The Fascinating History of Stamped Concrete

How Concrete Stamping was Used in the Ancient Times

Stamped concrete has been around for far longer than you might be imagining. The Ancient Roman Empire started using a form of concrete in the early 150s B.C., using it in the buildings many of us still see standing in Rome today — the Pantheon, the Colosseum — and other bridges and structures spread around their empire’s territory. 

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If you look around those structures today, you’ll find evidence of attempts to decorate the concrete they were using. Take the columns of the Pantheon, for example. The capital, the shaft, and the base all carry some kind of imprint that looks almost uniform to one another. 

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Of course, it is more likely that they used a single engraver to imprint these kinds of complex and detailed designs on the capitals and bases of the columns. But we can see from their old structures that they had the same ideas of decor and patterning that we have today.

Concrete Stamping in the Modern Times

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For the modern era of uniform and systematic concrete stamping, that story starts with Brad Bowman. But for Brad Bowman, that story starts with his experimentations. First using a single wooden blade to imprint small designs on wet concrete, he then progressed to two blades, then figured out a way to bind them together and use it to imprint patterns on concrete. 

In the 1950s, Bowman began making those stamps with sheet metal, then with heavy aluminum casts. He patented these tools and processes and sold the patents to a larger corporation, which used his patents to stamp concrete sidewalks and to franchise contractors around the country to use the same patterns on floors in homes and other areas. Disney also began stamping their own concrete.

Brad Bowman was an innovative and creative man who gave us the gift of concrete stamping, but other people also helped develop the craft.

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A man named Joe Nasvik thought about the heavy aluminum patterns that had to be used to stamp concrete and invented urethane stamps, which were far lighter than Bowman’s original aluminum casts. In the 1970s, he further developed his idea of creating lighter and long-lasting stamps that could be easily used by both contractors and people who were looking to improve their own homes by inventing the plastic stamp. 

The plastic stamp was revolutionary in the concrete stamping industry for two reasons: the first is that, as we have said, it was far lighter and easier to use. But secondly, plastic stamps were able to deliver both design and texture. The texture of concrete floors had started to become important when it became known that certain textures helped refract sunlight more than others, thus, making it cooler to the touch.

For the stamped concrete we have today, we only know about its ease, its customization, and how beautifully it transforms plain concrete floors. But it’s also important to remember the people who used their originality and creativity to give us that.