After the dark days of winter in Seattle, (and by winter, I mean October through June) Seattleites want to get out and enjoy summer, which is usually confined to the months of August and September, as July can be hit or miss weather-wise and is basically considered ‘fall.’ Patios, particularly ones finished with stamped concrete tend to be covered in lots of mildew and grime that has settled into all the low spots with the help of all the rain, and has essentially turned into its own form of concrete once dried out by the sun. With newer stamped concrete, pressure washing will remove this and bring back that beautiful color you desired when you chose decorative concrete in the first place. In other cases, the weather and wear may have taken its toll and the beauty is gone. So lets talk about what not to do.

A Stamped Driveway Where Most of the Color Has Worn Away
A Stamped Concrete Driveway Where Most of the Color Has Worn Away

We regularly get calls from clients who tried to fix their stamped concrete themselves. They call and usually say something like this, “Our stamped concrete was dull and faded so we pressure washed it, picked up a sealer from the box store, resealed it, and it still looks somewhat dull and just as gray. Can you fix it?” Our answer is yes. What really disappoints these people is when we tell them we have to charge them to remove the sealer they just paid good money for and spent several hours applying.

To understand why, you need to understand how stamped concrete is made in the first place. When a patio or driveway is poured, it is almost always poured with plain old gray concrete. You can get concrete integrally colored at the plant and delivered, but the substantial additional costs make it pretty rare. Typically, plain gray concrete is poured into the forms and then a color hardener is trowel into the finish to make it into a uniform base color of the desired stamped concrete finish. As it is stamped, additional color is added in the form of powder release, which keeps the concrete from sticking to the stamps and also gives stamped concrete that three dimensional look. This is commonly referred to as antiquing.

Stamped Driveway Refinished and Colored with Spray-On Resurfacer
After Spray-On Resurfacing and Sealer

When stamped concrete loses its sealer, the powder release and color hardener are now exposed to the elements and can wear off the surface. Driveways are particularly susceptible as the additional wear from tires can speed up the process quite substantially. Because this color is actually worn off the surface, simply re-sealing a driveway won’t bring it back. A good sealer will bring back the gloss and it will be just as gray.

Our solution is simple. We spray an integrally colored polymer modified concrete over the stamped concrete like a thin coat of paint. This product tenaciously bonds to the old concrete provided there is no interference from a sealer. In cases where a sealer is involved, we remove the sealer to expose the bare concrete. Once the stamp work has been sprayed and is dry, we apply a coat of sealer. This allows us to use colored liquid release to ‘antique’ the surface and get it back to something similar to its original look. This system replaces the worn away color hardener and powder release that gave it the original color. And once it is antiqued and looking good, we come back with two additional coats of concrete sealer.

A single coat of a cheap concrete sealer from a box store won’t do much for your stamped concrete, even if the color isn’t worn, but it will add substantially to the cost of repairing it correctly. If your stamped concrete has lost some of its shine, but not its color, that is the perfect time to reseal to continue to protect the decorative concrete you invested in to begin with and to prevent ever having to resurface it.

A Driveway Refinished with Spray-On Resurfacer
The Resurfaced Driveway When Finished
Stamped Driveway Before Spray-On Resurfacing
The Driveway Before Resurfacing