Decorative Concrete Patio

This decorative concrete patio uses one of our more popular stamps which is the Santa Fe Medium Stone stamp.  If you are looking for a patio that resembles a flagstone, then this is a good stamp to choose.  We have this stamp in our inventory so there is no extra fees involved with this particular pattern.




Concrete vs. Asphalt

I think that everybody is well aware of the rising cost of oil and oil related products. This has placed enormous price pressure on asphalt (blacktop) contractors. The price difference between a concrete driveway and a asphalt driveway in many cases is the same. If you have never thought of having a concrete driveway placed on your property, hopefully this page will convince you to do so.

Asphalt is similar to concrete except that rather than using Portland cement it uses liquid asphalt as the binder. Liquid asphalt is a residue left over from refining crude oil to make gasoline. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of liquid asphalt has increased 250% in the past five years, leading to a doubling of asphalt paving costs. Not only that, improvements in refining techniques mean that today only 10% of a barrel of oil ends up as liquid asphalt, when in the past that was as high as 40%. This has led to a severe asphalt shortages.

Maintenance costs for concrete are nearly zero–only some joint sealing and annual cleaning. Asphalt parking lots need to be coated with liquid asphalt every few years and be completely resurfaced every 10 years or less. This means no business interruptions with concrete parking lots, which saves you time, headache, and money.

Concrete surfaces are much lighter colored, meaning that lighting costs can be reduced. You can eliminate 3 of 10 lighting fixtures and still have the same level of lighting, according to Vance Pool of the National Ready Mix Concrete Association. This creates a safer parking lot and also reduces energy costs.

The lighter color also results in a lower temperature for the parking area during the summer, reducing the heat-island effect and lowering cooling costs for adjacent buildings. According to Pool, ambient air temperatures above a concrete parking lot can be as much as 10 degrees cooler than an asphalt parking lot.

Concrete pavements can carry heavy loads without rutting or developing potholes. With concrete’s rigidity and high strength it takes only a 5″ thick pavement to provide the same load carrying capacity as 8″ of asphalt.

Concrete parking lots can be colored and textured to meet the owner’s desires.

Concrete parking lots are green–runoff is low toxicity and cooler than from asphalt surfaces and the concrete can contain recycled materials (fly ash, slag, recycled concrete aggregate). All this can yield LEED credits.

Over the typical 20 year life of a parking lot, concrete will have very little maintenance expense while maintenance for an asphalt lot will be as much as 80% of the initial construction cost. Think of that and add in inflation over those 20 years and the cost projections go out of sight.

Comparative cost for concrete vs asphalt over 20 years graph



Concrete is highly Durable and Maintenance Free unlike asphalt. A properly placed concrete driveway with a compacted sub-base and steel reinforced concrete spaced every 2′ O.C. should easily last over 30 years with no maintenance. Concrete is very environmentally friendly as any concrete can be crushed into gravel and used as a sub base.


The longest life that you are ever going to get out of a asphalt driveway without any maintenance is only two to three years. You must seal your asphalt driveway at least every two to three years, and another layer of asphalt may be needed in as little as five years. Asphalt remains soft and pliable until fully cured in six to twelve months.

trailermeltAlso on any hot sunny day over 80 degrees, you can leave a permanent embedded impression on your asphalt from your vehicle or other heavy object. You must avoid driving on the edges of the asphalt since they will crack and crumble over time.

Closeup of cracked asphalt surface.
Closeup of cracked asphalt surface.

Even after the asphalt has cured, do not expect it to be as hard or as durable as concrete. You may have noticed that on a warm or hot day, the asphalt will become “sticky” and the layers of asphalt may separate from one another. We humorously refer to this as the asphalt is becoming “unglued”. You should not place any heavy weight in concentrated areas, such as motorcycle kickstands, trailer jacks, carjacks, ramps, and similar items as they will cause depressions in the asphalt at any temperature, but even more so in 80 degree plus weather.


If you want to receive the most value for your money, then you should divide the cost of the driveway by the expected number of years you hope to receive from either concrete or asphalt. On average a concrete driveway will easily last 30 years, and the asphalt may run 8-10 years but you must also add in the cost of the sealer. When you add this cost into the asphalt cost, you will see that concrete is a much greater value! Another great feature is that once the concrete is in place, nothing more needs to be done to it again, which leaves you with a lot more TIME and MONEY for your other interests. On your next project, GO CONCRETE, you will be glad that you did!

Integral vs. Dry Shake

I would like to first start off by saying that we use and recommend Integrally Colored Concrete for our decorative colored concrete jobs. After reading the article below, you will have a better understanding of just why it is that we do prefer Integral Colors them over Dry Shake Colors Hardeners.

Integral Color

integralJust what is, Integrally Colored Concrete? It is concrete that has been added with a integral coloring admixture that when added to the concrete gives it a uniform color throughout the entire concrete. These integral coloring admixtures are typically a blend of synthetic or natural iron-oxide pigments and surfactants (or wetting agents) that are mixed thoroughly into fresh concrete before placement to achieve uniform homogeneous color.


The biggest advantages of integral color are convenience and labor savings, says Bob Harris, president of The Decorative Concrete Institute. Because the integral color is mixed into the concrete, you can simply place and finish the concrete as usual. There’s no need to dust the color onto the surface and float it in during finishing, as is the case with dry-shake on hardeners.

Another positive factor is that integral color is permanent because it extends throughout the entire concrete slab. So even if the slab surface is accidentally chipped, scratched, or abraded, the color will remain, unlike with surface-applied treatments. In our climate in Southeastern Minnesota where we have snow, dry shake color hardeners are inevitably bound to be chipped somewhere in the slab by a snow blower or snowplow. And when this happens, the spot will become VERY noticeable as it will be a spot of gray in a otherwise sea of color. Manufacturers also say that the pigments in integral coloring admixtures are chemically stable and won’t have adverse reactions with each other.


The chief disadvantage of integral color is that the hues are more subtle and less intense then what you can achieve with color hardeners. In fact, iron oxide based integral colors are only produced in three basic hues: red, yellow, and black. Manufacturers concoct all the other shades, such as browns, tans, and mauves, by blending the basic hues in different ratios. The exceptions to that of course are blue and green tones, which are possible to produce but typically cost at least two to three time more than iron oxide pigments because different mineral oxides are used.

Dry Shake Color Hardeners

color_hardenerMost shake on color hardener manufacturers make blend pigments, portland cement, finely graded silica sand, and wetting agents. They come in powdered form, packaged in bags or pails, and are tossed or hand broadcast onto the fresh concrete. Thus the only color in the slab, is only on the surface.


Dry shake hardeners come in a wider array of hues than integral colors, including various shades of blue and green. As the name implies, color hardeners also densify the concrete surface because they contain hard mineral aggregates and portland cement. The result is a top surface that is denser than the lower body of the slab, but it needs to be so as the color won’t wear off.

You can mix in different colors to achieve contrast, using one shade as a base topped with as many as four or five different accent colors. By doing this technique on stamped concrete projects you can replicate the subtle color variations as you would see in natural stone.


Typically you are only able to use dry shake color hardeners on flatwork and not vertical items such as walls. These hardeners color only the top 1/8″ to 3/16″ of the slab. This makes them susceptible to wear and increases the chance that the original gray coloring of the cement powder will show through onto the surface.


In closing, Integrally colored concrete will have the same surface strength as standard concrete, but the color is permanent because it penetrates the entire slab. So even if surface abrasion occurs, the color will not wear away.

For all of our colored concrete projects, we use integral colors and of those, most have a accent color (Release Color) applied to them so that the colors will reflect well off of one another. We can give recommendations as to which release colors work well with our Integral Colors, but as always feel free to come up with your own solution.

On your next concrete project, think about using color after all, at Gary Groh Construction, We See The World In Color! So should you!