Here’s a subject that I probably no more about then I should! What is Stamped Concrete? What’s the Difference in traditional Concrete, Stamped or Decorative Concrete? Just a quick bit about me.. I’ve owned a Concrete business now for 20 years and have poured well over 2000 Stamped Concrete Patios, along with many Driveways, Sidewalks, Garage floors, you name it. That being said I have learned a lot of things the hard way, but sometimes that’s the best way because you never forget! So to the point, Stamped Concrete is really no different from traditional Concrete. The only differences are Stamped Concrete is usually colored and also has an impression of some type of stone, rock or wood Stamped in the surface.
Stamped Concrete works great, especially for back yard Patios because you can replicate almost anything from Flagstone to ashlar slate, Seamless slate, random rock and even wood planks, without the high cost of natural materials. There are a few things you need to know if your thinking of hiring a Contractor to install Stamped Concrete. Number one how long has the company been in business. Be sure to look at there past work or visit their showroom if the have one. We have a showroom with 10 Stamped Concrete Patios with different colors and shapes. We also have Seating walls, Columns and Fire Pits all set up so the customer can see what there backyard will look like. This we have found is very helpful to the homeowner in making the right decisions for their outdoor living space.
On to the technical stuff. After you have received several bids from different companies this is what you want to look for. I’ll list these in order from the most important to the least. Number 1. PSI of the Concrete mix they will use, this should be around a 4500. This is the what determines the strength of your concrete. 4500 psi means that the concrete can take up to 4500 pounds per inch before it fails. Number 2. Rebar in the Concrete. We use a 2′ by 2′ number 3 rebar grid in all concrete that is poured 4″ to 5″ thick (which is most residential Patios Sidewalks and Driveways). If the Concrete is 6″ to 7″ thick use a number 4 rebar. Don’t use wire mesh unless you want your Concrete to fail in about 10 years. Rebar is much thicker than wire mesh and will take twice as long before rusting out. The rebar is what holds all the cracks together. Yes Concrete cracks no matter what, if your concrete is not cracked I would be concerned. If the rebar is placed in the concrete like stated above it will keep these cracks very small and they should never get any bigger than a hair line. Just a quick note, be sure your contractor is pulling up the rebar as the concrete is poured. The rebar is useless if it is just left sitting on the ground. The rebar needs to be in the concrete to work. Number 3. Compacted gravel base. Do not let your contractor use sand or pea gravel for the base. Use a type of gravel that is crushed has dust in it and will compact. Normally around 3″ of gravel is sufficient. Gravel should be compacted with a plate compactor. Number 4. Be sure on a 4″ to 5″ thick slab the contractor is placing joints no more than 10′ apart. We prefer to keep our joints around 8′ apart. On a 6″ to 7″ slab the joints can paced up to 12′ apart. On a slab that is 100′ long the concrete will shrink up approx. 3/4 of an inch which is why concrete cracks. Following the guidelines above should help control where those cracks happen. All the above information can be found in the American Concrete Association guide.
So is it worth the extra money to put rebar / steel in your Concrete? The first thing you need to know about Concrete is it will always crack. I’ll tell you why. We all know that there is water in Concrete, that’s what causes the chemical reaction to make the concrete set up. Concrete has 4 main ingredients, sand, cement, stone and water. What happens is when the Concrete is poured out and placed on the ground it starts curing out. You normally have around 3 to 4 hours to put whatever type of finish on the surface. There are retarders that can be added to the Concrete on hot days to slow the curing process down. Calcium and hot water can be used on cold days to make the Concrete set faster. So as the concrete cures, water evaporates from the concrete and this is where you get most of your cracking. Better known as shrinkage cracking. Lets say you have a Driveway that is 100 feet long. In 100 feet the Concrete will shrink up 3/4 of an inch, causing cracks if not jointed properly. Now if you check with the American Concrete Association they say that a 4″ thick slab needs to be jointed every 10′. These joints will give the Concrete a place to crack. Having a Concrete business for the past 20 years we prefer placing our joints every 7 to 8′ just to be on the safe side.
So back to the question is it worth the money to have rebar in your Concrete? Absolutely! What the rebar does is hold all these cracks together and keeps the slab level and even. Without it, the cracks would become very wide and the Concrete would become uneven and need to be replaced much sooner. We pour around 150 Stamped Concrete Patios a year and just as many driveways. What we use is a 2′ by 2′ number 3 rebar grid through out the entire slab. We like to use a number 3 rebar in all our 4 to 5″ thick slabs. A lot of contractors use number 4 rebar and what we found to be the case after many years of trial and error is that the number 4 rebar is to thick for a 4″ thick slab and can actually cause the Concrete to crack by being to close to the surface. Another thing to be aware of is while the Concrete is being placed make sure the workers are pulling up the rebar into the Concrete so it’s just not sitting on the ground doing no good. The rebar needs to be in the Concrete to Work!
We have done hundreds of Concrete Driveway Replacements and close to half of them the rebar was just sitting on the ground. Contractors make sure your workers are pulling up the rebar!! Quick note wire mesh is not as good as rebar it’s way thinner and it rust out twice as fast, plus it doesn’t have the strength to keep the slab from heaving once it’s cracked.
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In the photo below you can see the 2′ by 2′ rebar grid
A lot of questions on what the best types of Concrete Sealer are. Really depends on what type of Concrete your wanting to Seal. If you have a Stamped Concrete Patio you would want to use an acrylic type Sealer to give the Patio that wet natural look. Note of caution on this be sure to use the same type of Sealer that was originally used so you don’t get a bad reaction from using two different types of Sealers. Been there done that! If this happens you will need to strip all Sealer off the Patio and start fresh. Best to test a small area if your not sure. A great way to test and see if there is any Sealer left on the Concrete is to hose it down with water and if the Concrete soaks it up there is no Sealer. But if the water beads up on top of the Concrete that means there is still Sealer. If your wanting to Seal an Exposed Aggregate Patio or Driveway you could use and Acrylic Sealer with colored tint in the sealer. Be sure to mix this properly, because most of the tint will settle on the bottom. Then there is the standard traditional Concrete (broom finished or swirl finished Driveways). For these types of finishes you can use either a Penetrating Sealer or an Acrylic Sealer.
Let me explain the difference. Most Penetrating Sealer will Penetrate the Concrete approx. quarter inch. These type of sealers will have a chemical reaction with the lime in the Concrete, the same way an colored acid stain would react with the Concrete. Some Penetrating Sealer can last up to 10 years. Another nice thing about Penetrating Sealers is that they will not leave the Concrete looking splotchy after the application. Can use almost any type of Sealer can to apply the product.
The other type of Sealer you can use on traditional Concrete is an Acrylic Sealer. Because this type of Sealer sits on the surface of the Concrete it will normally only last a year or two. Note on these types of Sealers, they can and most of the time will leave your Concrete looking splotchy. The sealer spray can to apply this Sealer must be able to take harsh chemicals. You will probably need to visit your local Concrete supply store to buy a sprayer, the ones at Lowes or other big brand stores do not carry these sprayers.
What exactly is Stamped Concrete? Stamped Concrete is still the exact same thing as ordinary the only difference is it can be colored and can be made to look like any type of stone or natural elements in nature like wood. After the Concrete is poured and allowed to set for the right amount of time a stamped can be added to the surface and pressed in to give the concrete that particular look your after. Color can be added before the Stamping process begins or can be added after using colored acid or other coloring techniques. Below you can see we used a stone pattern. We added color to the patio before we stamped and the next day after the patio was cleaned we added acid. Stamped concrete is very durable and has a life span of over 30 years with the proper maintenance. As you can see in the photo below we added a seating wall with two columns and a Fire Pit. Great way to get some added seating on the Patio without taking up to much room. Stamped Concrete can also be made into any shape the owner desires. So if there is an existing deck, tree, or flower bed the concrete can be shaped to give a natural flow. We recommend placing the Stamped Concrete Patio on a compacted gravel base. The Concrete should be a 4000 psi or high with low air. A 2′ number 3 steel grid should be placed before the Concrete is poured. The Patio should fall away from the house approx. eight inch in 4′ . Be sure when the contractor pours the Concrete that they pull the steel up into the concrete so is it not just laying on the ground and doing no good. The steel needs to be in the center of the concrete. Note below the steel grid we placed before pouring the Stamped Concrete Patio.
It’s that time of the year again the leaves are changing colors and starting to fall, the nights are getting colder and it’s time to start thinking about getting your Concrete Driveway Cleaned and Sealed before the freezing weather sets in. A good high quality Penetrating Concrete Sealer can add up to 10 years of life to your Concrete Driveway. As Concrete professionals we tear out and Replace Concrete Driveways everyday, and believe me it’s very expensive. An average Driveway is around 1000 Sq. Ft. and with the average cost of a Driveway Replacement around $10 Sq. Ft. that’s $10,000 just for something your going to drive on! So why do you need to have your Concrete Driveway professionally Cleaned and Sealed? So we all know Concrete is porous (meaning water runs through it). In the winter months when the temps get below freezing the water in the Concrete will freeze and expand 9 percent in volume. This freezing and thawing will cause your Concrete to chip, flake or pop and even crack. Using a Penetrating Concrete Sealer will help eliminate this. Using the right type of Penetrating Sealer will also help protect the Concrete from the road salt put down in the winter months. This salt is tracked onto your Driveway by your vehicles. Using the wrong type of Sealer like a Acrylic Sealer will only protect your Driveway for about a year or two. Because it’s only applied to the surface, it wears off very fast. Call us today for a Free over the phone Estimate.
So how do I know if my Concrete Driveway needs Sealed or not? There is a very simple test you can perform, all you will need is a cup of water. Be sure the Concrete Driveway is dry and then pour a little bit of water onto the Driveway. If the water soaks in right away then there is no Sealer on the Driveway and it will need to be Sealed. If the water beads up then there is already Sealer on the Driveway. Be sure to test several areas.
Another question we get a lot. So the very end of my garage floor where the garage door closes is outside and this area is flaking, chipping or scaling really bad, but the rest of my Concrete garage floor is OK, what causes this area to deteriorate? All exterior Concrete (Driveways, Sidewalks & Patios) have air inside the concrete so in the winter when the Concrete freezes the water has an area to expand. On basement and garage floors (interior Concrete) the Concrete is ordered with no air. The reason for no air is it makes it easier to finish the Concrete. I’m sure you have seen Concrete finishers out in the middle of the slab on knee boards working the Concrete, well the less air that’s in the Concrete the less likely the Concrete will stick to there boards making finishing the slab much easier. So this is why that strip of Concrete that is outside beyond the garage door will deteriorate over time. Very important to have this area Sealed with a Penetrating Sealer.
Below is an example of what a Concrete Driveway looks like if it is not properly Sealed before the salt and ice can damage it.
So we have a lot of customers calling us asking what is the best type of Concrete Sealer to apply to our Driveways. There are a lot of different types of Concrete Sealers out there on the market. Were going to talk about two of them that we use for our everyday business. The first is an Acrylic Sealer. This type of Sealer is especially good for Stamped Concrete Patios because it gives the Stamped Concrete a nice shine and gives it a natural look. This Concrete Sealer can also be used on Concrete Driveways but will normally only last a season or two. Because this Concrete Sealer stays on the surface it wears off very quickly and must be reapplied every few years. Another downfall of using this type of Concrete Sealer on a Concrete Driveway is that it can leave the Concrete looking splotchy. Especially when applying on a new ConcreteDriveway, because it traps the moisture inside the Concrete where the Sealer was applied heavy. Another helpful note when spraying this type of Sealer is to use a heavy duty metal can sprayer to apply the Sealer. Any Concrete specialty store should offer these Sprayers. Do not use a plastic sprayer the Sealer will destroy the rubber gaskets almost instantly.
The Second type of Concrete Sealer were going to talk about is a Penetrating Sealer. This type of Sealer should not be used on Stamped Concrete. Depending of what type of Penetrating Sealer you use, some Sealers require you to wait the full 28 days until the Concrete is cured all the way before applying. We use a Penetrating Sealer that can be applied only 3 days after the Concrete is poured. What we really like about this type of Sealer is that when applied correctly it leaves the Concrete looking exactly the same with no splotchy or discoloration areas. Most Penetrating Sealer can last up to 10 years. The reason is because it penetrates into the Concretes surface and reacts with the lime inside the Concrete, the same way a colored acid stain would react with the Concrete. Any type of sprayer will work with these types of Sealers. Be sure to read the label because some Penetrating Sealers require the surface of the Concrete to be wet before applying, and then keeping the surface wet for up to 30 min. But the best way to be sure your Concrete Driveway is Sealed correctly is to call us and have it professional Cleaned and Sealed. Contact us today for a Free over the Phone Estimate.
Being a Concrete Contractor we know how expensive it is to replace Concrete. With the explosion of building going on in the Cincinnati area builders are throwing up houses left and right. To save cost builders are using low grade (3500 psi and lower) Concrete with no rebar or fiber mesh. We know this because we have worked for plenty of them. This is why it is so important to have your Concrete Professionally cleaned and Sealed. All Concrete is porous, meaning water will absorb into the surface. With the weather we have here in Cincinnati constant freezing and thawing, this does a number on the Concrete surface, which i’m sure all of you have seen just driving through any subdivision. When we get freezing temps. the water expands and causes the surface of the Concrete to chip, flake or pop. Having your Concrete Sealed will help eliminate the amount of water the Concrete absorbs. With the average cost of a Driveway tear out and replace being around $10 sq. ft. Having your Concrete Sealed will save you money in the long run. Our Penetrating Sealer can last up to 10 years. Call us today for a free over the phone estimate or visit our website.
Winter is upon us! Is your concrete protected? Whether your concrete is brand new or twenty years old it should be protected from winters harsh elements. Walkers Concrete cleans, seals, and protects concrete. Using a penetrating sealer will help protect your concrete for up to 10 years. We have lots of homeowners contact us daily asking about sealing there concrete. There are many reasons why you need to seal your concrete but the main reason is to protect it from the salt brought in from your vehicles. Freezing and thawing is another huge problem. Because concrete is porous it absorbs water and then freezes and causes the surface concrete to fail. Contact us today for a free over the phone Estimate.