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This is an excerpt from the new e-book “Concrete Stamping Today,” part of a series of reports from ConcreteNetwork.com on trends and insights about decorative concrete applications.

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Concrete Stamping Today

Discover four emerging trends in concrete stamping from ConcreteNetwork.com’s new e-book. You’ll also get insights and advice from veteran installers that will help you stay profitable in today’s market.

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There is no shortage of stamped concrete tools and patterns these days. Whether it is the actual tool or the accessories, the selection is wide and diverse. An increased demand in recent years by architects and consumers for unique stamped concrete finishes has driven the tool industry to come out with a slew of new accessory and accenting systems. These include edge forms for stairs risers and slab edges, specialty tools and molds for fireplace rings, and a much broader line of chisels, rollers and detail tools. “Today’s market offers a wide variety of custom medallion designs, wildlife and aquatic stamps, intricate border designs as well as unique textures that we simply did not see way back when,” says Bob Harris of the Decorative Concrete Institute, Temple, Ga.

In recent years, introductions of new concrete stamps are more about changing the size and shape of existing patterns or adding accessory patterns, such as a compass rose medallion or a border detail stamp. For the installer, it becomes less about a new product and more about taking what he or she already has and using that to create something unique and appealing to the customer.

What to look for in a top-quality stamping toolMost stamping tools today are manufactured from elastomeric polyurethane rubber. Depending on who you buy your tools from, there can be wide variations in thickness, weight, and durability. Many installers have a favorite tool that they have been using for years, a testament to the durability of polyurethane stamping tools. When asked what they look for when they buy a new tool, contractors seem to agree on a few key points.

“The tool needs to look and feel sturdy,” says Tom Ralston of Tom Ralston Concrete, Santa Cruz, Calif. And the only way you can determine that is by touching and feeling the tool. He pays special attention to the handles and how they are molded into the tool itself. “The handles need to be thick and made from sturdy nylon,” he says.

Tool weight and thickness are also important, especially when purchasing larger stamping tools, which are the trend in today’s marketplace. If the tool is too thick and dense, it becomes too heavy for one man to handle. The weight can also be an issue when working on larger jobs or with a smaller crew.

The other side of that coin is that stamping tools need to be thick enough so they can support multiple installers standing on the tool, especially when working with seamless texture mats. The quality of the rubber also needs to be good, so the tool imparts a crisp and clean texture. For medium to lighter textures, which are a popular trend these days, it’s much more important that the texture on the tool face be clean and flawless. Lighter textured tools are not as forgiving as aggressive textures, making it hard to hide mistakes. You always want to look at the face of the tool and make sure you don’t see air bubbles or any other type of blemish.

The trend toward larger patterns and lighter textures comes in large part from the industry working smarter, not harder. Larger stone patterns and lighter textures are more realistic, require less labor to cover the same surface area as smaller tools, and give you more bang for your buck. An installer would need almost twice the number of smaller tools to cover the same area as the larger tools.

While the trend in tooling is toward larger patterns with finer and more realistic detail, not much has changed in regard to the demand for quality and durability. No matter what the trend in pattern, texture, or color, the most important thing needs to remain good-quality concrete with sound stamping practices rather than making the product cheaper, faster, and easier to install.

Related resources: Buyer's Guide to Concrete Stamping Tools
Video: Concrete Stamping Mat Buying Tips


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