Concrete is a highly versatile material used for both construction and decorative purposes as well as functional needs such as driveways, patios, and sidewalks. Although sturdy and long lasting, concrete is only as good as the proper use made of it. For instance, there are a few things to consider when deciding whether stamped concrete or a concrete overlay is the right choice for the job in mind.
In the case of patios, sidewalks, or other low traffic areas, concrete overlay will usually be the ideal choice – much more inexpensive and faster to do, with good results. Surface prep is very important when using this method; the concrete overlay is only going to be as good as the concrete beneath that it must bond to. Properly applied, a concrete overlay can give your sidewalk or patio a new lease on life that adds beauty, corrects small blemishes and cracks, and is long lasting. Cracks in concrete are a fact of life, but do not attempt an overlay where large cracks or uneven surfaces are present. An overlay is not very thick and not designed for major repairs.
Stamped concrete has its share of benefits and drawbacks. The concrete is poured all in one piece, which eliminates any worry of having to bond to another layer of concrete, and then the design of your choice is stamped into it. This is the best option for driveways or other load bearing areas as the poured concrete is thicker and, when the proper materials are used and the pour is done correctly, will last for many years. This process is also considerably more expensive and time consuming than the concrete overlay; any old concrete must be torn out, the site prepped, and a total re-pour done.
Keeping the above facts in mind should make the decision of stamped concrete vs. concrete overlay a bit easier, especially when finding the right contractor to do the job. Some contractors use both methods and some specialize in one or the other. Be sure the contractor you choose is familiar with whichever method has been decided is best for your project.