Stamped concrete is an economical, high-quality alternative to expensive authentic materials. You get all the strength, durability, and maintainability of concrete with the pattern, texture, and appearance of other materials. You can emboss and texture concrete to look like brick, slate, flagstone, stone, tile, wood, and other flooring patterns.
Stamped concrete is often used for outdoor environments, like patios, sidewalks, driveways, and pool decks. Recently, stamped concrete has made a splash in interior flooring as well, especially with wood-look flooring.
There are three factors that create stamped concrete: base color, accent color, stamping. Together, this replicates the color and shape of the natural material in a nearly indistinguishable way.
When stamping, you’ll want use durable overlays or molds to impress a pattern into the concrete. Imagine walking on wet sand. Your foot leaves a print in the sand while the sand is still wet. This is what happens with stamped concrete. While the concrete is still partially wet, you use a stamp to create an imprint of a flooring pattern.
Below are the steps to creating beautiful, quality concrete for your indoor or outdoor space.
1. Add the base color.
While the concrete is still wet, you’ll want to add the base color. This is the main coloring of the flooring that reflects the natural flooring material, like a brick tone or bluish slate for example.
Some of the most popular colors for stamped concrete include:
You add the base color to the concrete using a color hardener. This is a powder pigment that dyes the concrete.
There are two methods for adding the base color: integral or cast-on color. Integral application puts the dye base color directly into the concrete mixer, so the entire volume of concrete is dyed.
Cast-on application dyes only the surface of the wet concrete. You add the dye by throwing the powder or liquid on the surface of the concrete while it’s still wet. After the first application, let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes to allow it to absorb water from the concrete. Then apply a second layer.
2. Add the accent color.
The accent color is the second color that contrasts the main color and helps produce the texture of the stamped concrete. The accent color-releasing agent also works as a non-adhesive to prevent the concrete stamps (the pattern molds) from sticking to the concrete.
We like using variegated color accents. This creates a natural, authentic look by varying the colors within the flooring. Custom mixed colors can mimic marbling or natural slate in a striking way.
There are two application methods: powder or liquid. With the powdered application, you spread the accent color powder on the surface of the concrete before stamping. Use a dry brush, flicking the powder in a light, uniform layer.
The liquid is sprayed on the bottom of the concrete stamps or molds. When stamping, the molds both color and shape the floor at the same time.
If you want an antiquing effect, apply a small amount of the powdered release to the surface of the concrete. Then spray a liquid release on top. The liquid dissolves the powder so there are subtle accents that make for an attractive, natural look.
Before stamping, you want to make sure the concrete is at the right stage of plasticity. If you begin stamping too soon, the concrete won’t be able to handle both the stamp and the workers, so it will imprint too deeply.
Test the concrete by pressing your fingers into the concrete at a number of spots around the surface of the concrete. You should be able to leave a clean imprint that is 3/16 to 1/4 inch deep.
For a more consistent test, place the stamping mold on the concrete. Step on it. The mold should hold your weight and not slip around or slide too deep into the surface.
4. Pretexture the perimeter.
Before stamping the concrete, you should texture the perimeter of the surface. Do the first 6 to 12 inches inward from the outside using a texturing skin or flex mat. Starting from the outside helps keep the rest of the flooring consistent and uniform.
5. Stamp the concrete.
We recommend polyurethane molds, which are reusable, easily maintained, and give a strong impression in the concrete. Using these stamping mats, stamp the rest of the concrete.
Work row to row in the same way so the texturing is consistent. Most stamp sets are labeled, so you can arrange them appropriately to create a natural patterning. You want to avoid pattern repetition or it will look tiled and fake as opposed to natural stone.
Make sure the first row of stamps is straight. This will work as a benchmark for the rest of the flooring.
Lay down the molds. You will impress the stamps simply by walking over the mats once or twice. You can also use a gauge rake, which is an adjustable tool that helps better achieve a uniform thickness level.
Pushing down gently on these molds will imprint the concrete with the pattern and texture you want. Be sure to wear clean work shoes when stamping to avoid contaminating the concrete.
6. Fill in the details.
You want to make sure that the pattern looks clean-cut after stamping. Touch up or fix any minor surface flaws using a hand chisel or roller. Hand rollers are a great way to create clear lines and fix imperfections.
If there is any unevenness or non-uniformity, use the stamping mat to pat the area level and re-stamp. Place the mat on the area and gently rub it until the lines have lessened. Place the stamp mold in place, and step on it again.
7. Clean the concrete.
Let the concrete sit for two to three days. Then, you’ll want to thoroughly clean the surface of the concrete. This removes any residual release agent for a consistent, uniform look.
8. Apply curing compound.
After cleaning the floor, you can cure the concrete. This is the step that finalizes the concrete’s color and texture. Spray on a liquid, membrane-forming curing compound.
9. Install the joints.
Joints can help provide stress relief at certain locations to avoid cracking and breakage of the concrete. This is especially important for uneven outdoor areas.
Cut the contraction joints and apply as needed. We recommend a sawed joint, which is less noticeable than grooving.
10. Seal concrete.
Once the concrete has cured, let sit for two weeks. Then, apply a coat of sealer.
Before sealing, make sure you prep the surface with a gentle cleansing. A light wash will remove any contaminants, but avoid using excess water that can get trapped in the concrete. Be sure to dry the floor before sealing.
Do you want beautiful, natural-look floors without the cost and upkeep of authentic materials? Stamped concrete is a cost-effective solution to create gorgeous flooring that matches any décor and holds up against external environmental factors.
All three steps have to be completed by the time the concrete sets. This requires a high level of speed and experience, so we usually recommend hiring an experienced contractor.