I’m a concrete contractor and I talk to many people out estimating and looking at work for my business. Many times people think stamped concrete is completely different than regular concrete and it’s an entirely different product. This is somewhat true, but the basics of the two are the same and they are usually specified the same, when used in the same application. For instance, if stamped concrete or regular concrete is used for a driveway, they will generally be the same thickness and have the same design strength.
Regular concrete is your everyday concrete used in sidewalks, driveways, patios, roads, and anytime regular pavement is constructed. It’s generally placed on some type of gravel or native soil base that’s compacted. The area is then formed with lumber or manufactured forms. Reinforcement is usually installed in the base which is usually rebar or wire mesh. The concrete is specified to a desired thickness which is designed for its application. For instance, a driveway that handles car and light trucks is usually poured four inches thick. The concrete mix is also specified which is usually a 4000 psi mix here in areas that have severe winters. That’s the strength the concrete reaches in 28 days. Concrete is placed, striked off, bull floated then gets a non slip finish, like a broom. After that, the concrete is cured with either water and burlap, or the easy way with a membrane forming curing compound.
Stamped concrete is very similarly placed to regular concrete. Generally all the steps are the same except the finishing steps. The concrete is also colored which is usually added to the mix. It can also be colored with a color hardener, but most contractors use an integral color. After bull floating is when things the process changes with stamped concrete. Some contractors go one step further and trowel the concrete to get the concrete really smooth. We use air entrained concrete in our area because of the harsh winters, which isn’t supposed to be troweled so we usually just get it smooth as possible with a magnesium bull float. After the concrete sets to a desired hardness, the concrete is imprinted with the rubber like stamps. A release agent which is an antiquing colored release, or liquid release agent is used to keep the stamps from sticking to the concrete. Some contractors will put curing paper on the concrete to cure it till the next day when the concrete will be washed and sealed with a high gloss sealer which is also a membrane forming cure.
So to summarize stamped and regular, there is not much difference between the two other than what they look like on the surface. Many people they think stamped concrete is just not as durable as regular concrete and that’s just not the case. The only thing that could make it less durable is the texture of the stamped concrete. In an environment that gets snow, stamped concrete can get damaged by snow removal equipment like snow plows.