Stamped concrete driveways, patios, and sidewalks are what most people think of when it comes to decorative concrete. However, it isn't always the best option! Sometimes stamped concrete is too expensive and requires too much labor. Stamped concrete often does not meet ADA requirements, which can disqualify it from municipal or commercial projects. This should not be seen as a drawback. It should be seen as an opportunity for the humble concrete stencil!
Kinds of Concrete Stencils
Paper Stencils - Disposable papers stencils are a common choice for patterning concrete in some places. These are usually brick, cobble, or stone patterns. Paper concrete stencils come in a variety of sizes suited for borders and general patterning. They are cheap to purchase and easy to use.
Vinyl Stencils - Vinyl stencils are most commonly used with stains or dyes. These patterns can range from simple to incredibly intricate! Vinyl stencils can be custom ordered from sign shops or from specialty concrete stenciling suppliers. They are great for polished concrete and hard troweled floors.
Reusable Stencils - Made from urethane similar to stamps, reusable stencils are among the newest products for decorative concrete. Reusable stencils create crisp impressions in concrete similar to engraving. Unlike other forms of stencils, they are totally reusable which saves money and allows for more repeats.
Concrete Stencil Durability
One of the biggest selling points of reusable concrete stencils is durability. While paper and vinyl stencils are almost always disposable, urethane stencils can last for years. With proper maintenance, urethane stencils can be used job after job. This not only saves you money, but it means you can continue to use your most popular designs worry free.
Not only are the concrete stencils themselves durable, but stenciled concrete is a durable flooring and pavement option. With a smooth or exposed aggregate finish, stenciled concrete can be a hard wearing decorative finish. With minimal textured compared to stamped concrete, it is especially good in cold climates where snow removal is common.
Stenciled Concrete Designs
Concrete stencils come in a wide range of traditional patterns and designs. Brick, stone, and cobble patterns are incredibly common for paper stencils. These are frequently used on streetscapes for a classic appearance that maintains a high degree of durability. Reusable stencils maintain some of these traditional designs but expand into more contemporary Celtic and Asian-inspired patterns. Vinyl stencils offer the greatest degree of design freedom. These aren't typically used to pattern large areas so you don't often see vinyl stencils with brick for stone patterns. Vinyl stencils are great for focal points like logos and artistic designs.
Installing Stenciled Concrete
The biggest draw of concrete stencils is ease of installation. Reusable and paper stencils are easier to use than traditional stamped concrete. Generally lighter, yet larger than stamps, a concrete stencil is easier to place and requires less labor. Choose your concrete stencil based on the look and pattern you want. Then familiarize yourself with its specific installation instructions.
Stencils use the same stamped concrete colors and products you are used to. Depending on the kind of stencil you choose, you are working with integral colors, color hardeners, stains, or some combination of the three. Reusable stencils, for example, work best with integral colors, but color hardeners can be used in addition for two tone effects. Paper stencils are designed to work with color hardeners but integral colors can be used to create colors grout lines.