Stamped concrete is hardly a secret among those who've participated in a driveway or hardscaping project, but it’s also not something that someone outside the real estate and construction industries could identify at a glance. That’s the point of it: Like many other designer tricks, stamped concrete is meant to create a perception of luxury without going all out on luxe materials. Contractors often use it to substitute for more expensive and complicated materials, like flagstone.
What is stamped concrete?
The material is simply, as the name infers, concrete; however, specialty tradesmen use rubber stamp molds to imprint a stone- or brick-appearing pattern and texture on it. This gives the concrete the look of pavers, tiles, flagstones, slate, worn rock, or other distinctive materials. It can be coated to have a gloss, or textured to look rough like sandstone and brick. It can be poured on top of existing concrete or stone as an overlay. It's a versatile chameleon effect combined with a sturdy and inexpensive material. A knowledgeable expert can use it everywhere, from pool decks to driveways to home interiors, to create all sorts of effects.
What is the function of stamped concrete?
The function of stamped concrete is to beautify highly trafficked floor surfaces for a lower cost than stone, wood, or brick. It's sold as an easy-to-install, versatile, weather-resistant substitute for more sensitive materials such as slate and brick. It’s most commonly a type of outdoor paving, but it's also seen indoors mimicking tile or wooden floorboards.
The downside of stamped concrete is that it cracks more easily and isn't as long lasting as pavers.
What is it most commonly used for?
Stamped concrete is most commonly used for highly visible hardscaped outdoor areas, starting with the driveway and front walkway, but also commonly pool patios,
garden paths, and terraces.
Overlay concrete with stencils or color added can be a beautiful touch on indoor-outdoor spaces of a home, like a covered porch or sunroom. The color and pattern options are endless, and the price for the color and stencil process can often be more reasonable than for the stamping process.
For renovation specialists, the ability to pour an overlay of stamped concrete on top of an existing concrete slab makes this process like a magical quick fix, allowing them to more easily elevate the look of a front sidewalk or pool terrace.
What is the cost?
For basic stamped concrete, the Concrete Network puts a price range of $8-12 per square foot. For mid-range stamped concrete featuring multiple colors and/or borders, these experts have a range of $12-18 per square foot. So stamped concrete isn't dirt cheap, and in fact, either stenciled concrete or stained concrete are suggested as cheaper decorative options.
That said, stamped concrete is ½ to ¼ the cost of flagstone, and brick can actually be ten times more expensive. The cost of labor is also greater for other materials, since they must be laid rather than poured. However, experts say that over time pavers are the better option because they can support much more weight and don’t crack.
The bottom line -- is it worth it?
Yes, this decorative touch is typically worth it, because it can be applied to highly visible parts of the exterior of a building, and it doesn't require demolition of existing concrete slab work; rather, it can go right on top. However, for those invested in properties for the very long haul -- or permanently -- it might be best to choose more expensive materials that provide better value over the course of decades.