Concrete Stencils Instead of Stamps to Create Beautiful Decorative Concreteby Steve VandeWater

Nowadays, many people are aware of stamped concrete. They know that the stamping process gives the elegant look of hand-laid stone, slate, or brick at a fraction of the cost of these materials. It has been around for decades and has become a mainstream treatment for anyone wanting more than just “plain gray concrete”. Although stamped concrete is a known entity, there is an alternative process that is relatively unknown. This process is called concrete stenciling. Although it’s a newer idea than stamped concrete, stenciled concrete has also been around for decades.

Indiana Decorative Concrete Stencil Driveway
This entire driveway was poured & finished by three men during two pours

Like stamping, stenciling is done in fresh concrete. It is not an overlay applied to the top of existing concrete, (although stencils can be used for overlays as well). Stenciled concrete is very similar to traditional stamped concrete, but with a few differences. These differences include a slightly flatter surface profile that allows furniture to sit more evenly, increased slip resistance, and very realistic gray mortar joints between stones.

Instead of using polyurethane stamps to make an impression in the concrete, a roll of disposable paper stencil is used. Like stamps, these stencils come in many popular patterns. See our concrete stencil patterns. The stencils mask off the “mortar joints” between the stones, allowing these joints to remain uncolored. The realistic gray mortar joints are recessed about 1/8 of an inch into the concrete, creating a very slip-resistant surface. Some stenciled brick looks so authentic that it has even fooled professional brick masons!

Perhaps the biggest advantage to stenciling is the ease of application. You see, stenciled concrete can be done without the need for workers to ever get out on the slab while finishing. It can all be done from outside the forms with long-handled tools. This allows workers to pour and finish much larger areas at a time, but with far less effort than traditional stamping. In addition, stenciled concrete is far easier to master than stamped concrete. Nearly any competent finisher can turn out a professional looking stencil job his first time out.

In a nutshell, here is the process…

First, plain gray concrete is poured, screeded, bullfloated and edged in the traditional manner. The paper stencils are then placed atop the surface by workers on opposite sides of the slab. Next, a special roller is used to slightly embed the stencil. This is done so no color can get under it. After the stencil is thoroughly stuck down, dry shake color hardener is applied to the surface and worked into the concrete. Color hardener not only colors the concrete surface but also enhances its strength. It is often used in stamped concrete as well. After the slab is colored the stencils are removed. This reveals the colored stones bordered by uncolored gray mortar joints.

If a more realistic “custom” finish is desired, the surface may be textured before the stencils are removed. This allows the “stones” to exhibit the texture of real stone or brick, instead of just the pattern. Texturing can be accomplished with a textured roller or embossing skins.

For a pictorial tour of the stenciling process, please click here. Or simply click here to view a 3 minute stenciling video.

The Concrete Store in Fishers, Indiana carries a full line of decorative concrete stencils that can be delivered to your door. To view our selection of 40 stencil patterns, visit The Concrete Store, or call us at (317) 570-6252.