Monday, December 29, 2014

What is Stamped Concrete

Stamped concrete has seen huge growth in popularity over the past decade, in part to the growing number of colors, textures, and patterns available.  It's beautiful to look at, easy to maintain and lasts nearly forever.  But what exactly is "Stamped Concrete" and what does the installation process look like?

Here is a stamped and colored patio I installed in a back yard this summer.

What are the keys to a good stamped concrete patio?

  • Prepare a good sub base:  This means using crusher fines or road base when you can and compacting very well.
  • Reinforce it:  I like to use steel mesh throughout the entire patio as well so that any cracking that occurs will not split or heave.  (You need to remember that all concrete cracks, especially if you have any expansive soil.  The key is to minimize cracking and gaping so that the patio looks and functions well for it's lifetime).  
  • Make it Strong:  Concrete from the plant is rated by pounds per square inch.  You have a lot of other options if you understand the science behind concrete but this is the most important to know.  I use 3,500 psi concrete for everything I pour.  Many contractors use 2,500 or 3,000 psi concrete.  I'd rather pay a little extra for materials and have a piece of mind that I used a stronger concrete mix.
  • Help it Cure:  Once the cement is completely set, keep it as wet as you can.  You can either just hose it down a few times a day for the first 3 or four days or if you really want a strong pour, spray it down and then cover it with plastic to hold in the moisture.  By keeping the concrete surface wet, you slow the curing process by keeping it from drying out on the surface.  This results in a stronger slab of concrete when everything is said and done.  You can actually cure concrete while it is completely submerged.  This is why piers for bridges can be poured under water.
  • Have pros stamp it:  If you have never stamped concrete before, I don't recommend doing it yourself.  You can prepare the base, and build the forms but if you do the stamping wrong it is truly "set in stone".
  • Protect It:  Sealing colored concrete brings out it's color and makes it pop.  I usually use a "wet look" sealer with an anti-slip additive.  This process will also protect the surface from staining.  (Make sure to wait 28 days for a near full cure before sealing!)


  1. I really love the look of stamped concrete, and I want to eventually get to the point where I can do it myself. I would love if you put up a step by step process of how you made your own back yard patio. For now I will probably just hire some professionals to do this for me, because I don't feel at all comfortable doing this myself.
    Pattern Concrete

  2. Stamped concrete looks great in backyards. Especially if you change the color a little bit, to get away from the generic gray look. A patio should be a place where you can have a family barbeque, and not have worry about anything else. Pavers also look good, but they can sink if not done correctly. Concrete doesn't tend to have that problem as often.

  3. I've heard about a few options when it comes to reinforcement like fibers (mixed in with concrete from the plant) and rebar. Which one would you recommend for stamped concrete?