Stamped Concrete Pros and Cons



“I am putting in a big driveway and walkways to my house (detached garage), and really like the look of the stamping and color. Is it difficult to do? Where do you get the stamp and the coloring? If I don’t do this, I will do exposed aggregate, but I would really like to stamp. Any input would be great. Obviously, I am oblivious to this side of concrete.”

New Jersey

“Stamped concrete has its advantages, but I never recommend it over pavers because they lose their shape over time (the depth of the stamping wears down with traffic). Once this happens, you lose the ‘lines,’ making it look like one big, flat dyed area with no detail.

“Pavers are the way to go. Not to mention, dying the concrete is something that is best left to the concrete company that would deliver the cement for consistency.”



“That’s good info, but dang, that would be a ton of pavers. Pretty big apron in the front of the garage. You would really do that instead of some sort of concrete?

“I have never heard of the stamping wearing off.”


“It’s a driveway; the concrete will be long gone from other reasons before the lines are worn off. Most cement companies sell the stamps. They run about $200 a stamp, depending on design. The cement company will also add the dye once you figure out a color, but be prepared for a different color from what you expected, it’s hard for them to mix up large batches and get exact color matching. If you’ve never done it before, sub the job out. There’s more work to it than just the stamping; you need to go back over all the lines and define them and smooth them more than what a stamp will do.”


“So, it sounds like a pain, as far as defining the lines.

“Sub out just the stamping, or would the contractor want to do the whole thing? I’m trying to keep cost down, because I’m trying to put all the sweat equity into my house as possible.

“Sounds like you guys have done it before. Did you like how it turned out, or was it a nightmare?”


“I do a lot of stamped concrete in my area. It is pretty costly. We charge anywhere from $10 to $14 a square foot. Just to form, pour, stamp and seal.

“I am doing my own driveway and will not stamp the entire surface. Big surfaces tend to take away from the technique. I am going to form a few diamonds and borders and pour the rest regular concrete.

“The job isn’t easy. I have been stamping for three years now and am still learning.

“The coloring—do not go with a color hardener. This is only worked in on the surface, which is much more labor intensive. I only use liquid pigment. My local supplier makes it for my needs by the cubic yard. We will pour, say, 6 yards in the morning, and then pour 7 yards in the afternoon. I will have a bucket for each truck to mix in. From my experience, anything over 8 yards should be added at the plant. I usually drop it off there that morning.

“As far as it wearing, it doesn’t round or lose its shape. We have a local university here that has it everywhere and no difference 10 years later.

“Forgot to mention, you need a release. I usually go with a colored release to give it different shades and highlights. You can also use plain concrete with two different color releases. It will save you money, as the pigment runs from $20 to $80 a cubic yard, depending on color. And, the concrete company usually charges an extra washout fee if you use colors. It adds up on a bigger job, being that we usually never pour more than 500 surface square feet at a time.”


“I would sub out just the stamping part if you could, but I’m not sure how that could be done since you need the color added, and the stamps would need to be there and ready when you finished the screeding. So, you’re probably going to have to sub the whole job out, or you can rent the stamps and talk to your cement company. They’re usually pretty good at helping someone out that wants to learn to stencil/stamp cement. It’s not a nightmare, but it’s a lot of hard work. I am assuming that you have some knowledge of doing concrete work, if not, then sub it out.”


“In my area several of the concrete companies lend you the stamps as long as you buy the concrete from them.”

Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania

“In our area, where we experience as many as 30 freeze/thaw cycles per year, I can’t imagine why somebody would install stamped concrete over pavers.

“For you guys that sell stamped concrete, what do you consider the benefits over pavers?”


“A guy that wanted a stamped slab called me to do the job. His neighbor has one, and he likes the look of it. I simply stated that I would not recommend stamping in northern Indiana because of cracking. Anyway, I went to his house and looked at his neighbor’s stamped pad. It’s level with the house, but not with the ground. At the end of the pad it sticks up 4 inches above the sod. Also, whoever installed this bolted it straight to the house’s foundation using rebar. So now this guy has a 15-by-20-foot stamped pad attached to his foundation. I give it two years max before his neighbor calls me to remove the rubble and install some pavers.”


“The benefits are that you have a little more color choice, meaning you can match their siding, shutters, their cat’s fur, anything they want, but the biggest benefit is that it offers another option to the customer. And, if it’s done right, the lines are expansion joints that control cracking and heaving. If a drive can get 40 years out of concrete with six to 10 expansion cuts, then you can imagine how a patio will hold up with 100 or so smaller expansion cuts. I’ve seen patios and other stenciled concrete that’s over 10 years old and it look great, maybe a little faded, but that was only a minor thing that most would not notice. It’s the same as pavers in that it’s all in the prep of the area before the actual installation. If that part is not done correctly, then the job will not hold up for long.”


“My dad had his concrete crew come over to do some for us. It gets too hard before you stamp. Sub it out or rent a jackhammer.”


“As far as freezing and thawing go, I live in western Oregon (very mild climate). Temps in the 20s are rare, and it wouldn’t be for very long, just during the night. So I’m not sure the cracking thing is a big deal. Mainly worried about ease of install.

“Sounds like you guys are leaning toward subbing it out.”


“Like was said previously, the prep is important.

“I am not knocking pavers, as I love the look of them and install them, but stamped concrete (done right) will last a lifetime. As far as the freeze/thaw issue, if you have a good base of gravel that will keep water from lying, the whole problem of frost is eliminated. I live in a cold climate (northern Pennsylvania) and have been installing concrete for 15 years and I’ve yet to have a major problem. The products that are out there as far as sealers, Confilm and pigments pretty much assure the concrete will last a long, long time.

“Pavers are by far losing the race in my area, I rip out at least 2,000 to 3,000 square feet every year to replace with stamped or stained concrete.

“Not saying stamped is better than pavers, but this is what the market is calling for.”


“Well said. I sure appreciate the info.”

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