The Latest Trends in Concrete

Concrete plays an important role in the functionality of any home. Not only are most driveways concrete, but many houses have basements, patios, front paths or steps made out of this durable substance. Here, we'll review some of the most popular trends in residential concrete use.

In the past, you had one choice in concrete, and although drab gray concrete functions well, it's not the prettiest thing to look at. These days, however, that outdated gray is a thing of the past. Concrete can be dyed, stamped and molded to fit nearly any dècor, lending a truly unique touch to your property. It can even be modified to imitate some much more expensive materials.

Stamped Concrete

A flat, drab surface is fine for some commercial applications, but when it comes to your home, there's no reason to deal with boring concrete. Today there are more options than ever before in patterned concrete. One of the most popular ways to do this is through stamping.

Just as it sounds, stamped concrete involves pressing a patterned stamp into damp concrete to create a decorative surface. These designs range from the basic (a swirled pattern often called “brooming') to the ornate. You can even design your own stamps if you are willing to spend the money.

Some of the most popular patterns in stamped concrete today include fish-scale patterns or colored brick designs.

Another very popular option for homeowners who want a unique look but don't want an extremely elaborate appearance is a border. Many people choose to have a traditional swirled, broom pattern on their driveway but place a more ornate border along the edges. This can look even more interesting if you choose a different shade of concrete for the border.

Stamps which imitate different materials are extremely popular today. Through the use of specialized acids, stamps and dyes, concrete professionals can create remarkably authentic-looking surfaces. Popular choices include brick and stone. Creating these surfaces out of concrete is not only a very attractive and durable option, but it gives your home the look of a very expensive material at a drastically lower cost.

Colored Concrete

If you really want to add visual interest to your concrete surfaces, look into colored concrete. The right contractor can mix virtually any color that you like, and this can add a great deal of unique appeal to your home. When combined with a stamped application, the effect is even more eye-catching.

Finished Concrete

While it's not considered durable enough for outdoor applications, an interior concrete floor which has been finished gives a very unique look. We're not talking about the concrete floor that's probably in your garage right now, dull and pitted and boring. Instead, these finished floors are a very sleek and stylish way to combine the durability of concrete with a polished, finished appearance.

Acid-finished concrete creates a unique marbled appearance. Achieving this look involves applying an acid solution, sometimes combined with a coloring agent. After the desired shade and pattern is achieved, the concrete is usually sealed to retain the pattern for as long as possible.

Polished concrete is very simple to attain, and surprisingly attractive. It involves, obviously, polishing and buffing regular concrete to a very high shine. This can be done on a new floor, or it can be a relatively inexpensive way to give an existing concrete floor a whole new life.

Finished concrete can work in any type of home. You don't' have to own an industrial-inspired, modern structure to utilize this type of flooring. Thanks to the innovations in acid-finishing, stamping and color, your concrete can be customized to fit any dècor.

For example, if you have a traditional, country-style home, you may have considered a stone or brick floor. However, these flooring materials have their downsides. Not only can they be rather rough on the feet if improperly finished, but they are also very expensive. Colored and stamped concrete is a very economical and attractive alternative, and the finished product is barely discernible from the real thing! Thanks to recent innovations, finished concrete even has the potential to look like hardwood.

Environmentally Friendly Concrete

There are some environmental worries with concrete, but that doesn't mean that this durable and inexpensive material is off-limits for the green homeowner. You simply have to make some modifications.

Concrete, in its more traditional applications, is bad for the environment because it doesn't' allow rainwater to seep into the ground. Instead, it drops all the water off in the same place, at the edge of the driveway, sidewalk, or path. There is also the issue of chemicals seeping into the earth and contaminating the groundwater.

The impact of these issues can be greatly reduced by using perforated or pervious concrete. Pervious concrete is essentially larger pieces of material fused together to create a substance which is still durable but allows rainwater to flow through.

Perforated concrete is a much more attractive option. The concrete is applied in a manner which creates pockets of open space. These can be decorative or strictly functional. Either way, the result is the same...rainwater flows right through, and it picks up fewer chemicals as it does.

Walks, Paths and Patios

While all of the examples here can be applied to a walk, path or patio, these smaller applications give you an opportunity to play around a bit. Since they are so much smaller than a driveway or an interior floor, you can try different looks for much less money.

A few of the most popular trends today include using stamped circles to form paths or walks instead of the traditional flat rectangular slabs, leaving more open space between pavers to create a contrasting look, and using very dramatic colors.

As you can see, there's much more to concrete than most homeowners initially realize. With all the new design innovations, you really can create any look you desire.

Finding a good contractor is essential, especially if you're considering a large project such as a driveway. Different climates can affect outdoor materials in very unpredictable ways, and a contractor who's familiar with the local climate can be invaluable. As with any contractor, check to ensure that your concrete professional is properly licensed and insured, and comes with excellent references. If possible, ask former clients if you can take a look at the contractor's work first-hand.

Posted by: Diane
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