The average patio isn’t much to look at on its own, which is why people make changes any way they can, like vibrant furniture or stamped concrete on the floor.
This popular method makes a pattern on the floor and it’s a great way to add warmth and personality to your patio, where it might otherwise look a little drab.
How do you make a stamped concrete patio?
Stamped concrete is a job usually left to the professionals, but if you like a challenge, you might want to DIY it.
The steps involved in this process include pouring the concrete, finishing it, applying color, and imprinting it with the design you want, so it’s a lot more than it looks.
Although hard work, the results that stamped concrete delivers are worth it, and it can be an instant transformation for your outdoor space.
If you’re up for the challenge and want to learn how to create a stamped concrete patio, we’ve laid out all of the steps involved so you can see what it takes.
The Benefits of Stamped Concrete For Your Patio
Stamped concrete is a popular choice for patio flooring and a modern alternative to things like pavers.
If you’re trying to decide on the best patio floor and want to know what stamped concrete is all about, these are some of its better-known benefits:
In terms of ongoing care and maintenance, a stamped concrete floor is one of the easiest.
You’ll never need to replace pavers or re-set it, and it’s designed to minimize cracks during the laying phase, so there’s very little you have to do over its life.
At most, you may want to add a new finish to bring back its glossy surface, but this depends on how much it’s worn down.
On the lower end of the scale, you can pay around $8 a square foot for a basic stamping pattern, or over $20 a square foot for something detailed and higher quality.
It’s a cost-effective way to do your patio floor and when you factor in its lifespan, the savings are even greater.
A quality laid stamped concrete patio can last up to 25 years before it needs to be redone.
Because this unique surface has less chance of cracking and being damaged, the overall structure of it is more durable, which means it’ll be there for years to come even in high traffic areas like patios.
When compared to laying individual pavers by hand onto your patio, the process of pouring and stamping concrete is a lot easier for a professional.
The reduced labor is passed onto you through not just financial savings but a job that takes less time as well. If you’re in a hurry, a stamped concrete patio can be completed and ready for action in just a few days.
Range of colors and styles
There’s no shortage of colors to choose from with stamped concrete and at least four different methods for applying this color, each with a unique effect.
You can create concrete that looks just like cobblestones or having something smoother and more modern, and the options are endless.
The Steps to a Stamped Concrete Patio
Stamped concrete is usually a job left to the professionals, but that doesn’t mean a handy DIYer can’t tackle it themselves.
To get a better idea of what’s involved in the process and why most people call in the experts, we’ve covered the 10 steps needed to create a stamped concrete patio.
#1: Prepare the subgrade
Any time you plan on laying a concrete slab, you’ll need to first get the subgrade ready for it.
This means you need to make sure that the soil support system underneath it can support the slab, much like the foundation of a building would.
For the purpose of a stamped concrete patio floor, the ground underneath needs to have heavily compacted soil so that it doesn’t let in excess moisture and won’t erode over time, and it needs to be clean.
If it’s not, you’ll have to prepare it, which involves compacting the soil using a large machine which reduces the natural compression that will happen when the slab is laid and also increases the ground’s weight capacity.
#2: Create the forms
Pouring concrete with any structural support or forms in place would result in a huge mess, as the material begins as a liquid and ends up as a solid.
A concrete form is put in place to hold the concrete in a special area and ensure that it turns solid where it needs to and in the right shape.
The forms can be made of metal, plastic, and wood, and are positioned around where the patio ground will be and are held in with stakes.
Extra care needs to be taken during this stage to make sure the concrete won’t come into contact with other surfaces, that its edges are clean, and that it has the right slope or grade to allow for proper drainage, so a lot of planning and measuring is required.
Concrete is rarely poured on its own and without reinforcement, otherwise, the slab itself wouldn’t be as strong.
With the right reinforcements, you reduce the chance of the concrete separating even if it cracks, give it structural soundness, and improve on its resistance against impact and weight.
If you’re creating a stamped concrete patio, you’ll want to do the same by inserting wire mesh or ½ inch steel rebar into where you’ve created the forms for the concrete to be poured over.
These bars are laid in a grid effect with around 12 inches between them to allow for the correct spacing.
#4: Pouring the Concrete
With all of the preparation done, you can now go ahead and pour the concrete into the forms.
The best approach for a larger space like a patio is to use a ready-mix truck that can pour it directly in, otherwise, you’ll need to hire a concrete mixer to do this yourself.
Preparation like plastic sheeting around the home and covers for the garden or grass around the patio is ideal, and having an extra set of hands and eyes is recommended.
The choice of concrete used in this step will impact the final appearance and strength of the patio floor, so you must use one that’s designed for stamped concrete specifically.
#5: Finishing the Concrete
Once the concrete has been poured, you need to move quickly to the next step, which is screeding and finishing the concrete.
Special care should be taken during this process as it will form the blank canvas for your stamping, but you have to do it before the concrete starts to set, so it’s a juggling act.
The two factors to consider are that the concrete is all flush so that the imprinting process works properly, and that the cement paste reaches the top layer so that the imprint is more defined.
There are a number of tools useful for this step that will get the perfect finish required for stamped concrete.
#6: Coloring the Concrete
Before you can start the stamping process, you’ll want to add any coloring to the cement first.
There are four different methods you can use to color concrete for stamping, each with pros and cons, including:
This can be added to your concrete while it’s being mixed which means you save a step of coloring later, and that color is permanent and even found in bottom layers.
However, the colors are less vibrant so usually need another coat of something else, like a stain or release agent.
A dry shake color hardener is cast onto the concrete when wet, and it then floats to the surface and hardens over time.
It takes more work to apply this type of color but they have an unlimited color range and will add another layer of hardness and durability to the concrete because it also features particles of cement.
A stain can be applied to just certain parts of concrete or over the whole thing, so they’re good for unique patterns, and people find they look more realistic.
However, as a more natural product, they’ll need to be used with another type of integral color, unless you only want the shiny finish that they offer.
These can be applied as either liquid or powder and won’t have any impact on the final texture of the concrete.
They’re better used for subtle color choices or to put as a final layer over other types of color to give them an antique look.
These release agents are better in the final look but they’re messy and require a lot of preparation and clean up.
#7: Stamping the Concrete
This time-sensitive step must be done quickly otherwise the cement will harden and you won’t get the desired effect.
Before you commence, plan out exactly where you’ll lay the stamp and make sure you have helpers if you can’t reach the whole space yourself in time.
Using a pre-made stamp, you press it completely into the concrete, and then go around the entire space, checking alignment as you go.
Not only does it have to line up, but it should look random somewhat to give a more natural effect and the appearance of real stone, so it can be a challenging step to master with no room for error.
#8: Curing the Concrete
Curing is another term for when the concrete dries, but unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just leaving it there and waiting for it to dry on its own.
The goal for correct concrete curing is ensuring it gets enough moisture through the process and stays at the right temperature so that it has time to develop and with the result of a denser and stronger finish.
To cure the concrete, you’ll need to understand how much it holds already and how much water it’s bleeding.
This factor changes depending on temperature, humidity, and wind velocity, and needs to be monitored carefully.
With an understanding of this, you’ll know how much water to add and where, throughout the entire curing process.
#9: Adding Contraction Joints
A contraction joint is placed into the cement to provide stress relief at certain locations, in a bid to reduce cracking or moving that might occur in the future.
You’ll need to add these control joints to your concrete slab before it sets completely, and doing so will prevent them from occurring in places you don’t want them to.
The best time to create the contraction joints is between six to 12 hours after the concrete is finished.
They should be at least a quarter of the thickness of the concrete deep and you can use a lightweight saw to do them, provided you haven’t left it too late and it’s started to harden too much.
#10: Apply the Sealer
With the job complete, it’s now time to add a sealer to the surface, which holds many benefits.
The primary reasons for applying a sealer are that it improves the final color, adds a sheen to the surface, and reduces penetration from things like dirt and leaves that are commonly found on a patio.
There’s a wide selection of sealers to choose from, with options like high gloss to satin, and colors and tints as well.
This step is crucial for the longevity of the concrete but also its final look and knowing the right amount to apply and how to do it properly will make all of the difference to the final result.
When to Call in the Experts
A DIY job like creating a stamped concrete patio might seem impossible for the average person to do, and this would probably be an accurate assumption.
Once you see all of the steps needed to get it right, as well as the various tools and accessories you need, you’ll see why many people opt for hiring the experts.
The cost to have a stamped concrete patio installed will vary depending on a few factors like space, size, and final finish you want.
According to Concrete Network, you can expect to pay between $8 and $12 per square foot for a basic design, but upwards of $20 a square foot for something more detailed.
While factoring in whether you should DIY this job, also consider the amount of time the job will take and the planning that goes into it.
Unless you feel confident in your skills of laying concrete, creating forms and reinforcement, and doing the imprint and stamping, this is a process that would be better left to a professional.
A Flawless Finish For Any Patio
Stamped concrete is a popular finish choice for everything from patios to driveways, and whether you go it alone or call in the professionals, you’ll be thrilled with the results.
If your patio floor is looking drab and you want a finish to match the rest of it, check out the patterns and colors that stamped concrete offers.
The floor of your average patio isn’t usually that enticing, and try as we might to add furniture and outdoor rugs to it, it can still pull the whole space down.
If you’ve been thinking about adding stamped concrete to your outdoor area, we’ve got a few FAQs to consider that’ll give you a push in the right direction.
How Long Does Stamped Concrete Last?
A professionally installed stamped concrete floor can last up to and beyond 25 years which is why expert help is best if you feel unsure doing it yourself.
During this time, there will be minimal maintenance required, but it’s generally considered a durable and forgiving floor covering that works especially well in outdoor spaces like patios.
Is Stamped Concrete Slippery?
The slipperiness of a stamped concrete surface will depend on its finish, but they’re usually designed not to be slippery.
If you’ve had stamped concrete installed recently and find it’s slick while wet, it may have been over-finished, and you can call in the contractor who did the job to rectify the problem.
Is Stamped Concrete Cheaper Than Pavers?
The installation of a stamped concrete patio floor is usually cheaper than pavers and gives homeowners more choices in color and style, which makes it a popular option.
However, there are issues to be aware of like cracking and using the right cement to lay, so getting expert advice on the correct procedure is recommended.