Concrete Stamping & Coloring

Concrete is a versatile, dependable, and durable choice for a wide range of decorative and functional spaces. Yet it can be dull and utilitarian to look at. Fortunately, decorative concrete opens up a whole world of style that lets you leverage concrete to its very best. Airtight Construction is proud to offer a range of stamped concrete options and various coloring to help you boost your home’s or business’ curb appeal.

Different Forms of Colored Concrete

There’s 4 key ways to create color in concrete. Each has its own look, and has its pros and cons. Let’s take a look.

Concrete Stain

Staining is very popular, as you can use it to add color on existing concrete as well as new installations. The colors are subtle, best used for earth tones and neutrals. This means it looks great alongside natural stone elements, too.

Concrete stains penetrate the surface concrete a little, so it produces a UV-resistant, durable look that is fade-resistant. They don’t hide stains and blemishes, however, or patchwork repairs.

Integral Color in the Concrete Mix

This can only be done with a new pour, where color in the concrete mix is created through the addition of pigments. This means the color is throughout the concrete, not merely on the surface, so it will never wear and chips will show less.As with stained concrete, integral color sticks with earth tones and neutrals, as well as subtle reds. Some very soft green and blue can be achieved, but there will not be any intense colors.

You can, of course, use integral concrete color as a base color and brighten it with other options.

Color Hardener

These are often paired with stamped concrete. It’s a great way to add a wide array of intense color to concrete, and also strengthen it. If the area is prone to wear and tear, moisture, or chemicals, color hardener pigment is a great choice. It’s also used to create natural-looking color variance for stone, brick, or tile mimicking patterns.


Color Hardener Needs Skillful Application

However, color hardener is messy to apply and you need a skilled contractor who can keep the dry-shake pigments and powder away from plants or materials that could be harmed. Additionally, skilled labor with proper PPE is a must, so many low-quality contractors will not offer it.

Concrete Dyes

Concrete dyes produce the most vibrant color, and they allow for reds, yellows, oranges, blues, and purples. In fact, the color is so strong it’s wise to let the contractor do a mock-up for you, to ensure you’re happy with the pigments.

Using Concrete Dyes for Branding

They are, however, great for detailed logos and graphics for corporate branding. Along with this vibrancy comes an increased fade risk. So you have to look for high-quality, UV-resistant dyes and consider a good sealer to keep the color in good condition.

Which method will be right for your property depends on a variety of factors. You may even use more than one.

So, What Is Stamped Concrete?

Stamped concrete is different from colored concrete. You may know the technique from stamped concrete patios, but it can be used for a wide range of applications. Sometimes called patterned or imprinted concrete, it allows you to give the look of brick, natural stone, slate, cobblestone, and even tile or wood on the surface. You can also opt for seamless patterns that don’t mimic ‘joint lines’ but provide texture and interest.

Uses of Stamped Concrete

Stamped concrete is great for:

  • Patios and eating areas
  • Walkways
  • Driveways
  • Fire pits and fireplaces
  • Pool decks
  • Any concrete floors, interior and exterior

The Easy Way to a Great Aesthetic

What makes stamped concrete popular? It creates lifelike, believable effects (like brick, cobblestone, or slate) that can better blend your concrete with the overall design of your building. Yet, it also is a continuous, sealed surface that is impermeable to damp. So it needs less maintenance and is more durable than many other materials, which are typically also much more expensive.

Concrete Stamping & Coloring

How Do You Install Stamped Concrete?

You can apply decorative concrete over the top of an existing concrete slab (called a stamped concrete overlay), so it makes for a nice retrofit option, too. Ideally, however, you will start stamping as a fresh pour, before the cement cures.

This makes for a fantastic way to rejuvenate a property with a high-end look while keeping all the practical trappings of concrete. This gives an authentic and natural surface that looks like the real thing and can also be easily blended with existing decor treatments.

Commercial Stamped Concrete

For commercial properties, large patios, and driveways, stamped concrete also offers a sophisticated veneer that looks more expensive than it is. Yet it is low-maintenance, easy-to-clean, and affordable. Especially when paired with colored concrete for more versatile looks. This makes it a great alternative to natural stone, brick, or other materials like wood

A Skilled Job

Installing stamped concrete has many steps, and the execution of the stamp patterns on the surface must be meticulous (and speedy) to get the right results for the whole slab before the concrete hardens. This goes double if you’re adding color hardeners or release agents. There’s also meticulous detailing and cutting of contraction joints to finish the project professionally.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Stamped Concrete?

Now you know more about stamped concrete, what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Advantages of stamped concrete

Stamped concrete is more affordable than many other treatments like natural stone, pavers, or brick. Yet it can create a look-alike treatment that enhances your space, with nearly limitless choices of color and pattern. It can easily be made slip-resistant for damp areas like a pool deck, will last well, and is easy to maintain provided you seal it properly. It can additionally be pressed into concrete even in complex builds with fountains and stairs for the best aesthetics. It’s also economical to update over time and easy to install.

Disadvantages of stamped concrete

So what are the downsides to stamped concrete? Honestly, there aren’t many! It’s not a very DIY-friendly installation, especially in a large commercial project like restaurant patios, so you need a skilled contractor who understands the materials. Using good contractors, however, will also bypass many of the other faults.

Concrete always carries a risk of cracking, especially in climates that have heavy freeze-thaw cycles, or where de-icing salts are common. It’s a pain to repair these cracks. However, if properly installed by contractors knowledgeable in the local climate, properly cleaned, and with regular use of a quality sealer, this is a negligible concern.

How Do I Design Attractive Stamped Concrete?

What will look best in each space is unique to your building. With so many patterns and colors available, a match is guaranteed. Often the contractor will draw echos from, or blend with, existing stone and decor elements like slate, cobblestone, or stone. It’s easy to layer, mix, and juxtapose both stamped concrete and colored concrete, so you can create contrasting patterns or decorative borders if you would like, or realistically mimic nature for walkways and

How Much Will Stamped Concrete Cost?

Stamped concrete can be cost-effective when used correctly, and it’s certainly one of the longest-lasting and most durable options you can install. When properly installed and maintained, it will last for decades. Remember, you get what you pay for!

Concrete can’t be beaten for durability and low maintenance, and coupled with the added aesthetic of decorative concrete, it’s a compelling design choice. Prices vary, but budget for anything from $8 per square foot for very simple stamped concrete, to high-end custom projects in the $18 per square foot range.

Using a concrete sealer to protect it from wear and abrasion, and the use of color hardeners, can extend the concrete’s lifetime further.

Will Stamped Concrete Look Fake or be Slippery?

Many stamped concrete patterns are molded from the real deal, so with some artful use of color, they can look very realistic- plus there’s no weed growth in the ‘joints’ as with real stone or brick.

As it gives you a textured surface, it’s also very slip-resistant. However, you can enhance this in moist or areas of high foot traffic through non-skid additives, heavy texture, and treatments.

Will Stamped Concrete Patios Crack or Fade?

Stamped concrete is highly resistant to cracking if it is correctly installed, and minor cracks are often very hard to detect due to the pattern. If you have cracking on your concrete, there are some ways to disguise and repair them, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us if necessary.

Colored concrete will be subject to UV damage, weathering, traffic, and dirt, but no more so than any other outdoor treatment. Correctly maintaining your concrete with cleaning and regular resealing will minimize this, especially in damp areas like pool decks, and color can be restored periodically in many cases.

De-icing salts, however, can do a lot of damage to concrete, mostly spalling and scaling, through moisture freeze-thaw cycles and ammonium salts. Rock salt does less damage, but will hurt plants and corrode metal. Sand is ok as a traction source, however.


Maintaining Stamped Surfaces

Stamped concrete needs less maintenance than many surfaces, but that doesn’t mean it needs none. Regular maintenance should be done every 2-3 years, depending on traffic and other factors.

Basic cleaning with a pressure washer, mild detergent, and a broom is mostly all you need. Add a regular resealing to preserve it in the best possible condition, and mom up chemical, fuel, oil, and grease spills as soon as possible.

As with other commercial concrete projects, you need the right contractor to bring your mental image to life. Stamped concrete needs an experienced contractor happy to show you a verified portfolio of attractive work, or the results can be cheesy and difficult to fix. If you are looking for decorative concrete in the San Francisco Bay Area, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Airtight Construction today. We’re always happy to hear from you.