A Paver Alternative - Stamped Concrete
By: KYLE DALTON
While pavers are becoming more popular for exterior walkway or driveway surfacing, stamped concrete is also a viable alternative. This type of surface, which can be used as either a new surface or on top of an existing, deteriorating surface, provides the same general look of a segmented concrete or paver surface, but is achieved through a monolithic pour or resurfacing, depending on the circumstances.
Pattern stamping, or the process used to achieved stamped concrete, involves stamping or impressing three-dimensional patterns into concrete with molds. The actual process, like paver installation, can be labor-intensive and involves numerous steps. Note that the steps for pattern stamping may vary depending on the manufacturer.
Some incorporate color into the actual mix of the concrete while others achieve the coloring effect through the hardening and/or release agent. The manufacturer will provide you with the necessary steps required to achieve the desired look.
The first step in pattern stamping, like any paved surface installation including pavers, is developing a solid foundation. When the foundation is complete, the perimeter is set and fresh concrete is poured.
Before the concrete sets, the desired coloring is incorporated and the actual stamp pattern is impressed into the entire layout. The coloring is achieved through the use of a dry shake color hardener that is applied across the entire layout. Following the hardener, a release agent or a dry powdered, colored agent is spread evenly across the slab. This agent is used to prevent bonding between the stamping tools and the concrete. In addition, the release agent provides depth and texture to the concrete, and it can provide moderate color variations to the textured surface.
When the spread of the agent is complete, and while the concrete remains uncured, the textured pattern is stamped into the slab with rubber mats that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. When the concrete sets thoroughly, the excess release agent is washed off, the control joints are cut, and the slab is cleaned. The final step is sealing off the surface to provide greater stain and weather resistance. The stain also highlights the colors.
While creating a stamped pattern from scratch has its obvious advantages — specifically starting with a clean slate — there are stamped pattern solutions that can be used on top of existing, deteriorating surfaces. Perma-Crete is one such solution.
Perma-Crete, like pavers and stamped concrete, can be used on paved surfaces such as driveways, sidewalks and patios. Unlike the others, Perma-Crete is used when conditions don't necessarily appear ideal for creating a nice, finished surface.
On a cracked surface, the first step is cleaning the surface area with a high-concentrate liquid cleaning compound that is applied as necessary to restore the surface back to its original color. Next, the cracks are repaired by sawing out each crack slightly deeper than its existing depth. Although this sounds counterproductive, sawing the cracks ensures a solid bond for repair will be achieved with a special bonding or epoxy solution. If severe spalling, surface deterioration or low areas exist, these are leveled as needed with a non-colored skim coat of a special Perma-Crete mix that is applied by using squeegees or a spray rig and hopper gun assembly.
The coloring phase is next. However, if a pattern such as brick or tile is desired, the pattern is taped off on the entire surface. Next the texture coat is applied using the spray hopper and hand-troweled to achieve the desired finish. After all expansion joints have been caulked, two coats of stain sealer are applied to the textured finish to completely seal the surface. Maintenance is minimal with the use of normal household detergents.