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Stamped Concrete: An Affordable Alternative to Pavers

Price can tip the balance toward using stamped concrete. But it’s truly aesthetics and choices that flip home and commercial property owners to its use.

If the term “stamped concrete” is unfamiliar, the soles of your feet might have a leg up on you.

That’s because you might well have walked on stamped concrete – some call it imprinted or textured concrete – and thought it was something different. It’s a technique of taking poured concrete walkways, patios, driveways and even inside floors and making them look like interlocking paving stones, flagstones, or wood planks. The end result can be one of an unlimited number of patterns and textures and in a wide spectrum of colors. A glossy sealant adds elegance in place of where dull, rough surfaces in concrete grey would have otherwise been used.

The primary benefit of stamped concrete is its design flexibility. But in most cases, it compares favorably to the cost of pavers and flagstones. Prices vary by markets and regions, but where an $18-per-square-foot price tag might be attached to pavers dry-laid in sand and gravel, a stamped concrete surface might cost as little as $8 per square foot. A higher degree of artistry might boost the cost of stamped concrete above the paver cost, but what results is arguably worth it.

The price difference is in both labor and materials. A stamped concrete floor of any type starts with laying the wet concrete and applying artistic treatments to the floor as it sets and dries. A brick paver system requires manufactured or quarried materials and lots of manpower to correctly build and place the individual pavers.

But the aesthetic features of the textured and colored concrete can take a patio or walkway or driveway to a new level. It starts with stamping mats, which are rubbery forms are placed and pressed by skilled workers on drying concrete, with a color powder release applied to the concrete and the mats (side facing the still-wet concrete). The process is somewhat akin to faux-effect painting on walls.

Once dry, the texturized surface is scored, which can mimic the lines between laid stones. Scoring also provides protection from cracks that can occur over time with concrete; the cracks tend to follow the scored lines.

The scored lines can be colored to mimic grouting. But the colors that are applied to the concrete (in layers) are probably its biggest benefit. Colors can be selected for drama, can have defining borders, and even be selected to match or complement other shades in the landscape, including that of adjoining buildings (e.g., driveways and walkways that match a stone chimney or simply the color of the exterior siding). 

The final step in stamping concrete uses a sealer that sets and protects the effects and make it resilient to weather, washing and traffic. A stamped concrete surface can last 25 years or longer.

Pay more attention to your feet – what you are walking on might be a smart, stamped concrete surface.