it's hard for a child to resist pressing his hand in it to make a permanent print. Celebrities started making their personal mark on concrete in the 1920's! The Chinese Theater's frontcourt on Hollywood Boulevard is home to many celebrity imprints like the fist of John Wayne, the legs of Betty Grable, and the cigars of Groucho Marx. These are examples of the basics on this creative process. Concrete can be colored and there's 100's of patterns available in this creative industry of stamped concrete.

So what is this stamped concrete?

It's decorated and sealed concrete that's an alternative solution to real stone and pavement. A big positive for the outdoors, is that it withstands cracking, weathering, and weeds. Unlike pavement and real stones, stamped concrete will not shift over the winter, will keep its flat surface throughout the years, and will not get weeds. Therefore, this process is catching like wildfire because it's creative, durable, moderately priced, and requires low maintenance. It needs resealing only once every four years and the initial cost and installation of stamped concrete is 33% less than pavement.

Installing stamped concrete on a big area like your driveway, a walkway, or patio is not something you can do alone. This treatment is at least a four person job. However, it is something you definitely can experiment with onto a small area. For example, I've seen a personalized cement base around a wood stove with sea shell impressions, sea glass, and silver sculpted pieces embedded on the surface. You can get as creative as you want or pick a standard pattern and color.

What's the process of laying stamped concrete on a big area?

  • Design. Choose a pattern and color that will match the area it's going in.
  • Pouring the concrete. The concrete is placed just like ordinary concrete. The maximum size of the aggregate (stones) should not exceed 3/8 inch in diameter. You can substitute sea glass instead of stones as a creative idea.
  • Add color. This is a very creative stage of coloring or staining. The techniques are: "integral coloring" which is adding the color right into the mixer and "broadcast coloring": evenly distributing dry color on top, then troweling it on the wet cement. The pigment can be pure mineral oxide or a natural or synthetic iron-oxide colorant. There's a fabulous selection of colors like electric blue, mint green and earthen red at Direct Colors. A five pound bag starts at $25.
  • Apply release agent. The powder (colored) or liquid (colorless) release agent allows the texture mats to come off without the concrete sticking to them. It's better to use liquid by a pool because you don't have to wash it off. Powder needs to be washed off and can be another stage of the creative process. If you leave some of it on after washing, it can create a multilayered effect.
  • Lay mats. Work with a crew of professionals during this stage. The stamping patterns or texture mats are walked on by the installer or tapped with a large wooden mallet. The pattern can be driven in up to one inch deep into the concrete. Textures often duplicate different organic surfaces such as cobblestones, brick, wood, and seashells. There are several unique concrete stamps and ideas offered at
  • Let dry 24 hours.
  • Pressure wash
  • Apply seal. Two thin coats.

Some Materials and Tools Needed:

  • sealer
  • texture mats
  • release agent
  • hardener or integral color
  • touch-up tools,
  • tampers
  • bull float
  • canvas resin hand float
  • finishing trowel
  • screed
  • rollers

When you're looking for products and advice, Concrete Networx is a good online resource.

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