You have searched the web and collected hundreds of images. The decorative concrete options seem limitless and the more you search the less confident you are in what you “want”. The colors, textures and configurations can overwhelm and confuse.

So what can we do to help narrow it all down? I guess a list of pros and cons would be the normal approach so we won’t do that. I think looking at the cons of colored concrete, stamped concrete and sealed concrete is enough. After all we know what gray concrete is supposed to look like right?

In Tucson AZ stamped concrete never gained the popularity most of the country experienced. We can dissect the reasons but here are just a few of the disclaimers I use before installing the shiny, lumpy stuff otherwise referred to as decorative concrete.

  1. The color fades. If you have your heart set on stamped concrete with one or more colors be aware that it will fade unless you seal it. You may want to pick a color that is a shade or two darker than ideal.
  2. Sealer means maintenance. In northern climates you can often expect to get 5 years out of your 2 coats of sealer. Here in AZ you will be lucky to get 2 years in direct sunlight. Driveways take a beating with the traffic. This makes for uneven tricky sealing issues. Quite often the sealer comes off in the tire tracks and allows that area to fade before sealer is re-applied leaving permanent stripes from one end to the other.
  3. Dusty crusty and rusty. The most disappointing part of decorative concrete comes along in the days and weeks after the initial finish. It looks amazing right after the last coat of sealer is applied. Unfortunately once the wind blows, rain falls or your dog straight wrecks it with muddy paws… it will never again be the same. It is difficult to keep an outdoor area looking like an interior floor, especially in this dusty desert.
  4. Slippery when wet. Some back yards are better than others when it comes to being a candidate for decorative concrete. Any area that is going to get wet will be slippery. I drank the kool-aid and poured a lot of glasses explaining nonslip additives in sealer. They work at first… eventually though a new maintenance plan is implemented or a do it yourself endeavor is attempted and the additive is forgotten. Now you have a slip & slide… that breaks hips.

So what is the alternative to sealed concrete? Plain gray concrete finished by a true master craftsman perhaps? Integral color in the mix works well to throw a splash of color, just remember to go a shade or two dark. Have a discussion with your contractor and look at pics of work their crew has finished. You may even be able to look at their past work in person. Pick a look that won’t go out of style… this is, after all, a product that lasts a lifetime.

Jon Molden