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Concrete is a strong and durable material that has a number of uses around the house. Homeowners can use concrete as a patio material, a driveway, a sidewalk or pathway. Those who dislike the bland or boring look of traditional concrete may appreciate the look of stamped concrete. Available in multiple colors, the installer uses a large device placed on top of the wet concrete to create a pattern on top. Those interested in using stamped concrete will want to consider the pros and cons of the material, how it compares to other types of building materials and the cost of installation.
What Is Stamped Concrete?
Stamped concrete is a type of concrete that contains the same base materials as other forms of concrete. The primary difference between stamped and traditional concrete is that stamped concrete contains some type of color and pattern. When mixing the concrete, the installer adds a powdered pigment that creates the base color. The powdered pigment will usually dry to a darker color. Installers can also add an accent color during the mixing process that mimics the various colors found in marble, brick and other materials.
The installer uses a large wood frame or a frame made from another material, which lets the concrete slowly dry and cure. While the concrete is still wet, the installer places a stamp on the surface that gives the concrete its final pattern. Some installers use an embossing tool in lieu of a stamp. They can move the tool across the surface to ensure each area has a specific pattern and that the lines of the pattern match up.
What Determines the Cost of Installation?
There are several factors that determine how much stamped installation costs. One of the largest factors is the size of the area. Most installers charge a set rate based on the overall square footage of the space. The type of colors and patterns may also play a factor in the cost of the job. A stamped concrete patio with one base color will likely cost less than a stamped concrete surface with multiple accent colors.
Homeowners also need to consider the pattern that they choose. A fancier pattern with flowing lines and spaces with a custom design will cost more than a plainer space that only uses straight lines. Hand-detailing can also increase the cost. This occurs when the installer uses special paints and other materials to add additional colors and designs to the concrete. Some installation experts will also charge an additional fee for demolishing and removing any existing surfaces made from concrete or other materials.
Stamped Concrete vs. Other Materials
One thing that homeowners often look at is how the cost of stamped concrete compares to the cost of other materials. The amount of time and effort that installers spend performing the job will naturally make it cost more than a patio or driveway made from plain concrete, and stamped concrete usually costs more than asphalt. Pavers made from brick, limestone and other types of natural stone work well as patios and walkways. The cost of stamped concrete is usually on par with pavers, but homeowners will find the material more durable than those pavers. With proper installation, designers can make the concrete look just like brick or other products.
Benefits of Stamped Concrete
Stamped concrete comes with all the benefits of standard concrete and a few extra features. One of the biggest benefits is its longevity. With proper maintenance and cleaning, a stamped concrete surface can last for decades. Routine maintenance usually involves sweeping the surface, cleaning it with a special concrete cleaner and applying a new coat of sealant every few years or more often. Many people find that adding a stamped concrete area to a home or lawn can also increase the total value of a home.
Saving Money on Renovations and Installation
Those looking for a way to save money on the cost of stamped concrete can find a variety of solutions. Installing the concrete during the off-season can significantly reduce the cost. Installation companies often offer lower prices during the cooler months, and some companies will even offer coupons online or in the newspaper.
Using a texture pattern or map may also reduce the price. These mats fit directly on top of the concrete and create a decorative design that doesn't include as many details as embossing tools and other methods create. Many people also choose designs that are plainer in nature. Adding decorative elements to each area of the concrete will involve more work and raise the cost. Leaving larger areas of plain concrete will drop the price. Homeowners can still get the decorative look that they want through designs added around the edges to create a bold border.
Cons of Stamped Concrete
Some installation companies use hand-coloring on the surface rather than powdered pigments, and those hand-colored areas can fade or wash away from exposure to rain and snow. Depending on the materials used in the stamping process, the concrete can also develop an uneven surface that makes walking on it difficult. Ice, snow and even rain can also lead to a problem known as the freeze-thaw cycle. The concrete expands and contracts, which lets the moisture get inside. This can cause cracking or lead to other minor and major issues. Repairing stamped concrete is expensive, especially in the more decorative designs.
Overall Costs of Stamped Concrete
Stamped concrete is often priced per square foot. Basic designs with minimal colors and designs often come cheaper than stamped concrete made to resemble brick and other materials. Those interested in creating a larger space with multiple colors might see their costs rise. The amount of work required for the job significantly affects the total cost of installing concrete.