Guide: How to Stamp Concrete

Guide: How to Stamp Concrete

Concrete stamps are durable, have long life expectancies, and are available in a wide array of patterns and styles. And, if concrete is stamped correctly, it can even increase property value. Because of these benefits, more homeowners are planning DIY stamped concrete projects.

If you’re interested in starting this type of project, you’re in the right place. This guide will cover everything you need to know about stamping concrete.

Let’s start first with the materials and tools that you’ll need.

Tools & Materials

Having the correct tools will ensure a smoother, less stressful project, and help you prevent defects and other common issues. Before starting this project, be sure you have the following on hand:

  1. Cement bags: Cement mix is available in woven fabric bags, polyethylene (PE) bags, and kraft paper bags. You’ll only need this if you’re preparing the concrete slab on your own. If you are preparing the slab yourself, you’ll need a concrete mixer, screed, rake or mover, and a float (usually both bull and mag). You can also purchase pre-mixed concrete products (if you use a pre-mixed product, you won’t need a mixer).
  2. Powder release: Powder release contains hydrophobic (water-repelling) ingredients that prohibit concrete stamping mats from sticking to the concrete during the embossing process.
  3. Concrete stamps/mats: There are numerous types of concrete stamping mats, including rigid mats, flexible mats, roller stamps, border stamps, and textured skins. You’ll usually need a combination of these mats when you’re stamping concrete.
  4. Mason brush: Often used along with fresno trowels and bull floats, mason brushes are long-bristled, multi-purpose brushes. In decorative concrete stamping, they are excellent for broadcasting release powder and for general cleaning.
  5. Tamper: Also called “pounders,” tampers are often overlooked by those who are stamping concrete for the first time. A tamper is a special type of detailing tool that is used during the stamping process itself. When you’re aligning the mats onto the slab, the tamper usually helps produce a better imprint.
  6. Brush-up wheel: These rollers are used to touch-up any areas that failed to emboss the texture sufficiently.
  7. Evaporation retardant (optional): This is a water-based solution that you can apply to concrete before the curing process. It helps prevent rapid moisture loss and reduces the likelihood of cracking.
  8. Color hardener (optional): Your powder release is what you would primarily use to color your concrete, however, you can also purchase a color hardener (make sure it’s the color/hue as your powder release) for any needed patchwork at the end of your project.
  9. Super shield concrete sealer: Super Shield is an acrylic polymer sealer that you spray or roll onto a cured concrete; it adds better UV, water, stain, and general weather resistance to the concrete.
  10. Safety gear: You should have safety gear during every step of the process. Be sure to wear gloves and goggles, and have a dust mask on hand when you’re broadcasting the release.
  11. Pressure Washer: You’ll need to purchase or rent a pressure washer, which you’ll use during the last portion of the stamping project.

How to Prepare for Concrete Stamping

Using the right concrete mix is the first step to success. Concrete is not a generic product, and achieving the best mix varies from pour to pour. The best concrete mix for a given application will depend on the location, altitude, weather, size of project, and other variables.

Professional concrete stamping contractors typically use “fatty” mixes, meaning mixes with sufficient paste to yield a cream layer on the surface. Too little cream and too much aggregate yields a “harsh mix,” which is unsuitable for stamping.

Case-dependently, you may also need to apply an evaporation retardant (in windy conditions), or add in colorants during the mixing process, both of which will affect the consistency of your mix.

How to Stamp Concrete

After you’ve prepared your slab, it’s time to get to work. There are several steps to follow. None of these steps can be skipped or done out of order. Before starting, be sure you have all of your tools ready to go and at least a few other people with you who can help you. Additionally, you will want to be sure that your slab is flat and level.

Now, take the next steps as follows:

  1. Pre-season your mats and skins with release powder. Use a mason brush to do this.
  2. Broadcast the concrete release on your slab using a mason brush. In this stage, you can use more than one type of concrete release; it all depends on what type of hue or color you’re going for.
  3. Place textured skins around the outside edge of your slab. You will always want to order textured skins along with concrete mats/stamps.
  4. After doing minor detail work on the perimeter using the textured skin, you’ll want to start stamping your concrete. You’ll use a tamper to carefully press the stamp into the concrete, ensuring a detailed profile. Be sure your mats are locked into place and tight throughout the entire process. Additionally, when you’re using the tamper, you’ll want to press it towards yourself, not away.
  5. During the stamping process, if you notice any squish-ups or “squeeze,” you can use a touch-up wheel to fix them.
  6. When working along the edge of your house, you will want to use textured skins and flexible mats for stamping, and then use your chisel set for detail work.
  7. After you’ve finished stamping and doing detailed work, it’s time to wait! It’s best practice to wait 48 to 72 hours to let your concrete set/harden. If there is any chance of rain or inclement weather, you should broadcast more release onto the newly stamped concrete. Because release repels water, you won’t have to worry about the rain affecting the overall curing time or ruining the color of your concrete.
  8. Once your concrete has hardened, you’ll want to brush off any excess release powder and then rinse off the entire surface with a pressure washer.
  9. Use a grinder and chisels to do any last-minute detailed work that’s needed.
  10. If there are any chips or surface cracking, you can repair them with a hammer and color hardener. Please note that you can only do this when the surface is still plastic.
  11. Once the surface is clean and any excess release is removed, you’ll want to coat your entire surface with a sealer. You’ll also want to reapply sealer to the surface at least once every year to ensure long-lasting protection.

Conclusion: Get Concrete Stamps & More from Stamped Concrete

Stamping concrete is easier when you have the right tools and materials. At Stamped Concrete, we offer a comprehensive range of products, including water- and acid-based stains, anti-skid surface coatings, premium sealers, and so much more.

If you have questions about how to stamp concrete, or need help selecting tools and materials for the job, don't hesitate to contact one of our professionals.