|Mark Gentry, owner of
Gentry Curb & Gravel, has been perfecting his stamped concrete
technique since 1996. Offering driveways, walks and patios
in more than 20 patterns, Gentry tints, stamps, grinds and
polishes ordinary concrete until it resembles slate slabs,
cobblestone blocks, brick pavers -even wooden planks. The
end result is an amazingly convincing faux finish that can cost
less than half the real thing and offer years of maintenance-free
beauty. The process begins like that for any concrete
driveway, with the forming, pouring and smoothing of ordinary
concrete. Gentry then begins the coloration process.
Two to three hand-thrown applications of the coloring agent are
applied and smoothed into the concrete. This "color
hardener," a mix of metallic salts, reacts with the lime in
the concrete, carrying pigment deep within and yielding color
variation that are quite natural in appearance.
"We can achieve any color
you're looking for." If you are trying to match a stone
wall, for instance, we can do that. The same goes for
patterns." Gentry can custom make stamps designed to
match a particular stone if a customer desires, though with
almost 30 molds from which to choose, chance are you'll find the
look you're seeking in stock.
Once the desired color intensity
is reached, a "releasing agent" is applied. This
will yield the, usually lighter, grout-line coloration, as well as
creating a flexible surface for smoothly accepting the
stamp. Interlocking rubber molds are then placed and tamped
down on the hardening concrete. After removing the molds,
the concrete cures for several days. Gentry and his crew
return to grind and polish the stamped surface. Two coats of
acrylic sealer are then applied to further protect the finish.
The end result is a realistically
textured surface that is smooth enough for comfortable barefoot
walking and should last at least 10 to 15 years. So
convincing the effect, that it is actually quite difficult to tell
that these faux stone drives, walkways and patios are not the real
One of the advantages of concrete
is that it is very easy to form into almost any lines.
Curves, odd angles and unusual shapes are easily managed, which
makes it an excellent material for winding walkways, curving
drives and elaborate arced patios.
The cost for a fully stamped
concrete drive is generally $3 to $4 per square foot more than a
standard "broom-finish" drive-slightly less than a brick
paver installation, bu much faster to install as well as being
easier to maintain. If a complete stamped driveway is beyond
your budget, stamping accent areas can be an even more economical
solution. Gentry reports stamping driveway aprons, borders
or even random or scattered patterns for a dramatic effect at very
little additional expense.