(ANGIE'S LIST) - Beautifying your outdoor living space on a budget can be a big challenge, but a gorgeous driveway or backyard patio is possible without the expense of laying stone, tile or pavers.
Stamped concrete is becoming the popular alternative to give your home some "pop." It mixes, pours and spreads like plain old concrete, but add a little color and a decorative pattern, and your concrete patio can take on the look of more expensive natural materials.
"If you're looking to add a little decorative flair to the exterior of your home, stamped concrete can be a good alternative to doing stone or slate, for example" Angie's List founder Angie Hicks said.
For about $10 per square foot, stamped concrete can be half the cost of laying individual tiles or pavers. But Hicks says don't trust the job to just any concrete company.
"You want to be sure they have experience in actual stamped concrete, not just concrete, because it's a specialized skill," Hicks said. "You should expect to see examples of their work."
Stamped concrete does require a certain set of tools to apply the color and a certain knowledge for the project. Once it is done, you should consider it a piece of art. The best thing about stamped concrete may be the wide variety of colors and patterns you can use.
"The options are endless, so when it comes to picking, it's best if a customer can get online, take a look around and see what they like, see what's going to match their house or match the setting," concrete professional Will Mattingly said.
If you already have a standard concrete driveway or patio, you can dress it up with what is called an overlay. These look great, but can be hard to maintain in northern climates.
"Overlays kind of have their disadvantages there with moisture getting between the overlay and the subsurface, and when it freezes, it expands and it has the potential to pop that overlay off," Mattingly said.
Hicks advises to seal the concrete every year or two can keep it looking great for 10 to 20 years. It's also a good idea to use the same sealer each time, so ask your contractor what was used on the original job. Also, consider your landscaping when you begin the job. A stamped concrete project will involve a lot of heavy equipment that could leave your yard a mess after the project is complete.