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Decorative Stamp Concrete


Northwest company making its mark on concrete.


One of the most popular ways to adding a natural look to new concrete is stamp concrete.  You can imagine after pouring with gray concrete for so long, we asked ourselves if there was any way to add pizzazz to our jobs.  The answer came in various patterns and colors which was a sure hit with the public:  stamp concrete.  


Twenty years later, the research and hard work was well worth the time.  ACDI offers a large variety of stamp designs and colors to fit every possible design.  We are certified installers of two different stamp systems which allows clients to choose combinations that enhance the value of their home or business.  In addition to a variety of colors and patterns,  stamp concrete can also be combined with standard concrete finishes.  


How's It Work?  


A common question ACDI is asked is "What's the process with stamp concrete ?" There are many keys in making a successful stamp pour go right and ACDI takes note of all details when it comes to the design of a project.  As many of us know, living in the Pacific Northwest comes with many weather-specific challenges.  Our damp climate affects the timing and preparation of all concrete projects.  


Sub grade preparation and strength of sub grade (ground) will determine the longevity, strength, and potential for cracking.  One thing is guaranteed with concrete--it's going to crack.  In order to reduce the risk of cracking, ACDI takes quality time to level off the ground and compact the sub grade.  If the ground is too soft, then additional fill materials (such as crushed gravel) can be imported and compacted tightly.  


After the sub grade is prepared, we can begin forming the project in your design and install rebar to hold the slab together.  Next, it's time to pour, place and finish the slab.  Depending upon your access, some concrete projects require line or boom concrete pumps in order to transfer the concrete from the truck and into the forms.  Driveways usually do not require concrete pumps, however, if the driveway is steep then you'll need a concrete pump.  Patios, pool decks and walkways in backyards (or tight locations) require concrete pumps in most cases. Once we have the excess concrete leveled and sloped properly, we begin throwing color hardener (base color) onto the gray concrete and troweling the pigment into the surface.  You can substitute broadcasting (throwing colored pigment) onto the surface by ordering colored concrete from your local supplier (See Colored Concrete).    


The color hardener (base color) is covered with a colored release agent usually seen in the low areas of a stamp pattern.  Release comes in a variety of colors and allows ACDI's decorative division to place the stamps on top of the slab and imprint the pattern without sticking to the surface.  The entire slab is covered with release powder when the finishers have completed stamping.  You won't be able to see the base color of the slab until a majority of the release power is removed.  Once the release is washed off, the concrete is allowed to dry and sealed.  




The most common stamp concrete applications are exterior hardscapes:  driveways, patios, walkways, steps, pool decks and interior concrete floors.  However, ACDI does install custom stamp concrete on engineered and reinforced decks, countertops, and retaining walls.  


If your considering stamp concrete for a driveway, there are some characteristics you need to know about.  Consider the dramatic visual effect of stamping the entire driveway - some consumers enjoy the simplicity of one pattern because multiple stamp patterns can become too busy and take away from the house.  In other cases, adding 12" - 16" stamp borders and installing cheaper basic gray concrete inside the borders adds appraisal value while not breaking the bank.  Most stamp concrete requires acrylic sealer which resists moss and dirt from staining lighter colored concrete.  Sealers are also beneficial because they accept most of the traffic wear vs. the concrete surface itself.  However, when you apply any concrete sealer they also resist water seeping into the pour of the concrete leaving puddles when it rains which sometimes isn't preferred in a driveway.  Unlike exposed aggregate, sealed stamp concrete has shallow high-and-low-spots like real stone which can puddle during rainy weather.  Most concrete sealers last approximately 2-3 years depending upon your traffic and require a re-sealing process.  Some people consider this a turnoff and would prefer less maintenance.  However, a majority of ACDI customers find re-sealing very easy which only require the sealer materials, a painters roller and a pan.  So, the tradeoff for concrete sealers is maintenance, protection, enhanced concrete colors and a impervious surface.

For people looking to avoid the sealing process ACDI recommends sandblasting stamp concrete which requires no annual maintenance once complete.  


When deciding on stamp patterns for patios, consider how your patio furniture will sit on top of the surface.  No one wants to wobble or shim every table leg to create a solid surface.  Some stamp patterns require very deep texture which makes it difficult when moving your chair away from the table or moving the BBQ.  Look at stamp texture skins for patios or consider colored concrete lightly troweled or broom finished.  Even a properly installed exposed aggregate can be more appealing to feet and furniture than a stamp pattern with very deep texture.  Stamp texture skins are patterns with no grout lines leaving the patio looking like free floating slate or stone texture and are one of the cheapest patterns available.  Past ACDI installed stamp patio designs combine broom / lightly troweled colored concrete bordered by a stamp pattern eliminating any concerns over furniture wobbling.  With the interior of the concrete patio being smooth and complimenting the border color, you can get a stamp concrete patio that is not only beautiful but practical as well.  


If you have concrete steps leading to French doors or to your front door, there are some limitations when it comes to picking a stamp pattern.  Most step treads (where your foot lands) are 16"-and under or 36"-and over in dimension.  The larger the stamp concrete pattern, the bigger the concrete step has to be in order for the pattern to repeat.  For example, any Belgian fan patterns are impossible to do on steps because there's not enough concrete surface in order to see the pattern on steps.  Sometimes, this narrows down the amount of patterns you can choose from so be aware that some patterns have limitations on steps.  


What creates the surface to shine?


You notice a "sheen" to all stamp surfaces--usually a sign that a acrylic concrete sealer has been applied to the surface.  Concrete sealer comes in a variety of "sheens" and plays an instrumental roll in protecting your concrete from stains, weathering and moss growth.  ACDI applies various acrylic sealers and offers annual cleaning and sealing services.  Depending upon the volume of foot traffic, re-sealing your stamp concrete ranges between every (2) to (3) years.  If you get more foot traffic than the average slab you may have to re-seal annually.  All exterior sealers ACDI installs include non-slip additives for additional traction.  


Customers can select from different types of sheen:  high gloss, satin and matte finishes.  Solvent based sealers contain xylene (also known as paint thinner) which intensify stamp and colored concrete.  Water-based acrylic sealers is another acrylic sealer that can be applied to stamp concrete, however, the lack of solvent keeps concrete colors bland and softer.  Initially, stamp concrete is sealed with what known as a "cure-n-seal" which has a shorter lifespan and is meant to help new concrete cure slower and keep stains from penetrating the color.  


Because new concrete hydrates water for 30 + days, applying a more durable sealer has to occur after the slab reaches 30 day strength.  Sealers with higher volumes of acrylic tend to peel and lift off the surface when applied too soon to new concrete.  "Cure-n-seals" last roughly 6-12 months (depends upon traffic), then you can apply a thicker acrylic sealer to your stamp and colored concrete.


For revitalizing damaged or weathered stamp surfaces, ACDI uses a combination of stains and tinted sealers.  So, if you have existing concrete that needs a facelift, call ACDI to see which decorative options suit you best.

Acid Stains


Design options only limited to one's imagination. 


Interior and exterior concrete stains are gaining momentum faster than a speeding bullet.  People building new homes are installing radiant floor heating tubes within the concrete slab which mean ACDI is staining more interior floors.  However, once you enter the fast lane there seems to be one problem - what type of concrete stain, what colors and what type of design fits your look.


It seems deciding to use concrete stains is the easy part, but narrowing the field down can be a challenge.  


"We looked at overlapping stain colors.....decorative saw cuts resembling tiles.....bordering rooms with bands and using contrasting colors.  It really took a while to decide, but thanks to ACDI we narrowed it down to one stain and the application technique we thought would look best," said ACDI customer Jennifer Taylor.


There are two types of stains which offer a variety of tones, colors and effects:  1) Acid stains 2) Alcohol or water-based dyes.  These stains produce variegated, translucent color effects that are unique to each project.  Meaning, every acid stained floor will be unique based upon various concrete characteristics.   For years, acid stains have been used to give old and new concrete a timeworn appeal.  The rich earthy-toned acid stains sometimes resemble granite, marble, wood and even worn leather.  Acid stains contain metallic salts which react with the cement in any concrete slab.  They also contain small portions of muratic acid which etches the surface of the concrete allowing for deep pentration and reaction.  Unlike acid stains, concrete dyes are not chemically reactive and require more experience when applying to the surface.  However, they do highlight concrete imperfections just like acid stains and they do penetrate into the pores of the concrete.  The best concrete dyes are polymer based which creates tenacious bond to the slab.  The biggest difference between acid stains and concrete dyes is color selection.  Concrete dyes offer a selection of blues, reds, grays, gold and much more.  In some instances, ACDI combines both types of stains to create our most spectacular floors.


Concrete stains are becoming very popular in the restaurant business for remodeling purposes.  In order to open for business quickly for fast food chains, owners find concrete stain installations a cheap and speedy solution.  In addition to restaurants, the tenant improvement industry renting apartments and housing has jumped on board with decorative acid stains.  Tearing out carpet and having to replace it not only becomes expensive, but a major hassle.  Especially, if your the one installing and removing the carpet.    


By removing additional carpet glue and other contaminants, landlords are able to stain old concrete floors and apply a heavy traffic clear coating over the surface.  Common maintenance includes applying acrylic modified waxes to keep the "sheen," and cleaning with a mop.  If waxing your floors isn't appealing ACDI can apply heavy duty epoxy and polyurethane sealants.  These are commercial grade membranes that protect the floor from everyday wear and tear.  


ACDI applies concrete stains to vertical and horizontal concrete applications, such as interior concrete floors (radiant heated floors also), retaining walls, concrete countertops, patios, garages, overlayments, and driveways.  


ACDI has used decorative concrete stains in various interior and exterior designs.   Stain design is virtually limitless to the imagination and can be combined with underlying colored concrete surfaces for special effects.  ACDI can score decorative saw cuts to create any preferred tile sizes.  


Concrete countertops is another interior application that uses stains. Concrete countertops are a warm natural looking material that corresponds with the popularity of  materials like wood, stone, and brick.  Chemical stains, coloring pigments, various aggregates, and epoxy coatings can give concrete the look, texture, and feel of quarried stone such as marble, granite, and limestone.


For the many people who love concrete, the unpredictability is part of its attraction. Veining texture and color will vary, and regular use impacts a warm patina to the surface over time.  



Standard Concrete Finishes





















Standard finishes don't have to be so ordinary.


Many Commercial and residential concrete applications don't require decorative concrete.  So, before you think we prefer color versus standard gray concrete, our business was built upon the basics.  


Exposed with Grooved Bands

Brushed concrete with smooth borders.


ACDI clients can purchase basic concrete finishes like "broom" or "hard trowel" and sandblast concrete surfaces for texture.  Sandblast finishes can leave basic gray concrete with a sandstone texture disguising brush marks.  


Common ACDI designed slabs combine decorative concrete finishes, such as stamp concrete borders, surrounding broom or exposed aggregate finishes.  Basic gray troweled bands can border an exposed aggregate driveway leaving the driveway or patio with a more appealing layout vs. a big slab.  


There are various ways to achieve an appealing look out of any basic concrete finish, such as, broom or exposed aggregate.  The addition of 9" - 16" grooved borders appeals to more people and breaks the slab into symmetrical sections without adding the decorative cost of colored concrete.  


If you're looking for different tones of gray concrete, then colored concrete will be your ticket.  Northwest concrete suppliers can add darker pigments into the mix giving clients more options when it comes to tones of gray.  


Colored concrete can be broomed, exposed or sandblasted just like basic gray concrete slabs.  The addition of protective sealers not only help protect your slab from dirt and moss, but saturate the pigment within the concrete leaving a subtle sheen on the surface.  


You can view our photo gallery for more pictures of standard finishes.  Ask your ACDI representative about scheduling an on-site estimate


Concrete Resurfacing - Microtops


Decorative overlays giving concrete a much needed facelift.


Worn down concrete surfaces can take away from many interior and exterior atmospheres.  So, do you remove and repour or.........resurface? The combination of demolition and new concrete can be a budget breaker in a hurry.  Thus, the reason concrete overlayments became a perfect solution to avoid demolition costs.  


Concrete overlayment systems have been around for many decades, but its the innovative ideas of contractors across the nation that inspired ACDI to enter the coatings industry.  Concrete overlayments are stronger and more flexible than any concrete slab at a fraction of the thickness.  All cracks are filled and can be covered leaving a concrete surface seamless.


 Overlayments can be simple, such as smooth troweled surfaces resembling a garage floor or a stamp patio.  Overlayments can be applied to patios, interior floors (wood or concrete), pool decks, decks, walkways and driveways.  Basic overlayment applications are applied to level out existing wood or concrete floors in order to install hardwood floors, carpet, linoleum and tile.  However, concrete companies like ACDI are combining concrete stainsstamping techniques and polishing to create captivating floors, decks and patios.  Worn out concrete slabs are being revived into classic cobblestone patios.  Unsightly carpet is removed and replaced with stained micro-topping resembling expensive slate tile.  


Who's Using Overlays?  


Commercial businesses were the first to see the benefits of concrete overlays.  Considering many businesses have high traffic issues, most business owners are looking for several key characteristics when it comes to flooring:  (1) Budget (2) Durability and Maintenance (3) Cosmetic Appearance.  


Decorative overlays, although applied in thin layers, have tremendous physical characteristics measuring in with a compressive strength over 6, 000 lbs. (psi) per square inch and a remarkable flexural strength of 2,415 lbs. (psi) per square inch.  What's even more remarkable is the adhesion at 515 lbs. (psi), meaning a loss of bond will require a massive amount of pressure exerted to dislodge the coating.  


That's why overlays can be applied not only to concrete, but directly to wood sub flooring and vertical surfaces.  The tenant improvement industry, made up of people who rent homes, has jumped on board with decorative overlays almost exclusively.  People renting housing on college campuses have grown tired of replacing stained and worn down carpet year-after-year.  So, many landlords have removed all their carpet in favor of acid stained concrete overlays and a couple cheap throw rugs.  Concrete overlays are a durable, low maintenance alternative to conventional flooring.  


But, don't think overlays are just a commercial application because ACDI has installed its share of decorative overlay finishes to residential locations.  It's a cost-effective alternative when compared to many options like hardwood floors, tile or custom stone.  Interested in heated floors?  While a majority of radiant heated concrete floors are designed for 4" thick slabs, there are a hand full of sub floors that structurally can't accept this much concrete.  However, you can install self-leveling overlayments successfully over wood sub floors.  Self-levelers are lighter than concrete, higher in flexibility and overall strength.  


What is an Overlayment?


Overlaying is placing a thin layer of cement, aggregates, and polymeric rubber combination onto an existing surface.  ACDI installs self-leveling overlayments on sunken concrete and directly over a wood sub floors to be stained and sealed for a final flooring option.  Self-levelers fill the low spots of existing slabs to achieve a flat interior floor.  In fact, one of the most sought after flooring alternatives is concrete interior polished or stained floors.  Most people don't know that you can install self-leveling concrete over wood as thin as 1/2" without the fear of massive cracking or failure.


Overlays come in a variety of integrally colored choices which can be used to achieve a specific base color.  Gray is not your only alternative when it comes to polymer overlays.  Increte's Thincrete overlayment system can be stamped with texture skins and looks just like stamp concrete at 1/4" thick.


In addition to applying acid stains or mixing color within the overlay, ACDI can apply tinted sealers in a variety of colors which leaves a more uniform color rather than a "mottled" appearance. Increte Systems and Miracote offer a variety of tinted sealers that can add color to a worn down patio or compliment smaller acid stain designs.  


Any combination of stamp overlay, stains, integrally colored overlays can be used on one project.  Increte is a great alternative for resurfacing:


*Pool Decks



*Interior wood sub floors or concrete

*Over Existing tile or stones


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