A Guide for Using Concrete Stamps
Just like a job well done, concrete is built to stand the test of time - and stamped concrete takes this already-superior building material to the next level. If you’ve been curious about adding professional-grade texture or finishes into your concrete project, it’s never been easier with Walttools concrete products at your fingertips. Our comprehensive line of products is made to be easy to use at every step, including:
- High-quality concrete stamp sets* that let you instantly mimic anything from the look of reclaimed wood planks to the beauty of natural stone.
- Seamless concrete stamp skins* that allow you to introduce artistic touches ranging from subtle to transformative.
- Rich, beautiful concrete coloring products that turn everything from concrete pathways to retaining walls to water features into custom decor.
- Durable concrete sealing products that keep your finished concrete textures and hues looking new and fresh for years to come.
*Specially formulated to work in tandem with our liquid release product.
Prepare and Pour
When starting any DIY stamped concrete project, the first step is to make sure your concrete “canvas” is ready to stamp with your texture of choice.
Before beginning any permanent step, take a moment to re-measure the boundaries of your project, as well as checking to ensure the finished project will be exactly where you need it to be. Open any doors, windows, or gates that will potentially pass over new concrete structures and gage if they will still do so after your project is completed. This step will prevent unpleasant surprises once the concrete dries.
Place the forms and / or boundaries you’ll be using to define your concrete project area and ensure the bottom edges are embedded or flush, as required. During this step, be sure to mark guides for any future accent placement - this will help achieve consistency and visual balance for your finished product.
Install Concrete Reinforcement
Depending on the overall scope and placement of your stamped concrete project, you may need an inspection at this point. Check with the rules and regulations of your local municipality to determine if one is necessary before proceeding.
When you first begin to pour, be sure to carefully check the viscosity of your concrete mix to make sure it’s where it needs to be. Add water, roughly 5 gallons at a time, to bring the mix to the appropriate level. This approach will ensure the final distribution pattern of your concrete stamp texture will appear both even and professional.
Float and Trowel
Prior to troweling your concrete, apply Walttools’ Tru Slik as a spray. Not only will this step help you achieve a smoother, easier-to-stamp surface in your concrete, it also:
- Reduces the effect of surface moisture-evaporating conditions, including direct sunlight, strong winds, low humidity, and more.
- Contains no harsh solvents or volatile organic compounds / V.O.C., making it safer to use, handle, and clean up during your concrete project.
- Promotes an easier finish without the stress of critical time placement, which in turn reduces labor costs and overall job costs.
Important note: At this point in the project, take special note of sun and shade conditions, as drying time will affect the consistency of your concrete stamping impressions. This is especially true if your work area has mixed exposure - some shade, some sun, etc. Make note of any differences and their effect on dry time, and adjust accordingly.
Need a recap of the project steps so far? Click here for a video walkthrough on how to prepare and pour your concrete to prep it for concrete stamping or textured skin application.
How to stamp a concrete patio part 1
Hand Edge Sides and Joint Lines
Examine the borders of your project area and be sure that everything aligns. Once you’ve begun to stamp, you’ll need to follow through without hesitation to ensure the finished design is even and eye-clean. This step should be done as carefully and methodically as your dry time allows.
Select and Prepare Your Seamless Skin
For this example, we’ll be using our quarry stone pattern seamless skin for our project’s border. Like many of our stamped concrete seamless skins, this design is available in variations (heavy and light), as well as a variety of coverage sizes to meet your project needs. Proceed with this easy-to-follow 4-step process:
- Step 1: When you’re ready to start, begin by applying our Tru Impression Liquid Release evenly across the desired application surface of the skin(s) being used to create your stamped concrete.
- Step 2: When using multiple skins for your project, overlap the edges of the seamless skins by approximately 4 to 6 inches to ensure even coverage and consistent impression.
- Step 3: Tamp down the skins using firm, consistent pressure and appropriate tamping tools, as shown in the video. Avoid walking over skins on the balls of your feet, or tamping at the overlapping edges, as these may cause unwanted impressions in your finished concrete and the seamless effect may be disrupted.
- Step 4: When your seamless skin has been thoroughly tamped, peel back an edge to check that the impression is properly stamped. If you are satisfied with the results, slowly and gently bend the skin edges up towards you, like a taco, and lift the skin away from the concrete surface before setting it aside.
Select and Prepare Your Concrete Stamp
Moving on to our interior example, we’ll be using our centennial wood plank concrete stamp, which is available in sets, stamps, and seamless skins for consistency throughout concrete stamping projects of any size. Proceed with this easy-to-follow 4-step process, which mimics the application of our seamless skins:
- Step 1: Begin by applying a layer of our Tru Impression Liquid Release product evenly across the surface of your concrete stamps.
- Step 2: Carefully align the edges of your concrete stamps across the entire project area surface, taking care to cover or protect any impressions or stamps already in place.
- Step 3: Use appropriate stamping tools to press the entire surface of the stamp, and use even footfalls - avoiding balancing on your heels or the balls of your feet - as you walk across stamps. Too much pressure can over-emphasize an area of your stamp results, making the effect appear uneven. Work quickly and consistently, towards the sun, for best results.
- Step 4: When your stamp area has been tamped, carefully lift each stamp along an edge without unseating it from its placement. This will allow you to check that the appropriate depth has been achieved. Use attached handles or straps to lift each stamp up vertically, avoiding putting pressure along an edge when separating it from the concrete surface.
- Step 5: Use handwork detailing tools, as shown, approximately 1.5 hours after removing stamps from your concrete surface. This will allow you to bring out depth and details where required. Joints and sunken details should appear to be of equal, consistent depth once finished.
- Step 6: Blow away any dry or drying debris from detail work and wash down the entire surface with water. This will clean your finished design and wash away any remaining liquid release product.
Need a recap? Here’s a video walkthrough on all the steps you’ll need to apply our concrete stamps and skins to your stamped concrete project.
How to stamp a concrete patio part 2
Once your pattern has been stamped and is ready for color, follow the instructions to apply Tru Tique Antique Wash to help accent and highlight the natural details in your pattern of choice.
- Prime with water - prepping with water will help the wash achieve a better damp-dry finish. Hint: If a naturally-aged look is desired, choose our “Medium Gray” shade for fresh concrete.
- Mix your Tru Tique color of choice - Use 1 to 3 scoops of our water-based powder mix per gallon to achieve the desired depth of hue, and proceed with your method of choice to apply it to your project surface.
Tru Tique Concrete Color Application Method 1
Tru Tique Concrete Color Application Method 2
Prepare Tru Tique Antique Wash and water mixture to desired depth of color. Pour solution carefully in regular intervals across your project area, following any major lines or patterns. Use a push broom and a regular “mopping” motion to push the color mixture in regular rows or columns across the work area. Allow the surface to dry and incorporate handwork if you’d like more variation in the finished effect. This method will provide a more even, structured application of color.
Enhance color further by applying Re-Ax Concrete Stain. In the project showcased in our video, we’re using 1.5 gallons of Re-Ax in two different colors; one for the border, and another for the inside of the project area.
Why Choose Re-Ax?
- Goes on purple for easy and consistent visual application - no guesswork needed.
- Can be layered to achieve a variety of different finished looks and color intensities.
- Fast and easy - helps you finish your concrete coloring project quickly and accurately.
- Won’t affect sealing agents as some acid-based stains do, ensuring a hassle-free finish.
- Doesn’t need to be neutralized like acid-based staining products, eliminating extra work.
Re-Ax Concrete Color Application Method 1 (All Over Pattern)
Prepare Re-Ax concrete coloring mix product, using manufacturer instructions, to your desired depth of color. Using a concrete color spraying tool, set your sprayer nozzle or wand to produce a fine mist. Use circular motions to apply product evenly across your concrete project surface. This method will provide a more even, structured application of color.
Re-Ax Concrete Color Application Method 2 (Linear Pattern)
Prepare Re-Ax concrete coloring mix product, using manufacturer instructions, to your desired depth of color. Using a wide, handled sponge applicator, follow the lines or columns of your stamped concrete surface. This method will ensure fine details and lines will achieve consistent visual highlighting with your color of choice.
Apply D2K Heal and Seal to your finished, colored concrete surface. This will help “lock in” your finish of choice and keep it looking attractive for years to come, even in high traffic areas.
Why Choose D2K?
- This 2-part silicone sealer offers higher quality results over acrylic-based sealers.
- Can be cleaned up with simple water, reducing time and effort post-application.
- Delivers an attractive, durable semi-gloss finish that complements stamped concrete.
- Doesn’t feel or act slippery once set, making it a smart, safe choice for sealing.
- Chemically fuses to concrete, avoiding unsightly hazing and peeling over time.
- Easy application: simply spray in a circular motion and back roll until your surface is covered.
Need a refresher on how to stamp concrete and finish up your project? Check out our comprehensive video and follow along, step-by-step, as we bring a stunning patio to vivid life with Walttools’ concrete stamping, coloring, and finishing products.
HOW TO STAMP A CONCRETE PATIO PART 3
When you’re looking to add lasting beauty and durability to your hardscaping project, concrete stamping offers a unique solution that’s easy to apply and stands the test of time. Our high quality concrete stamps are easy to work with and reusable, offering virtually endless project options and the ability to cohesively add to your project, even years later. Walttools is proud to offer the concrete stamping and coloration products, accessories, and training to ensure that every concrete project is a masterpiece.
Overview on Stamped Concrete Process
Why stamped concrete? Stamped decorative concrete is an attractive and economical alternative to natural pavers or just plain poured concrete. A stamped concrete patio can give you the look and texture of a stone patio for a lot less money than the real thing; sometimes less than half the cost of the natural material alternatives such as slate
Stamped concrete can mimic brick, cobblestones, weathered wood and even a seashell-laden beach. Add in some fun borders, footprints, or even fallen leaves, and you are creating surfaces that you simply cannot get with natural materials. Another major advantage to a stamped concrete patio is its general low maintenance. The pavers or stones won’t settle over time, which would allow sprouting plant growth in between material and create uneven surfaces.
This is merely an overview, not a detailed process. Unfortunately all the ins and outs of this process cannot be covered in a brief outline (or video) as it takes years of hands on experience to become predictably proficient at decorative concrete work. This is NOT a DIY undertaking. Stamped concrete needs to be left to the professionals. Concrete as a material is not very expensive BUT, concrete, especially decorative concrete, is very expensive in terms of time and materials. Unlike many processes you can do on intervals, concrete is not one of them. You cannot come back to finish is the next day if you get tired or frustrated. A concrete slab does not come apart easily so essentially there are no do-overs. This guideline then assumes the user is proficient in the process of planning, grading, forming, pouring and placing concrete, all of which are equally important to success. The most stunning concrete stamping job is no good if created on a faulty poured slab. Conversely, the best placed and poured slab but finished with a mediocre stamp job is highly unacceptable. That being said, if you are still game, please read on.
- Planning: Choose a color and texture of concrete that complements the natural surroundings and adjacent structures. Special consideration should be given to the orientation of grout lines, particularly in repetitive patterns such as running bond, brick, or cobblestone. Generally, the area should be stamped so that long lines of the pattern run perpendicular to the length of the project. This will help reduce straight-line errors and provide a more pleasant and aesthetic overall appearance. Typically, concrete stamps texture patterns run in straight lines, even when walks or drives are curved so that must be taken into consideration. Always perform a trial run, placing mats in the area prior to the pour. The crew should know ahead of time where the first mat will be placed, as well as aware of areas where a standard mat won't fit, and in what direction stamping will proceed. Make sure you know how many decorative concrete mats you are going to need. The rule of thumb is to have enough mats on hand to span the width of your pour and have and additional one or two mats to start another row. If you have too few, you are going to make everyone’s life much harder when stamping. Always plan accordingly to ensure best results.
- Placing the Concrete: Follow normal procedures with a subgrade, and with concrete base that meets the planned specifications and local requirements for mix, depth and reinforcement. A normal or retarded-set of water-reducing admixture can be used, but admixtures should not contain Calcium Chloride. Non-chloride accelerators and air-retaining admixtures can still be used. Refer to the admixture manufacturer for recommendations on the type and amount of admixture to use. (Please note: Some admixtures may affect color.) The concrete generally should be no less than four inches in thickness.
- Color Options: There are two basic techniques for coloring the concrete at the time of the pour. (Coloring post pour is touched on later)
Integral Color: Liquid Color or powder color is placed into the ready mix truck. This procedure combines the color with the mix prior to the pour and the slab is colored throughout. This will give you a monochromatic base color for the slab. With this option, water content of the mix is very crucial for consistent results if you have a larger job and are dealing with more than one truck. More water dilutes the color so that should be avoided at all costs.
Broadcast Method: The product used here is called Dust on color hardener and provides more user control than integral color, though involves critical labor. Apply color hardener powder directly to the freshly poured concrete surface. Color hardener will penetrate the top of the concrete slab 1/8" and color thoroughly. This often results in a more mottled effect and you may combine more than one color. After initial floating and all excess bleed water has been absorbed, apply broadcast color hardener using a low, wide sweeping arm movement with the intention of covering as much concrete as possible with each throw. You will want to broadcast starting in the middle to prevent excess buildup at the edges with each pass. Allow the hardener absorb water for several minutes until it has moistened sufficiently (color will darken) before working the color in with a wood or magnesium float. One or two passes with the float should be sufficient; do not overwork the concrete. If necessary, repeat this process in areas where natural concrete color is showing through. When you are satisfied with the color, finish with a fresno or hand float to remove any remaining lines.
- When to Stamp? Before you apply your release agent (see 5) and begin stamping, you have to check to see that the concrete is ready for the frantic action that is about to begin. We call this state the plastic If you start too soon, the concrete won't be firm enough to support the weight of workers, the stamps will slide, and the concrete is just too sticky. If you start stamping too late, stamping will require much more effort and you will be producing no texture with the tools by the end of the job. To determine if you are at the right plastic state you will press your fingers into the concrete surface at several locations. Your finger should come up clean at about a ¼ inch depression. Additionally you should place a stamp on the concrete and step on it. The stamp should not sink too deeply or slide around.
- Applying release agent: Decorative concrete stamps will not work without the use of a release agent. Apply either the accent color release powder or liquid release agent. Liquid release is simply a clear liquid applied by pump up sprayer used for applying an even coat until the concrete surface “glistens”. Spraying a coat onto the mats is also recommended. Accent release powder is specially formulated to prevent mats from sticking, and it adds some accent color by broadcasting by hand. Generally 3.5 lbs. of material is required per 100 square feet. It should be brushed onto the mats and broadcast across the surface of the concrete. This broadcasting is usually done by filling a 6” horsehair brush and flinging onto the slab. There should be a uniform layer of release between the concrete and the texture mats; thick enough to prevent damp concrete from bleeding through to the mat, yet thin enough so as not to diminish the texture detail. NOTE: Choose a color of release agent to complement the color of the concrete. A release agent with a darker tone than the slab coloring agent will provide depth and shadowing in the finished concrete. Most of the release agent (if using powder) will be removed when the finished project is washed. The primary concrete color will dominate and approximately 10% of the release agent will adhere to the surface of the concrete providing for the contrast.
- Stamping the Surface: At the optimum time for texturing, great force is not necessary to press the concrete stamp into the concrete. Timing is critical so work should proceed without delay once texturing begins.
Make sure you have adequate manpower for the process. Below is an outline of the workload as suggested for a basic project pour using three to four people. More experienced crews may be able to color and stamp as much as 1000 square feet per pour, but it is recommended to begin with smaller areas. This process can be adapted to fit specific project needs.
Worker 1: Fluffs the Accent release agent throughout the application process. Broadcasts release agent. Identifies areas that require touch up work. Acts as a general helper.
Worker 2: Places the concrete mats. The first mat should be carefully aligned, placed and tamped in at the starting point of the project. Repeat the process by placing the second mat next to the first. Place mats tightly together to avoid messy grout line patterns. It is critical to maintain a straight line as this first row is what the rest of the slab is based on. You can use a string line as a guide, especially for aligning stamp patterns that are square or rectangular. For notched or irregular stamp patterns, you can check alignment by using the edge form as a reference point (assuming that it's square) and checking with a tape measure. Continue with mats on hand, leapfrogging the mats as they are removed and replaced in the concrete. When reaching the edge of the slab and the last concrete stamp is going to hang off the edge, be sure to use the floppy mat because it is softer and will crush around the edge form and still imprint the concrete. Pre-texturing the perimeter of the slab will also help keep the edges consistent.
Workers 2/3: Tamps the mats as they are placed. Mats should be tamped straight down into the concrete using no more force than necessary with a quality 15-20 lb concrete stamp tamper to press the mat flush to the concrete. Do not over tamp!
Workers 3/4: Carefully removes the tamped mats by lifting gradually from one side first to break the suction. Passes mats to Worker 1 for preparation of next placement.
All Workers: Look for missed areas and weak grout lines. With powder release weak areas are easy to spot since the release still looks fluffy and not tamped down. Use a touch-up skin to make those corrections. Missed areas can be touched up using small texture skins that match your pattern. Grout lines should be corrected as you go with either a grout roller or hand grout tool.
Note: Many crews like to pre-texture the edges of the slab with either a matching texture skin or texture roller. This can really be beneficial as the slab continues to cure and gets harder to stamp.
- Cleaning your stamped surface: Approximately 1-3 days later depending on weather conditions, you will need to remove the excess powder release agent if you went that route. Use a water hose and broom or low power pressure washer (1200 PSI is recommended) to carefully remove excess release agent from the surface of the concrete. Be careful to not place a pressure washer wand to close to the surface of the concrete or “streaking” can result. If broom cleaning you will need to gage the amount of scrubbing pressure to use to achieve adequate removal. The idea is to keep more release color in the grout lines and deeper indentations. This will result in a more natural, aged and shadowed effect.
- Cutting joints: Cutting control at the proper depth and spacing after cleaning (or next day if not cleaning) will help relieve stress on the slab thus preventing random cracks that are common. Some contractors prefer to cut joints with a groover before stamping but saw cutting after words with a good quality diamond blade usually provides less noticeable lines. Hose off residue. TIP – You may consider cutting your joints before cleaning your release agent so as to only have to hose down one time.
- Optional coloring: You may have decided early on that you wanted to color your surface either wholly or as accents on your project. If so, this is the time for that. Post pour coloring options may include either acid stain or simpler, water-base stains. Even if just to accent a border that may have been put in, this is the ideal way to do so. The “how to” for those products are available in another FAQ so we will not get into it here (except to say either can really put a fantastic look on the whole project.)
- Sealing your surface: Once clean and dry you should protect with a temporary curing compound or a professional quality decorative cure and seal sealer. This will provide good color enhancement, satin to high gloss finish and protection from the elements. Sealers are applied by either solvent resistant sealer or rough nap roller. In either case you want to avoid puddles and thick areas as sealers cure and perform best when applied in thin coats. Two coats may be needed to get a more even gloss across such an irregular textured surface. If you opted for the temporary cure and seal, be sure to follow up with your final sealer according to the manufacturer's instructions.
There you have it (in a nutshell.) Again, it takes time to gain experience in handling the basics of concrete through various and unpredictable conditions, and even more time to gain equivalent experience with the art of stamping. This by no means is meant to be used as an official step by step guide, but rather as a general overview to this fantastic process of decorative concrete.