Each option has its pros and cons, and offers solutions depending on how you live in that space. The primary differences are the physical properties of overlays vs concrete pours or pavers. Overlays are relatively thin, about the thickness of a coin up to 1/4″, where as new concrete pours or pavers increase the height about 4 inches. Any reference to stamping would indicate adding a pattern. An overlay does not necessarily require a pattern to be added, and patterns are a matter of preference. Overlays are installed on top of concrete, and can be chemically modified to counter act environmental hazards, correct for imperfections, add resiliency and strength, and make them impervious to stains, wear, and fading.
Overlays offer benefits other hardscape options do not. Overlays or “Polymer Modified Cement” are the only option that offer a cooling factor unlike concrete, stone, pavers, or tile. When a traditional concrete mix is formulated with a polymer, the resulting material is stronger or more flexible, and enhances the physical properties, adhesion, longevity and weatherability. Overlays are less porous than concrete, and should be fully sealed using a high performing sealant. Dirt and other contaminants sit on top instead of penetrating, making polymer-modified topping surfaces easier to clean. A UV blocker should be added to the sealant, which offers fade resistance. Ask your contractor about the sealant and system they use to ensure you are getting the longest lasting, highest quality overlay. The sealer is what protects your surface from traffic and weather. Typically this is where contractors will cut corners leading to constant maintenance, damage, corrosion, and staining.
Stamped Colored Concrete is created by pouring a new thick concrete slab and as the cement is still wet, a rubber mat is pressed into the concrete, leaving a pattern. This can come in one of a few solid colors of dye. The dye is added to the grey wet cement, and will have a varying color depending on the grey hue of the cement is in the truck. A solid color is available but not the unique variegated coloring achieved with overlays.
Stamped Overlay is completed on top of existing concrete. This uses a rubber mat to create a pattern. Various colors can be swirled into this overlay. This style of overlay has a more rounded, sometimes almost a cartoon-ish look, and also leaves a thicker print which can create an even look. The workability of the material changes in different temperatures and coloring can be inconsistent.
Hand Crafted Overlay Arrowhead Deck offers what is known as a “Trowel-Down” or “Hand Crafted” overlay system. This allows us full control over the color, design and texture. Stamped refers to a pattern, however in hand crafted you do not necessarily have a pattern. If a pattern is chosen it is drawn free hand. This allows us to hide unsightly cracks inside a pattern. True colors are available as we start from a white base, and sample boards are created on site before installation. A hand drawn overlay has the benefit of not being “standardized.” For instance, a large area with a tiny pre fabricated pattern will look overly busy.
Pavers offer a durable, lasting solution with high wear ability. Pavers come in many colors and styles, and offer many unique patterns. However pavers will stain, shift over time, and allow weeds to grow between them.
Soft Natural Stone Unique natural look. If you prefer a look that is organic and free form, stone is the way to go. Slate, Flagstone, Sandstone shale-type sedimentary rock will peel in layers. They create a mess, filling pool filters, flaking and delaminating. They will not accept a sealer as the layers will shale and take sealant with it.
Stamped Colored Concrete
- Create a pattern and solid color at a competitive cost.
- Unlike flat concrete, stamped concrete will offer slip resistance
- Colored concrete can create a solid color appearance.
- You will not have to worry about weeds growing through the joints, as you would with pavers.
- Only available for new concrete pours, to match existing concrete must demo and repour. Will be at least 4″ pour.
- Few colors available and unable to guarantee true colors as the grey mud determines final color outcome.
- No cooling factor, hot in the summer
- Not sealed and can stain or fade
- Susceptible to cracking with weathering and time. In particular cracks in cold weather due to absorption of moisture.
- Difficult to match color and surface consistency when patching a concrete slab.
- Stamped concrete may end up costing you more in the long run if you are bothered by unsightly cracks.
- With stamped concrete being a more economical choice upfront, if you choose to seal the surface, you will be committed to resealing it every 3-5 years. Sealers tend to flake off.
Hand Crafted Overlay
- Unlimited flexibility with color and style, similar to a water color project.
- Adding pattern, texture, and color to existing concrete slabs, including patios, pool decks, driveways, and sidewalks. Skilled installers can precisely replicate the look and feel of natural stone, brick, tile, or slate.
- Blends new and old concrete to make it all look the same
- Hide cracks in existing concrete slab by following with the grout line.
- Relatively thin and will not create tripping hazard, but can also float low areas to level or for proper water flow.
- Exterior Applications: Offers cooling factor, reduced temperature during hot months.
- Custom compounds can be added that combat environmental factors such as heavy mineralization, efflorescence, erosion, slip factors.
- Resurfacing interior floors, including those previously covered with flooring. Very easy to clean and low maintenance.
- Fully sealed with UV blocker, easy to clean, stain and fade resistent.
- Color can be acid stained or water stained to create a variegated look
- Can be applied over exposed aggregate concrete to “soften” it
- Fixes concrete floors that have more extensive damage.
- Typically a 5 day install, and 5 day cure. Can put furniture on 5 days after complete.
- Trowel down overlays normally run between $3 – $7 per square foot.
- Concrete must be structurally sound, without gapping cracks, or an unstable subbase. Any non-structural cracks wider than hairline should also be addressed.
- Pavers come in a variety colors, shapes, textures, sizes and more.
- Choose from various patterns.
- Durable and long lasting option that will not delaminate like sedimentary stone.
- Interlocking concrete pavers are more flexible and can budge along with the earth as it shifts.
- Individual stained or broken pieces can be replaced
- Low maintenance
- Not cool on the feet
- If placed on top of earth can raise the height and can create a trip hazard
- Concrete pavers run the risk of separating and heaving with the temperature changes of the seasons, but with concrete you won’t have to worry about an unsettled surface.
- Weeds can grow through pavers unless placed on top of concrete.
- Can be somewhat uneven for patio furniture depending on the paver choice.
Natural Soft Stone
Flagstone, Slate, Sandstone
- Distinctive, natural look and appearance
- When stone is quarried, it comes out in giant slabs, which are processed and cut into smaller pieces. Every piece is random.
- Relatively inexpensive to install
- Pieces can be removed and replaced with relative ease. Make sure that you save a few pieces from the original installation so that they match the repair.
- Not cool on the feet
- Weeds grow through the joints, as you would with concrete pavers.
- Depending on the type of stone used, color can fade several shades over the years as the stone reacts to the air and moisture of its new environment. Weathering with age will cause discoloration.
- The surface is invariably uneven, causing chairs and patio furniture to always be slightly rickety when placed. In extreme cases, the unevenness of the stone can even present a hazard, especially if a walkway is used by the elderly.
- Flaking and cracking, particularly when it comes to heavy vehicular loads and high traffic areas.
- Stone is a porous material with an absorption rate of between 1 and 6 percent, which leaves it vulnerable to damage from liquid stains, mold, micro-bacteria, salt, chemicals and oil.
- Subject to scratches and dents over time.
- Slippery when it gets wet.