Installation Dos and Don’ts for Great Stamped Concrete
The beautiful surface effects possible with decorative stamped concrete are just part of the total package. You'll also be getting one of the most durable paving materials money can buy -- if the concrete is installed properly. Long-lasting stamped concrete starts with the basics: the right tools, good materials, an experienced installer and ideal jobsite conditions. Here are five important dos and don'ts to discuss with your contractor before the work begins
- Don’t overlook subgrade preparation.
A well-compacted subgrade is essential to the structural integrity of the concrete slab. It also helps drainage and can prevent soil erosion under the concrete.
- Do install joints to control cracking.
To be effective, joints must be cut to a depth of at least one-quarter the slab thickness. If you're worried that the joints will detract from the appearance of the stamped surface, ask your contractor to hide the joints by integrating them into the pattern lines wherever possible.
- Do insist on the right concrete mix for exposure conditions. Will your stamped concrete be exposed to freezing and thawing, deicing chemicals and a lot of wear and tear from foot or vehicle traffic? Then you'll need a concrete mix designed for high performance. In particular, pay special attention to the water-cement ratio, or the amount of water in proportion to the cement. Adding too much water weakens the concrete and makes it less durable.
- Do use a dry-shake color hardener. This "magic" powder, which is sprinkled onto the concrete surface before stamping, not only adds color, but will also produce a denser, more impermeable surface.
- Don’t skimp on reinforcement. For many slabs on grade, concrete reinforcement (in the form of steel bars or welded wire mesh) is necessary to augment strength and help to control cracking. This is especially true for driveways and other surfaces that will support vehicle traffic.
Read more stamped concrete maintenance tips.