Stamped concrete has been making rounds all over the world as it offers an economical and attractive option to plain poured concrete or natural pavers. Its ability to mimic almost any hardscape and natural stones makes it a popular choice for residential homes and business establishments. With a world of options in designs, patterns, and colors, the decorative concrete market will continue to soar high for the next coming years. According to Decorative Concrete Market Research Report-Global Forecast to 2023, the global decorative concrete market is anticipated to grow with the CAGR of approximately 6.2% from 2017 to 2023. Geographically, North America (alongside the Asia Pacific) has the second largest market share while the US has the major market in North America. With residential and commercial structures growing in the US, they believed that the demand for this market would fuel significantly.
We can already tell how the rapid demand for decorative concrete in the US creates a remarkable impact on both business and residential infrastructures. You can see them in any exterior applications such as the patio, pool decks, walkways and driveways. And so, it is helpful to understand how to install stamped concrete. Before you even embark on a stamped concrete project and decide which color, patterns, or finishes you want, let’s have a better grasp of the stamped concrete process.
Step 1: Site, Subgrade and Subbase Preparation
Before installing stamped concrete, make sure the site is ready. The project area needs to be cleared entirely by using earth moving equipment to speed up the process. Remove all trees, shrubs, rocks or grasses in the area. Once done, prepare the subgrade or subbase as well. The process is notably no different from constructing a foundation for a house or building. A subgrade is a native soil (or in other cases, the improved soil) that should be well-compacted to prevent soil erosion under the concrete slab. The subbase, on the other hand, is a layer of gravel just on top of the subgrade.
In a broader perspective, subgrade and subbase are “soil support systems” that require proper preparation to allow the concrete slab to cure properly as well. Remember that what lies under your concrete makes a considerable impact on the overall functionality, structural integrity and performance of the slab.
Step 2: Placing Concrete Forms
By the time that the sub base is compacted, you can already set the concrete forms. Concrete forms hold the concrete in place and can be manipulated or forced to assume a certain shape. It is made from metal, plastic or wood that you can attach to the stakes with special nails or screws to make an easy removal of the forms once the concrete has cured. The newer version of concrete forms has other purposes such as providing special decorative effects or promoting insulation. Whichever purposes it might serve, it is crucial that concrete forms are in good condition and should be erected to create clean corners where they can connect each other and some other structures.
Step 3: Installing Reinforcement
To guarantee that your concrete will remain sturdy and look good for many years to come, installing reinforcement is necessary. Reinforcement can either be steel bars or wire mesh. The primary purpose of installing reinforcement is to provide additional structural function and support in the concrete slab. It is highly advantageous especially when the concrete slab receives a too heavy foot and vehicle traffic in the future. Though reinforcement won’t prevent cracks from occurring, installing one can hold those cracks together; thus, it controls aggravating the condition. Plus, including reinforcement reduces joint maintenance and increases impact resistance.
Step 4: Placing Concrete
You have a well-compacted subgrade or subbase and set the concrete forms, and so this is the right time to pour the concrete. Wherever you live, the minimum requirement for cement contents in any residential concrete is 470-pounds per yard. It can be more if you live in areas with colder climates. Your contractor should order a concrete mix that meets the requirements of the concrete slab that you’re going to place.
The most common method of concrete placement is using a ready-mix concrete truck. The drum located at the back of the truck will spin slowly to keep the concrete from setting and prevent it from getting hard. The ready-mix truck may be able to pull up to the placement area and pour the concrete directly from the chute. Typically, the concrete weighs about 150 pounds per cubic foot, so it is important that it is placed as close as possible to its final destination or position. While the concrete is wet, move the concrete to guarantee that there are no air pockets or voids. However, too much handling or moving the concrete around using shovels or other tools will lead to segregation of the course and fine aggregates. Also, make sure to use a plastic sheet to protect the adjacent building, existing slabs or landscaping from the splatter.
Successfully placing the concrete also depends on the type of concrete that you’re going to use. It would be helpful to consult your contractor to avoid any hassle or issues.
Step 5: Screeding and Early Finishing
The process after concrete placement is very crucial as this is the time that contractors will create the most accurate canvass for decorative concrete. Pay attention to the details. The surface should be leveled, so there will be no high or low spots. Also, the cement paste should be brought to the surface to achieve a clear imprint.
After you have placed the wet concrete, you can use a large wood or metal board to screed the top of the concrete slab. Screeding is the process to consolidate the concrete and make it compact. This intervention also smoothens and levels the top of the concrete.
Once screeded, the concrete is floated using floats or special trowel. The choice of floats depends on how large the project area be. You can use a small hand-held trowel for more detailed work and edges. On the other hand, larger trowels or bull floats are ideal for larger portions of the concrete surface. Using floats smoothen any depressions and create a more finished surface of the concrete. At this point, early finishing should take place as well.
Step 6: Applying Colors or Finishes
Troweling is complete, and you are ready to apply colors or finishes to your concrete. Decorative concrete and finishes are so versatile that you have a world of options to color concrete for stamping. Stamped concrete installation can give your driveway, patio or walkway a better look and feel of the natural stones. However, colors shouldn’t have to take a backseat. Let’s dig further into the four most common options that contractors use to color decorative concrete.
Integral color is mixed into the concrete to create a uniform, homogenous color. This option is very convenient to use and permanent. Since it is uniform, the integral color will remain even if the concrete slab accidentally scratches or chips. However, integral color is less vibrant and creates a more subtle appeal.
If you wish to achieve a blotchy effect on your stamped concrete, stains can be an ideal choice. Stains react well with concrete, so you can apply it on individual stones to boost its charm. However, stains are very much transparent, so you need to combine it with dyes to create better color intensity.
Either in liquid or powdered form, release agents avoid stamping skins or mats from sticking to your concrete. Combining these agents with dry-shake or integral color can achieve an aged or antiquing finish, which enhances the appeal of your stamped concrete. However, powdered-form release agents need more clean-up and can stain adjacent building or landscape.
Dry-shake colors contain cement and fine aggregates to make your concrete appear denser and less permeable. It has a wide array of color options and brings a brighter color to the decorative concrete. However, dry-shake colors require more labor as they need to be hand-broadcast to achieve more appealing concrete.
Step 7: Adding Texture to the Concrete
In a stamping process itself, timing is very critical. The work should proceed with no delay once the texturing started. It also means that the window for the stamping process is generally short. Adding texture to the concrete also needs great force to press the mat or skin into the concrete. At the optimum time for adding texture, the layout is ready beforehand. Enough labor is a requirement considering the volume of work needed for texturing. In normal cases, pre-texturing started with the edges first. Inspect the project area periodically, so you can apply necessary touch-up as soon as possible. Make sure to check the stamping alignment while the concrete should be stamped in the same sequence.
Step 8: Curing Stamped Concrete
Like a newborn child, fresh concrete is very sensitive. Take good care of it, and it will become reliable and sturdy. Neglect it, and it ruins easily. That is where proper curing comes into play.
The main goal of curing the stamped concrete is to make it better, stronger and long-lasting. When allowing your concrete to dry, it is retaining sufficient moisture content to bring all the properties of the decorative concrete to enhance and develop. If you take the curing process for granted, concrete becomes more susceptible to cracks and less resistant to abrasion. It is essential to understand that proper curing comes with the right timing as well. Given enough time to cure, the concrete becomes densified and less porous, making it more durable in the long run.
Step 9: Installing Control Joints
Installing joints can help prevent visible cracks from occurring. Control joints are considered as planned cracks that allow movements on a specified location caused by drying shrinkage or temperature changes. You need to decide which location you will place the control joints. You have to make sure that when the concrete cracks, it will not crack randomly but in a straight line. Take this important process of stamped concrete project seriously as control joints provide stress relief when it comes to maintenance.
Step 10: Sealing Stamped Concrete
The stamped concrete process isn’t complete without applying a sealer into the concrete. Sealing colored concrete is not only for protection from weather, stains, chemicals or other environmental exposure, but it also intensifies the charm of your decorative concrete. It enriches the color of your exterior surfaces to enhance your property’s curb appeal.
In choosing the right sealer, always make sure to check the label. Each supplier or manufacturer provides instructions and recommendations in using it. You can also seek a bit of advice from your local contractor to guide you through. The decision of whether using a clear or tinted sealer depends on how you would like to visualize your decorative concrete. Is the sealer compatible with the existing colored stamped concrete? Do you want to make your colored concrete more vibrant? Does it match the color of the existing concrete? These are some of the questions you could ask yourself or raise these concerns to your local contractor.
Also, before applying any sealing products to the existing stamped concrete, always keep in mind that you should clean the concrete surface. It means that no foreign matter, oil, dust or dirt is visible. The frequency of sealing depends on how much foot or vehicle traffic the concrete receives. Exposure to any dirt, chemicals or weather conditions is also a factor to consider. It is vital that you maintain and clean your decorative concrete regularly, so it won’t lessen its charm and vibrancy. Periodic washing using a mild detergent solution helps keep its luster.
We say that creating the first impression starts with your home’s exterior. It is what people notice first. So, if you are looking for an incredible idea to boost the appeal of your driveway, patio or pool deck without compromising your budget, then a decorative concrete is an ideal choice. Stamped concrete installation is quite challenging, but it brings an exceptional result. Though it is possible to include the stamped concrete project as a DIY project, don’t forget that you can seek help from highly-skilled individuals who can also do the job for you. Contact Deck Ready to turn your stamped concrete project into a more-structured reality. We offer stamped concrete services and provide you with a wide array of choices in decorative concrete designs, patterns and colors that can match the style and landscape of your main house. Plus, it’s less hassle and less workload for you.