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Stamped Concrete Installation Steps
Pattern Imprinting

How do we install our beautiful decorative concrete surfaces? We explain here the basic pattern imprinting process for concrete.

In a fairly straightforward variation of Pattern Imprinting, a concrete substrate is prepared and a paper stencil of the chosen pattern is laid over the still-wet surface before a color-hardener is applied. The stencil is peeled away once the surface has dried, leaving an imprint of the pattern with the color on the non-masked areas.

There two main ways to create a stencilled surface:

  • Wet-cast: The stencil is applied to a freshly laid concrete substrate.
  • Spray-on: Stencil is laid over an existing surface and color is applied.

These techniques are described below.

Wet-Cast (New Pour)

Much of the information about Pattern Imprint Concrete (PIC) applies to wet-cast stencilled concrete. The only significant differences in technique concern the treatment of the surface once the concrete has been placed and floated.

Once the concrete has been floated, the stencils can be laid. Stencils come in a variety of patterns, including the ever-popular 'ashlar stone,' 'brick paving,' and 'cobblestone.' On many projects, a contrasting edge course pattern is laid, often a 'soldier' brick effect. For projects where a colored 'joint' is required (rather than the plain concrete color), a dye can be added to the concrete by arrangement with the ready-mix supplier prior to placement.

Any surplus stencil is easily trimmed off with a craft knife. Then the color-hardener is broadcast over the surface, and floated into the surface of the concrete. A second coat of the color hardener is applied and floated in, although it can be left unfloated to create a roughcast finish for enhanced traction.

Once the surface has dried, the stencil is carefully peeled off, revealing a lightly imprinted effect and a contrast between the colored unmasked area and the plain (or alternatively colored) "joint," where the stencil was. As with any concrete work, some touch-up may be required, although there should be no 'snots' or non-patterned areas to be re-worked, as is typical with Imprinted Concrete.

The used stencil is discarded, as it is intended for one-time use only.

Once the color hardener has cured (usually 24-72 hours), a sealant is applied to protect the surface and enhance the color. An acylic sealant will allow the concrete to continue to 'breathe' and lose moisture as it cures over the next month or so, while enabling the pavement to be used for normal residential traffic.


The spray-on method is used to apply a stencilled finish to existing suitable substrates, such as concrete or tarmac. As there is no excavation and casting of a new slab, this method is considerably cheaper than the wet cast method and can be used to completely rejuvenate old, tired surfaces, provided they are structurally sound. (Using the spray on system over cracked or crumbling concrete is a complete waste of money; it is a surface dressing, not a repair system.)

The existing surface must be carefully prepared prior to applying the base coat and spray-on topping. Concrete surfaces should be power washed and/or acid-etched to ensure a good bond between the base coat and the existing concrete. Tarmac surfaces also should be power-washed to remove all detritus and then sealed with a special primer coat. Access and drainage fittings in the surface should be suitably masked off before applying the coatings.

Once primed, the colored base coat can be applied. This usually is a high-strength cement-based coating that is spread using a float or a squeegee to cover the surface evenly. It dries rapidly to ensure the work can progress with minimal interruption and wasted time for the contractor.

Next, the chosen stencil is laid out over the base-coated surface. It is laid flat so that it adheres to the base coat, and checked for alignment. The stencil mask used for spray-on applications is exactly the same as that used for the wet-cast system. A contrasting pattern usually is chosen for the edges, often a 'soldier course' pattern. The edging stencils are laid out first, and then the main pattern stencils, which are neatly trimmed to fit in with the edge stencils.

The top coating is a high-strength cement based powder that is mixed with the chosen color dye from a range of around thirty different shades. The mixed color topping is fed to a hand-held hopper with the aid of a small air compressor and then carefully sprayed over the surface in a number of sweeps to achieve an even coverage.

Once the top coat has dried (usually a couple of hours), the stencil is simply peeled away to reveal the pattern. Finally, after 2-4 days, a quality two-coat resin sealant is applied to enhance the color and protect the surface from accidental staining. This sealant, like most others used for sealing decorative concrete, must be re-applied every 2-4 years to keep the surface in best condition.

Project Installation Notes 
Descriptions & Procedures

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    PO Box 1985
    Bluffton SC 29910

    OFFICE: 843-670-7787

    Decorative Concrete - HHB Services LLC
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    Decorative Concrete Flooring Polished Concrete Flooring • Polished Concrete • Stamped Concrete • Colored Sealer • Pool Decks • Spray Deck (Knock Down Spray Deck) • Concrete Resurfacing • Concrete Pumping • Driveways

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