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  • Stamped concrete patio with decorative exposed aggregate border.
  • Both traction and visibility are improved by installing lighting within exposed aggregate steps.
  • Incorporating a stamped design within exposed aggregate, such as this elk inlay, will give any project a distinguished look.
  • Combining exposed aggregate with integral color brings out the best in both. This is a close-up of a light exposed aggregate finish with a sand integral color, from Solomon Colors.
  • Close-up of a medium exposed aggregate finish with integral color.
  • An economical alternative to stamped concrete is to frame exposed aggregate driveways with stamped borders, such as this exposed aggregate driveway with a Roman slate stamped border, both integrally colored desert tan (from Solomon Colors).
  • This exposed aggregate driveway features integral color (desert tan), solar light inserts, a compass rose art piece, and stamped borders.
  • A radiant-heated driveway with an exposed aggregate finish, custom stamped art design, and stained exposed aggregate borders.

Call him a bit of a rebel, but Ryan Diehl of Diehl Concrete hasn’t followed in the footsteps of many other decorative concrete pavement contractors who now primarily install stamped concrete. While he does do some stamped concrete work, one of his favorite decorative treatments is exposed aggregate -- a classic look not seen much today, but one that never goes out of style.

“Exposed aggregate is without a doubt the most durable finish you can do on a driveway or patio,” he says. “All concrete wears down over time to this type of finish due to erosion or high traffic. Exposed aggregate is less likely to undergo this spalling effect because the cement paste is already removed, and done so in an even manner. Exposed aggregate also provides great slip resistance due to its rough surface. This finish will last longer than stamped concrete.”

Exposed aggregate is also a great alternative for customers who want a decorative finish at an economical cost. “The initial installation cost is similar to that of basic stamped concrete, depending upon color selection, but exposed aggregate will outlast other concrete finishes due to its wearability, making it more affordable in the long run,” he says.

If you think the decorative options with exposed aggregate finishes are limited, Diehl has some tips for making your installations unique:

  • Broadcast decorative polished glass, stone, or luminescent material into the concrete to achieve a shimmery effect.
  • Incorporate a stamped pattern or artistic design into the concrete by imprinting the design while the concrete is still pliable and then exposing the aggregate around it once the concrete is hard enough to withstand washing.
  • Install lighting (solar, conventional, or fiber optic) within exposed aggregate driveways, steps, and patios. Radiant heating systems have also grown in popularity.
  • Use exposed aggregate as a border on steps to improve traction.
  • Combine exposed aggregate with other coloring techniques, such as integral color and topical stain.
  • As an economical alternative to stamped concrete, frame exposed aggregate driveways with stamped borders.

Diehl says that exposed aggregate looks its best when sealed, and the sealer should be reapplied every two years or so. “We always apply a sealer -- usually two coats of a solvent-based acrylic with about 15% to 30% solids. Sealing the aggregate helps to pull the color from the rocks and helps the light refract, providing a nice sparkle in the sun.”

Concrete contractorRyan Diehl
Diehl Concrete, Denver, Colo.

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