Before you start pinning your favorite stamped concrete patio designs allow me to describe the installation process so that you will be fully informed and prepared to move forward with your exciting new patio project! This article will provide a brief process overview as well as information about pattern designs, base colors, release colors, stamping, washing, cutting, sealing and finally maintenance of your beautiful new patio.
Stamped Concrete Patterns
There is no shortage of stamped concrete patterns for homeowners to choose from with the ability to combine colors and designs for a truly unique and customized patio. Stamped concrete patterns can be divided into five basic patters: brick, stone, slate, wood and textured. Narrowing down your preferences to one or two of these five basic design patterns helps in the overall design process. Another consideration for the homeowner when narrowing down patterns is to consider existing hardscape and exterior designs and try to compliment those elements rather than trying to ‘match’ the existing surfaces.
Base Color for Stamped Concrete
Once you’ve selected a design pattern for your new patio it’s time to move on to base color selection. In most cases, stamped concrete has two colors – a base color and an accent color. There are two methods of creating the base color for new concrete; 1. Integral color or 2. Color hardener. Either method will emphasize the base color in the finished stamped concrete patio. The integral color method means that the color is mixed into the concrete in the truck just prior to pouring. This method represents the most common way that concrete contractors add color to concrete.
The second method for adding base color to concrete is the shake-on color hardener method. The color is spread onto the concrete during the initial finishing stages and then worked into the surface to create the base color. While both methods are effective in adding base color to the concrete, color hardener allows for more variations in color and will create a harder and denser surface.
It is important to ask your concrete contractor which method will be used for your project.
Release Color for Stamped Concrete
After the base color is added to the concrete a release agent is used to keep the stamp from sticking during the stamping process, thus the term ‘release color’. The release agent will add an accent color to the concrete once it is washed and sealed during the final phases of the installation process. When picking out a release color, it is important to select a color that accents your base color. In most projects, a darker release agent over a lighter base color provides the best results.
Right after the application of the release agent it is time begin the actual stamping process. The concrete contractor will use a process called ‘tamping’ the stamping tools into the concrete surface. The pattern and texture is created as the tool is pressed into the newly poured concrete. As the stamping tool is pressed into the concrete, a small bit of the colored release agent is embedded into the textured surface of the concrete.
Washing and Cutting Stamped Concrete
After the stamping process is completed it’s time to sit back and relax and wait for about 12-24 hours. Once the concrete surface is ready your concrete contractor will then wash and cut the slabs. Although many find the look of saw cuts unappealing they are definitely necessary part of the installation process. Be sure to discuss saw cut placements for your patio prior to installation so that you are happy with the final results. After the slabs are cut the next step is to thoroughly wash the concrete patio. Once washed you will notice the accents that the release agent adds to the base color, however final colors will not show up until the concrete is sealed and fully cured.
Sealing Stamped Concrete
The final and most important part of the stamped concrete installation process is the sealing step. It is important to choose high-end sealing products to protect your patio for years of low-maintenance upkeep. Newly sealed concrete surfaces many be slippery during application and prior to drying, especially if wet with other liquids or rain. It is recommended that your contractor add a non-slip additive to the sealer to prevent slips and falls.