Stamped concrete can take boring patio or driveway paving from unmemorable to gorgeous. If you are installing new pavement and want to have it stamped with an attractive design, the following tips can help ensure that the process looks good for many years to come.
1. Focus on the Base Preparation
Although you won't see it after installation, the base is the single most important part of the entire paving project. A properly installed base prevents damage to the surface and ensures fewer cracks in the future, both keys to a long-lasting and attractive stamped concrete project. Base materials should be installed to a several inch thickness and fully compacted to prevent the base from shifting over time.
2. Integrate Expansion Joints Into the Design
Expansion joints provide some elasticity to the concrete surface, which will prevent cracks from forming in the future during freeze and thaw cycles. One concern with stamped concrete is that the joints will detract from the appearance. A skilled installer can plan the expansion to work into the design so that the joint lines up with natural lines in the finished stamped design pattern.
3. Request Concrete Reinforcement
Another way to minimize damage to the stamped concrete surface is to reinforce it at the time of installation. This is especially important if you are installing a larger concrete pad. Steel reinforcing bars or mesh are placed inside the concrete form. The concrete is then poured, leveled, and stamped with the desired design. The reinforcement can help prevent cracks, sinking, and crumbling over the life of the concrete.
4. Choose Dye Over Paint
One way to make stamped concrete designs really pop is to add color to the finished paving. Although you can paint concrete, the paint will fade and chip off over time. A better option is to plan your colors in advance and then have the dye mixed into the concrete before it is poured and stamped. This nearly eliminates the chances of wear and fading over time.
5. Seal and Protect the Surface
Concrete surfaces can erode, which can lead to the loss of the sharp lines that make stamped concrete so attractive. The good news is that there are ways to protect the stamped surface. A hardener can be added to the surface before the concrete cures completely, which makes it more durable. Applying a protective seal every few years will also prevent damage.
Contact a stamped concrete contractor for more help in updating your paved area.