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Concrete stamping is the decorative process of imprinting textured patterns into wet concrete. Plain concrete is pressed with a stamp to create a surface that looks like brick or stone. Concrete stamping is used on outdoor stairs, walkways and patios as well as areas that surround swimming pools and fountains.
A concrete stamp is specially made for stamping concrete. It may be made from metal, wood or rubber. Anything that creates an impression may also be used for concrete stamping such as a carved wood block used for dyeing fabric in batik printing or a piece of decorative openwork metal. After a concrete stamp is pressed into wet concrete, it’s stepped on or hit with a hammer to make sure the impression is deep enough.
A coating of oil is often used on a piece of material used as a concrete stamp to keep it from sticking and pulling up the concrete. It's best to try the stamp in a small area of wet concrete first to make sure the effect is attractive. Although wet concrete has to be worked with rather quickly, it's usually possible to smooth over a stamped area to re-stamp it as long as the concrete is still wet.
A thinner consistency of concrete is used for concrete stamping than for paving surfaces with plain concrete. Stamping concrete outdoors may be a do-it-yourself project for homeowners or a job for a professional concrete stamping company. Stamping outdoor surfaces to look like stone or brick is popular because the look is usually realistic and the time and cost involved is less than paving surfaces with brick and stone.
Concrete stamps are available in different shapes and sizes. A concrete stamp used to create a sandstone look is large, irregular shaped and made to leave a rough surface texture. Whereas sandstone has a rustic, free-form look, slate has a more modern straight lined appearance. Slate driveways and pathways have a uniform look with different rectangles of slate formed into an interlocking pattern and slate-like concrete stamping has a similar appearance.
Powdered concrete coloring is mixed in the concrete to create color before stamping, such as browns to look like sandstone and cobblestone and blacks to look like marble and slate. The finished stamped concrete may also be stained with color but this may not be as long lasting as having color mixed into the concrete. No matter which coloring method is used or if the concrete is left natural in color, stamped concrete should be sealed and then cleaned and resealed every few years.