What you’re looking at is concrete. That’s right, it’s what’s called decorative “stamped concrete“, sometimes referred to as imprinted concrete.
Mention this topic in a group of contractors and designers and you’re guaranteed a lively exchange of opinions. The positive remarks in the discussion would include things like durability and lower cost. However, the point that inevitably gets made is “it is stamped concrete and it looks like stamped concrete!” And there is no argument there.
But I can’t totally dismiss this product from the realm of possibilities because I do believe there are certain applications, especially commercial, where aesthetics, functionality and cost could strongly support the use of stamped concrete. As far as using it on one of my residential projects…I try to avoid it.
About Decorative Stamped Concrete
My beef with decorative stamped concrete is authenticity, i.e. something is trying to look like something it is not.
Any discerning eye can tell the difference. Furthermore, the stamped concrete will not develop the “character” and patina over time that a natural material like brick or stone will get. Call it aging if you’d like, but that’s what gives landscapes built with real brick, stone, etc. warmth and authenticity.
As I mentioned earlier, I believe there are appropriate uses in the commercial market where the features of decorative stamped concrete really come into play.
For example, there is a country store/garden center in my area that has a stamped concrete floor in their main building. The style imprint resembles patterned flagstone. The store owner tells me it’s fantastic – it looks great, was reasonable in cost and is very practical. Everyday after business the surface is washed.
Although decorative stamped concrete is not “the real McCoy,” it does have redeeming qualities:
- Versatility. You can do just about anything with concrete. It’s an extremely flexible construction medium.
- Endless style, pattern and color choices.
- Relatively easy to install compared to other materials.
- Often more cost effective than other materials, but you should always do a project-specific comparison.
- Long-term performance (if it’s constructed correctly including steel reinforcement) and ease of maintenance.
If you’re a homeowner considering decorative stamped concrete I’d suggest you visit properties where it’s used. No doubt the practical and cost features will appeal to you. It’s really more a decision of look and design sensibility. It’s a personal choice.