Concrete is a widely used construction material. Decorative concrete is the use of concrete with added touches of unique patterns, finishes, and/or coloring for the purpose of visual appeal and design. Decorative concrete includes everything from colored concrete to stamped or stained concrete, stenciling, and exposed aggregate, and it’s the hottest trend used in patios, floors, countertops, pool decks, garden paths, garage floors, and more. No longer plain, grey and boring, concrete is now thought of as a beautiful decorative element adding beauty and stain resistance to a home.
As a material, concrete offers skid resistance, improved indoor air quality, and aesthetic enhancement, as well as stain, abrasion and resilience resistance. As a design element, decorative concrete is showing up in home-design magazines revealing a growing amount of evidence of the use of concrete as a decorating element in spaces such as floors, counters and patios. Likewise, this trend is offering landscapers opportunities to create new options using old materials, often at a fraction of the price these high-end materials typically carry.
There are a few trends for homeowners considering adding decorative concrete to their design plan. Large contemporary patterns and designs offering a custom look are in high demand allowing homeowners to further customize their space to their particular preferences. This is mirroring the trend in flooring that is seen in tile and terrazzo designs. Large scale patterns offer architectural expressiveness and a contemporary and clean look without the business of smaller, more intricate patterns.
With the use of stamps, dyes, stains, white cement, color pigments, ornate sawcuts, textured patterns, and epoxy overlays becoming more palpable, decorative concrete has become a viable option adding beauty, resilience, and interest to a home. With its durability and versatility, decorative concrete is expanding its consumer-base to convert the simple cement slabs into designer flooring. Also dubbed “imprinted concrete,” stamped contrete comes in an ocean of color and pattern options and mimics stones, including tile, slate, flagstone, making it trendier in entries, courtyards, and pool decks of the residential buildings.
Stamped concrete, though it has been around for a while, continues its popularity because of its customizability and versatility. Stamped concrete allows installers to use stamp tools that are 20 years old, but combine multiple patterns, custom colors, and expand banding and edging detail to provide a finished product that is unique. From patios and counter-tops to specialty gardens and malls to stone walls and driveways, stamped concrete is a versatile and natural fit for beauty and value.
Concrete patios are gaining immense popularity as the pandemic is keeping people at home, and, weather permitting, there is a trend for al fresco dining and entertainment areas. A versatile and low-cost material that can withstand hostile weather to boost durability, homeowners are turning toward decorative concrete for durability, safety, and low maintenance which has made the material a strong value adder in the ecosystem.
Trends in processes, colors or finishes include cast-in-place concrete, a process that uses natural finishes through surface exposure or low-gloss sealers and coatings, combining materials such as glass, colored aggregates, wood and metal in or around concrete, and sealers, where penetrating and low-gloss finishes produce a natural look.
Perhaps the biggest trend is in the area of green building. Homeowners are asking for sustainability and the industry is examining how products, systems and decorative installations will impact the environment. Low VOC-emitting materials and reduced environmental impact, along with an increase in water-based sealers and the recent elimination of methylene chloride in retail paint and coating strippers are examples of specific ways the industry is responding to the trend toward sustainability. Polished concrete was the first decorative system with a reduced environmental impact and can be considered the first end result in the industry.
When it comes to color, there’s often nothing more interesting than integrally colored concrete. Both practical and beautiful, it offers concrete’s legendary strength and durability and can include colors to match any setting without the cost, installation time, maintenance burden, and other disadvantages of competing choices. Offering streak-fee, permanent, and non-fading hues that match from batch to batch and project to project, integrally colored concrete distributes the color throughout the mix, which provides the added benefit of the color not chipping or scratching away. Additionally, integrally colored concrete adds decorative beauty without the volatile organic compounds that reduce indoor air quality. It’s also easier to maintain and lasts for generations, adding long-term cost benefits.
Concrete also allows creative people a versatile medium with which to work. Like integral color and stamping, stenciling, staining and skinning can also enhance the finished look of concrete. When stenciling, areas of a concrete surface are masked or exposed so that sandblasting, coloring and etching, leaves a pattern and faux finish, though the grout lines are shallower than stamped concrete. Overall, stenciling and skimming can provide dramatic effects.
Stains and other penetrating coatings also provide options to enhance the effects of stenciling and produce lustrous marbling, mottling and a myriad of unique variations, such as suede, distressed leather, and other effects.
Exposed aggregate has long been a favorite of architects and designers who are looking for a practical yet subtle or dramatic, architectural concrete treatment. Advantages to this type of decorative concrete include additional texturing options, more control over levels of exposure, greater uniformity, strength and durability. Exposed aggregate systems can produce terrazzo or marble-like results, using glass or other exotic aggregates, and is ideal for hardscapes. A practical, sustainable and attractive solution where slip-resistance, resilience and durability are important, exposed aggregate is a popular choice for homeowners.
Today’s homeowners, builders, and designers recognize the value in using concrete in their designs and plans since concrete has always been known for its strength and durability. The advancements in concrete tools, concrete stains and dyes, textures, and patterns have made concrete the most versatile, durable and cost-effective material on the market. Decorative concrete is a valuable option for indoor and outdoor design.