What is stamped concrete and how is it done?
Stamped concrete is a finish that is imprinted or embossed into concrete while it is still in its plastic or moldable state. Patterns often resemble a natural stone texture and look, but any pattern or design can be imprinted or stamped into the soft concrete surface.
This is a simple summary of how a typical stamped concrete job is done.
1. The first step is to protect all adjacent or adjoining surfaces. Plastic is often used to protect and prevent damage or discoloration caused by concrete splatter, oxide colors and other chemicals used during the process.
2. Once the form work (the wall edging and outer shape of the slab) and reinforcement (often Steel Rebar) is in place the concrete is poured and placed into the form. The concrete is then smoothed and leveled to the desired slope and finish.
3. If the concrete color is not present in the mix, a dry shake surface colorant is now applied, this will add the desired color to the surface of the concrete.
4. The concrete is left to set until it is at the right state for imprinting or stamping. A trained professional will know when it is ready but it is generally when the concrete leaves an impression when pushed with a finger similar to putty.
5. A liquid or powder release agent is applied to the concrete surface and is used to help separate the stamp mats (patterns) from the surface.
6. The stamp mats are then applied to the surface and tapped down with a tamper tool to press them into the plastic concrete. When they are removed they leave behind the desired pattern. Using multiple mats, a ‘leap frog’ system allows the craftsmen the ability to work their way from one end to the other. It is important to know how to adjust the mats and place them randomly as not to obviously duplicate the exact same pattern.
7. Once the patterns have been applied the concrete is left to set and cure.
8. When the concrete is sufficiently cured or hardened, the surface is cleaned of release agents and loose debris. Control joints are cut and stamp seams are cleaned up. It can then be sealed to help bring out the color as well as protect the surface.
9. A clear sealer can be reapplied every two or three years to keep the stamped concrete surface looking its best.
This explains the basics of stamped concrete. There is a lot more than meets the eye though. A professional stamped concrete craftsman must understand concrete, slopes, grading, forming, finishing, coloration, sealers and more to achieve successful results every time. It takes years of practice and most professionals are truly talented craftsmen and artisans.