If you want to know how to stamp concrete, let me start by saying that this is a skilled trade. Most concrete contractors don’t know how to do it correctly. It requires a whole different set of knowledge and skills aside from normal placing and finishing of concrete. I would never recommend attempting a stamping project on a large scale without any previous experience. The most any do-it-youselfer should attempt at once is 50-100 sq ft. This is assuming you’ve done thorough planning and preparation.
So what makes it difficult relative to normal concrete finishing? In the construction industry, concrete is one of the few perishable materials. Once you add the water, there is a small window in which to place and finish concrete. This window ranges from several minutes to several hours. But when it hardens, there’s no reversing it and any mistakes made during the process are usually costly to fix.
During the process of placing and finishing concrete, things can happen such as accidentally dropping a tool on it or stumbling and stepping on it. Those are usually no big deal. Just rub it out and broom it again. With stamped concrete, after the release agent is applied, there’s no rubbing out mistakes.
Release agent comes in either a liquid or powder form and is applied just before the actual stamping begins. It keeps the stamp mats from sticking to the cement. When the release is down, any marks or impressions made are there to stay. If you try to rub them out you will cause permanent discoloration and possibly scaling. You must be careful and precise on where you place the stamp mats. There’s no starting over.
Having the knowledge and “know how” to place and pour regular concrete is a crucial prerequisite for doing quality stamp work on a large scale. It is possible to get by without it on a small slab. The smaller the amount of concrete pour means the quicker you can place it, which allows more time work with it and finish it.
Knowing how to stamp concrete is a “learn as you go” process. The key to a successful job is planning and preparation. Try a small slab first. If you’re doing a patio, break it down into smaller sections and do it one piece at a time. Have plenty of help. Find the quickest way to get the concrete where in needs to go, whether it’s pouring right from the truck, using a buggy, or wheelbarrow, etc. The faster you get the concrete down, the easier it will be to make a nice finish.