Exposed aggregate concrete may look quite simple at first glimpse. It looks like something that a newbie can do with the right tools and confidence alone. But don’t let its looks fool you. It requires a careful step-by-step process and expert hands to tackle it for any home improvement project.
We’re here to guide you through the meticulous process of installing exposed aggregate concrete. We’ll make sure you know the ins and outs of each step and some tips along the way.
Exposed aggregate concrete stands out for its exceptional durability and stylish appeal. Its robust composition withstands extreme weather conditions and daily wear and tear, maintaining its integrity and appearance for years. Its low maintenance and natural, textured look add character and class to any space, complementing a wide range of architectural styles.
It’s not surprising that exposed aggregate concrete is chosen for many home improvement projects for these reasons alone.
We’ve talked about the overview of the steps in our exposed aggregate concrete guide but that’s barely scratching the surface of the whole process. Here’s a more detailed guide and some troubleshooting tips, too
The installation process begins with excavating the area to the required depth, typically between 4 to 6 inches. It’s essential to remove all debris and vegetation and ensure the ground is level. A sub-base material, such as gravel, is then laid for stability and drainage.
If you encounter soft or unstable soil, reinforce the base with additional compacted gravel or consult a professional for soil stabilisation options. Before digging, always check for underground utilities and use a compactor for an evenly compacted base, ensuring long-term stability.
Setting up wooden forms or metal edges is crucial to define the shape and level of the concrete surface. These forms must be securely braced and perfectly level.
If forms shift during pouring, it’s important to pause and readjust them to ensure consistent thickness. Double-check measurements and use a level to ensure forms are set up correctly. Also, consider weather conditions; windy days can misalign forms, so it’s best to avoid them.
This next step is the most laborious of all. It involves mixing concrete with the chosen aggregate to a uniform consistency. Carefully pour the concrete into the forms, ensuring even distribution. If the mix is too dry, add water gradually; if it’s too wet, add more concrete mix.
Uneven distribution can lead to weak spots. Preparation is key, so have enough manpower and tools ready. Pre-wetting the aggregates if they are too dusty is also crucial, as dust can affect the concrete’s strength.
Once poured, the concrete needs to be levelled with a screed board and smoothed with trowels for a flat surface.
If low spots are found, they should be filled with additional concrete and re-leveled. It’s important to avoid overworking the surface, which can weaken the top layer. Work quickly but carefully, and ensure all tools are at hand and the team is well-coordinated to avoid delays.
Exposing the aggregate, a critical aesthetic step can be done through methods like water washing or applying a surface retarder, depending on the desired finish. This is performed after the concrete has started to set but is not fully hardened.
If the aggregate is not adequately exposed, gently reapply the method, but be cautious not to over-expose, which can dislodge the aggregate. Testing a small area first can help determine the right timing for exposure, and ensure even application across the surface.
Finally, the concrete must be allowed to cure properly. This process can take several days and is crucial for the concrete to reach its full strength.
If the surface dries too quickly, it may crack, so using a curing compound or keeping the surface moist is recommended to prevent rapid drying. Planning for the curing process by monitoring weather conditions is also essential. It’s always a good thing to avoid heavy traffic on the new concrete during this period.
You can choose a range of customization options for your exposed aggregate concrete needs. From choosing the type of aggregate to selecting the finishing technique, you can work with a trusted concreter to create a design that reflects your style and meets your functional needs.
You can choose from a selection of quartz, granite, limestone, and recycled glass.
Yes, colour can be added using coloured aggregates, pigments in the mix, or coloured sealers.
It varies based on the project size, but typically it takes a few days from preparation to curing
Yes, its textured surface provides natural slip resistance
Typically, 4 to 6 inches, but it varies based on load and usage requirements.
Consider size, colour, texture, and durability. Mock-ups can help in decision-making.
Wait at least 7 to 10 days for proper curing, especially for heavy usage.
Yes, sealing enhances durability and appearance and should be redone every few years.
Exposed aggregate concrete is not just a building material; it’s a design statement that combines resilience with elegance. Its versatility in design, ease of maintenance, and adaptability to various climates make it an ideal choice for both residential and commercial projects. The steps involved to install it are meticulous and as such, best left to experts who have both the experience and specialised tools.