The stamping process involves the use of three additional products beyond that which is used in regular concrete work.
First, the concrete is poured and trowel finished to a very smooth finish. Then, a color hardener is broadcasted and troweled in. This process is repeated until a solid base color is attained, usually three to four times. This product hardens the surface to two to three times the strength of the concrete. At this time, if accent colors are desired they are broadcasted randomly into the base color. The next step is to broadcast the release color. This is a water-repellent material that allows us to stamp the impression into the soft concrete without getting the rubber mats (stamps) stuck to the concrete. It also impregnates another color into the surface and becomes your grout lines.
In choosing the release color, you need to be aware that it is not a solid color, but a semitransparent one. We suggest that a darker color be used for the release. A lighter color will make the base color lighter, but may not be seen as well. The heavier the texture of the pattern, the more of the release is impregnated.
On the day we stamp the concrete, you cannot see your color and very little of the texture (pattern) is visible. This will be true until we apply the sealer. The next step is to take care of any touch ups, (remember this is concrete, not slate or tile etc.) and finish any verticals. Next, we clean and acid wash the concrete. You cannot walk on the concrete during this period. Finally, when all the concrete is clean and dry we apply the sealer. At this point our work is finished, but not the process.
Concrete cures over, approximately, a four-month period. During this period, there are slight changes in color. What you will notice, within a three to six week period of time, is the curing of the color hardener and the sealer. The brighter the color is, the more dramatic the change will be. Over the same period of time, the sealer will go from a gloss to a flat finish.
Within the first four months and over the first winter, you need to keep an eye on your concrete. If cracks are going to occur, it is most likely during this period. The sooner you notice any cracks and let us know, the easier it is to repair. The repair usually requires cutting an additional expansion joint and filling the crack with color.
Remember, the best way to make sure you will be happy with the results is to visit as many of our customer references and look at as many of our completed jobs as possible. We suggest you first visit the showroom, and get an idea of the color and pattern that you want. Once you have visited several jobs and chosen your color, pattern, and design of your work, we can change anything from the moment we start the work until we pour the concrete. If you want to make a change, we will work with you. Some people can not visualize what the area will look like until it is formed, so do not feel uncomfortable about changing your mind. We do, however, ask that we work out any designs for steps ahead of time, as there is a great deal more work involved in reforming steps.
DECORATIVE concrete is regular concrete that is poured to the standard 4 inch depth (or other specified depth), and while still wet, has certain pigments and a chemical hardener worked into its surface. Special stamping tools are then used to impress, into the still wet surface, texture and patterns to give concrete the real block, slate, tile, or stone look. Once cleaned and dried, the decorative concrete is then sealed.
Q. Will DECORATIVE concrete crack?
DECORATIVE concrete is just like any other concrete. To minimize any risk of cracking, all DECORATIVE concrete contractors are experienced and knowledgeable installers, who adhere to the standard specifications for: (A) a sub-base on which the concrete is placed, (B) saw cuts of at least 1/3 of the depth of the concrete placed at least every 15 feet, (C) expansion joints, and (D) wire mesh which is installed for reinforcement to also minimize cracking.
Q. Will the colors fade?
The pigment worked into the surface of the concrete is a metal oxide pigment (the same used in making bricks), which do not noticeably fade for many years. All pigments are obtained from reputable national manufacturers who have been leaders in the pigment industry, and whose standards for a uniform product and consistent quality are unquestioned.
Q. For how many years has DECORATIVE concrete been installed?
The systems for making decorative concrete are more than 20 years old, with the chemistry having been proven in installations throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, in both hot and cold climates. However, the installations made prior to a few years ago were of a single color, lacked texture, and used now-obsolete tools. These tools only stamped in the joint lines and could not control their depth. If the joint lines were too deep, they posed a risk not only to persons walking in high heels, but also in the northern climates, as the pressure from water freezing in the joints could crack off a portion of the concrete surface. The DECORATIVE concrete system now uses exclusively platform tools which control the depth of the joints and allows multiple color systems to be used.
Q. What are some of the uses for DECORATIVE concrete?
DECORATIVE concrete is used in all areas you would use normal concrete, but desire a more decorative surface. DECORATIVE concrete can be installed for both residential and commercial properties. Such areas include but are not limited to: pool-decks, patios, walkways, basements floors, driveways, entryways into hotels and office buildings, front walkways on strip mall shopping centers, and the initial portion of roads at the entrances into housing developments.
Q. How long will DECORATIVE concrete last?
DECORATIVE concrete is just like regular concrete and should last for many, many years. If there is extensive wear on the concrete, you may want to give it the “just like new” look by having it resealed.
Areas that receive a heavy amount of foot traffic may need to be resealed more frequently.
Q. How does salt affect DECORATIVE concrete vs. brick or pavers?
We highly recommend NEVER using salt or any type of de-icer that contains salt. DECORATIVE concrete is sealed, however the salts can penetrate the sealer and subsequently the concrete to cause damage. We recommend using sand or cat litter as an alternative.
Q. Why would I choose DECORATIVE concrete over brick or pavers?
The following are only a few reasons to choose DECORATIVE concrete:
NO WEEDS: There are no cracks between the “bricks” in DECORATIVE concrete for dirt to settle into and weeds to grow, eliminating any need to spray weed killer, pull weeds, or “mow your patio”.
LEVEL SURFACE: Through the effects of freeze/thaw cycles, heavy rains, and everyday traffic, bricks and brick pavers many times settle, pop up, or separate, posing liability risks from people tripping. Additionally, there is the need for periodic maintenance of tearing up the bricks and leveling the base on which they are placed. On roadways, another frequently occurring problem is a general up and down rolling effect, which cannot be eliminated without redoing the entire job.
MAINTENANCE/DURABILITY: DECORATIVE concrete is a much more durable material than bricks or pavers, and substantially easier to maintain.
Q. How do I clean and take care of DECORATIVE concrete?
The concrete can be washed the same as any other floor surface. Water and mild soap is all that is generally required. To maintain the luster in areas such as sunrooms and patios, a polish containing some wax can be used.