gray has gone glam
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By: Thomas M. Ciesla

Old Versus New
But what if you already have a patio or sidewalk that has been stained by life? Or are you 'too-through' with the size of that typical subdivision patio and want to enlarge? Do you have to tear it out and start over? Not necessarily, for hope springs eternal with decorative concrete techniques. As long as your existing concrete is structurally sound, you can expand it without tearing out the original by simply adding a two-inch overlay on the old section to blend in a stamped pattern with the new concrete. As Carrie Anciso of Paving Design explained, “We receive many calls from people who need repairs to existing patios, sidewalks and driveways.” With over 20 years of experience, Paving Design can solve just about any concrete problem with unique solutions. Anciso is especially proud of this fact: “ We work with our clients to suggest a repair method that fits their budget. Often the existing patio can be covered with a thin overlay and stamped with a decorative design, avoiding the extra expense of tearing out and replacing a four-inch thick slab.”

If you have carpeting over a slab foundation, there is hope. Although a bit trickier than working with clean new concrete, old slabs often offer a more complex and richer patina when acid stained. If a consistent color is required, however, the best results come with new pours where the architect has warned the contractors ahead of time that the slab is going to be used in a decorative concrete application. This way, extra care is taken to avoid accidental spills (chemicals, coffee, soda, etc.) as the concrete cures to allow an even, blemish free application. The decorative contractor will stain and seal the slab as quickly as possible to avoid dirt or water from penetrating into the concrete.

Bottom Line
Regardless of whether you are considering an interior or exterior project, a major attraction of decorative concrete is affordability. Stamped concrete can deliver the look and feel of real stone or wood for roughly 40% less. And unlike wood or carpeting, a stamped wood plank floor will never wear out or have to be replaced, even if subjected to flood damage. Similarly, interior applications of acid stained concrete will never fade or require replacement under normal wear conditions.

Decorative concrete is truly an art form requiring specialized skills. Not every concrete contractor is capable of executing these applications. Before selecting your contractor, take the time to review what the company has done in the past and ask for references. These experienced contractors also possess the creative skills to help you with pattern and color selections, assuring you that your interior or extended outdoor living area will blend perfectly with your existing home.

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Is it stone or is it concrete? This stamped stone pattern is enhanced by careful quality control during the coloring stage. (photo coutey of MMG Stone Supply)

(photo coutey of Impressions In Concrete)



    acid etch staining:
    chemical stains applied to color new or old concrete by chemically reacting with the surface layer of a slab. Often used with peel-off stencils to create complex patterns.

    adding coloring agents either directly into the concrete while still in the truck, or by spreading a color agent on top of poured concrete and working the color into the top one-eight inch of the concrete.

    common term used to describe regular concrete installations such as sidewalks, patios or driveways having no special enhancements

    polished concrete:
    using grinding machines to produce a glass-like finish of a concrete slab.

    rock salt finish:
    pressing water softener salt crystals into the surface of wet concrete. The salt crystals are then dissolved with water, leaving behind a pattern of small holes.

    concrete saw is used to cut grooves and patterns into a hardened slab. Often combined with stenciling to create patterns and colors.

    stamped concrete:
    the use of rubber molds to press a pattern into newly poured concrete. Typically combined with the application of one or more colors to create realistic effects.

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