When people pull up to apartment buildings with stenciled decorative concrete walkways, the added amenity adds a certain panache. Moreover, “Stenciled walkways enhance a property,” says Larry Benforado, owner of Creative Coatings in Fort Myers, Florida. “If someone sees a nice walkway, they’ll likely assume the apartments are nice, too.”
Stenciled concrete walkways create decorative paths with textured surfaces that range from brick patterns to random stone designs. Unlike stamped concrete with its deeper indentions, stenciled concrete creates a flatter surface that lessens trip hazards.
Stencils in the cold
Stenciled walkways work well in northern climes, says Chase Hicks, vice president of operations for Concrete Science in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “Sidewalks are prone to heaving in winter climates,” he says.
When cracks occur, stenciled sidewalks can more easily be repaired while still maintaining a unique design. This is compared to those that are stamped or those paved with stone or brick. Stenciled concrete walkways are also easier to shovel when it comes to unwanted snow.
Hicks says to repair a crack, Concrete Science installers open the crack and clean it. They then fill it with a cement-based product or a flexible polyurea. “We then grind it, flush it and recolor,” he says.
Adding to their appeal up north, stenciled sidewalks are usually slip resistant with their natural texture, Hicks says. For added slip resistance, an aluminum-oxide grip material can be mixed with a solvent-based sealer and applied as the topcoat.
Easy does it
Contractors charge about the same price for either stamping or stenciling walkways, says Todd Rose, co-owner of VRC Color Systems. The Franklin, Kentucky-based company promotes mobile mixers and integrally colored concrete. “The big difference is you can do more square footage per hour with less people,” he says. “And stenciling is nowhere near as labor intensive as stamping.”
Rose has been involved with the concrete industry for going on 25 years. Sharing his experience, he has taught stamping and stenciling classes on several occasions, including one at a Concrete Decor Show. He stresses how easy stenciling is and how you don’t need a lot of experience to complete a job.
“I can do a walkway in one day. All of it — pouring, placing, texturing, stenciling, staining,” he says. “And it just takes two to make it work.”
Uniformity is key
Rose says for a stenciled design on walkways he typically uses powdered color hardener and trowels it into the surface. However, thanks to his VRC coloring system, he also applies concrete stencils to integrally colored concrete and uses topical stains. “I put the stencil down and water-based stain on top of that and it’s turning our great,” he says.
Benforado, who’s been in business since 1983, says his decorative coatings company preps walkways with a polymer-modified overlay. Then it rolls out the stencil and secures it in place before heavily spray-applying the first color.
Next, Creative Coatings spritzes on the accent color at a rate of about 20%. “We use an acrylic-based concrete mixture on everything we do,” he says. Finally, they finish the job with at least two coats of a solvent-based acrylic sealer to enhance durability.
Benforado says concrete stencils for walkways provide a distinct pattern uniformity. “All the brick patterns we install are done with stencils made by Decorative Concrete Impressions,” he says. The Missouri-based manufacturer offers a wide array of stencil choices designed and made in the USA. They are available for purchase at the Concrete Decor Store.
When stenciling walkways, Benforado advises, do it right and make it fit. “People will notice if it’s out of kilter,” he says. A well-maintained stencil job will hold up really well, he continues, “And you’ll get a lot of referrals from it.
“Always do good work and never cheapen your product. If you have to skimp, you’re not charging enough for your services.”