Stamped Concrete
April 5, 2006 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Any thoughts on, experience with, opinions about Stamped Concrete?

I need a new driveway and some other paving done around the house. We're considering stamped concrete. The stuff certainly looks nice on the websites, duh, but I don't know much about it except for what I've dug up on google. In particular I'm looking at a cobblestoney running block pattern at

I'm looking for opinions from people who've had this done. Are you happy with it? Does it look real enough? Did it cost way more than quoted? Is maintaining it a pain? and so on.
posted by HK10036 to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
When I worked construction I did some stamping. All in all, I really liked the results - but it definitely comes at a premium. The process in and of itself isn't very complicated, as the contractor simply purchases rubber "tiles" that are used to create the seamless pattern. They then have various powder additives that give color to the concrete surface, this is sprinkled on and rubbed in to the top layer with the trowel after it is poured. A stain is added to bring out the relief edges and it is also sprayed with a chemical sealant. Other than that it has the standard properties of concrete and is subject to stress fractures and cracks like any other slab. The only jobs I ever did this on were wealthy homes or retirement communities, fwiw. If the aesthetic qualities outweigh the cost I think that's your answer, and I'm sure local contractors will be happy to quote you on it - they are always very eager to get these jobs, as the extra labor is miniscule compared to the premium relayed to the customer.
posted by prostyle at 10:11 AM on April 5, 2006

I have a stamped concrete walk. It's a red brick pattern, and though it won't fool you into thinking it's the real thing when you see it close up, it looks nice.

We're happy with it now, but the guys that did the installation had to rip it up and re-do it (at no cost to us) because they didn't put the expansion strips in properly, and it cracked within a year. The cost was what we were originally quoted. You shouldn't sign up for something like this without a guarantee that it won't go X% over the quoted price. I'd strongly suggest you go with a contractor who's been doing this type of work for a while and ask to see jobs that they've done a year or two back.

Although stamped concrete requires less maintenance than real pavers, you still need to seal it every year or two with a REALLY stinky product. Since the color is embedded in the cement while it's still wet, there isn't a problem with color chipping off. We've had ours for 3 years now and it still looks great.
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:21 AM on April 5, 2006

Yeah, it will cost a few more dollars than plain concrete but it adds a lot of value to a house too. Check your local concrete contractors to see what types of patterns they have. Some may not do it and some may only have one or two options. If you want a pattern for which they do not have the special form then it will cost even more money. Most contractors that do this are probably going to know how to do good work, so it will hold up for many, many years. As when hiring any contractor, get references and try to see projects they have worked on in the past.

In colder climates, the surface sometimes takes a beating with salt use and plowing but properly cared for it will not have any problems.
posted by JJ86 at 10:28 AM on April 5, 2006

This will be the third year we've had a stamped concrete rear patio. I would pretty much just echo everything said by SteveInMain. We really enjoy it, but it's not much of a cost savings.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:29 AM on April 5, 2006

JJ86 had a good comment about the colder climates, but if you have a really big season temp swing (like we do here in Winnipeg) just going with interlocking brick seems to be the better option.

All concrete here cracks and heaves eventually, and it just looks plain bad on the stamped stuff (to my eye anyhow). With brick, at worse you need to pull it out and relevel, and/or replace individual broken stones. Most contracters here leave you with a number of extra stones for that eventuality.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:35 AM on April 5, 2006

Another draw back in freezing climes is stamped concrete tends to the slick side. We've got regular plain brushed concrete mixed with coloured stampings here on campus and the stamped stuff is dangerous with a skiff of snow.
posted by Mitheral at 11:05 AM on April 5, 2006

We're in Jersey City Heights, NJ right across from NYC so snow/salt damage/ slipperyness are concerns. Oddly it was snowing here just a few hours ago. Given the building market around I imagine I'll be paying a premium price for this stuff but the same holds for anything.

In a way I don't want it to look "too" nice because this is an up-and-coming neighborhood and it might look a bit out of place. At the some time asphalt or plain concrete aren't particularly appealing and something nice will definitely add value to the house.

Since this will be our first major improvement to the exterior of the house it'll look odd anyhow because the rest of the house will look crappy in comparison, but you've got to start somewhere.
posted by HK10036 at 1:00 PM on April 5, 2006

In that case you can have the contractor add some colored sand during or after finishing to give the surface a little tooth so that it isn't that slippery. Generally a brushed surface to plain concrete give enough of a tooth to prevent it from becoming slippery, but brush-finishing a stamped surface destroys the detail and character.
posted by JJ86 at 1:28 PM on April 5, 2006

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