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Decorative Concrete: Turning Cement Surfaces to Stone

by Marc Dickinson

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When installing a floor, patio, or driveway, many people would love to have the unique colors and warm textures of natural stone. Slate, tile, brick, and even marble are some of the hottest materials on the market due to their sophisticated look and irreplaceable charm. However, any kind of natural stone comes at a heavy cost. Since they're rare, difficult to manufacture, and harder to work with, they are never cheap. Therefore many people invest in cement: it's easy, inexpensive, and effective. But recently homeowners have been able to find the best of both worlds: imitation natural stone. Whether inside or out, decorative concrete offers the look of natural stone without the price tag.

Concrete Stamping
This has become the most common form of decorative concrete today. Since wooden decks and porches are actually becoming a thing of the past, natural stone patios is the newest wave in exterior design. But it costs money. Therefore, stamping allows cement to take on the look of any natural product. During production, certain dyes are mixed into the product to create the right look. Then it's laid like regular cement. Before it dries, a unique pattern is gently tamped into the wet material. So when it dries, it may look like brick pavers, but without all the work, maintenance, or expense.

Decorative Concrete Resurfacing
Cement eventually gets beat up by the weather, the cold, or simply by the years gone by. When it ages, you're bound to see fading or cracks, so instead of breaking up the old and completely replacing it with the new, many homeowners choose to resurface. By applying a thin layer of fresh cement over the pre-existing product, many of the flaws can be sealed and covered. However, if you're tired of the pitted, gray look of cement, think about decorative concrete resurfacing. While the holes and cracks are being repaired and covered, color can be added, along with engraved patterns and brushed textures, in order to imitate the breathtaking look of natural stone.

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Stamped Concrete

Decorative Concrete Coating
If you have a pre-existing cement structure, you can still brighten it up. Whether it is your interior flooring, countertops, or exterior walkways, decorative concrete coating has become quite popular since it doesn't require new construction. Here are a few different options available to you:
Stain: An acid stain is applied over the top of an existing surface, wherein a chemical reaction occurs between the two substances and afterwards a permanent color stain appears. The real usefulness of this technique is the custom design. You can create swirls to replicate granite. You can design patterns to match the look of marble floors. It can even imitate wood and leather, giving you limitless options.
Dyes: Simply another form of color staining, many contractors can literally paint the floors with a special spray-top dye.
Texture: Not only can you spray on colors, you can spray on the texture you want as well. In the past, one could only apply designer texture during decorative concrete resurfacing (broom finishing the surface while it's still wet), but now you can simply spray on the desired surface in order to gain the grain you want.

More Decorative Concrete
Of course it doesn't end there. Though the methods mentioned above are the more popular techniques, there are also stenciling, polishing, color flaking, epoxies, and many more options, some using a combination of these processes. But the main attraction is that decorative concrete is not only a fiscally wise alternative, it's also limitless in terms of design choices, application, and location (don't forget your garage floors, basement floors, pool decks, and stair steps).

Marc Dickinson has worked in both the general contracting and landscaping trades and is currently a home improvement freelance writer with over 300 articles published.