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Mastering Exposed Aggregate Concrete: A Step-by-Step Guide and Common Mistakes to Avoid

Exposed aggregate patio with old monroe rock and cake stairs leading up to the back door.
Exposed aggregate patio with old monroe rock

Exposed aggregate concrete is a popular choice for driveways, sidewalks, and patios, offering a unique blend of durability, aesthetics, and texture. With its decorative aggregate surface revealed through the removal of the top layer of cement creme, exposed aggregate concrete adds visual interest and dimension to any outdoor space. In this blog, we'll walk you through the installation process for exposed aggregate concrete and highlight common mistakes to avoid for a successful project.

Step-by-Step Guide to Installing Exposed Aggregate Concrete:

1. Preparation:

  • Begin by preparing the site, ensuring proper drainage and a stable 1" minus rock base. Excavate the area to the desired depth and compact the rock to prevent settling.

  • Install any necessary forms or edge restraints to define the shape and dimensions of the concrete pour.

2. Aggregate Selection:

  • Choose high-quality aggregate materials such as old monroe stone, crushed stone, or decorative aggregates like quartz, granite, or colored glass.

  • Consider the size, shape, and color of the aggregate to achieve the desired aesthetic effect.

3. Mixing and Pouring:

  • The concrete ready-mix plant ensures a uniform consistency and proper proportions of cement, aggregate, and water.

  • Pour the concrete evenly within the forms, using a screed board or bull float to level the surface and remove any excess concrete.

4. Exposing the Aggregate:

  • Spray on the retarder to allow the concrete to harden but the top layer to remain soft.

  • After the concrete has partially set, typically within 6-24 hours, begin the process of exposing the aggregate. This involves removing the thin layer of cement paste from the surface to reveal the aggregate underneath.

  • Use a hose, hand tools, or chemical retardants to carefully remove the cement creme without damaging the exposed aggregate. Experiment with different techniques and timing to achieve the desired level of exposure and texture.

5. Finishing and Sealing:

  • Once the aggregate is exposed to your satisfaction, allow the concrete to cure fully.

  • Apply a quality concrete cure-and-seal to protect the surface from moisture absorption, staining, and UV damage. Choose a sealer specifically formulated for exposed aggregate concrete and follow the manufacturer's instructions for application.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  1. Overexposing the Aggregate: One of the most common mistakes in exposed aggregate concrete installation is overexposing the aggregate, resulting in an uneven or patchy appearance. Take care to remove the cement paste gradually and uniformly to achieve consistent results.

  2. Inadequate Sealing: Failing to properly seal the exposed aggregate surface leaves it vulnerable to moisture penetration, staining, and deterioration over time. Be sure to apply a high-quality concrete sealer to protect the surface and enhance its longevity.

  3. Poor Surface Preparation: Neglecting proper surface preparation, including adequate compaction of the base and proper formwork installation, can lead to settling, cracking, and other structural issues. Take the time to prepare the site thoroughly before pouring the concrete to ensure a stable and durable finished product.

  4. Improper Aggregate Selection: Choosing the wrong type or size of aggregate can affect the appearance and performance of the exposed aggregate concrete. Select aggregates that complement the overall design aesthetic and meet the requirements for durability and weather resistance.

  5. Rushing the Process: Exposed aggregate concrete installation requires patience and attention to detail. Rushing through the process or skipping important steps can compromise the quality and longevity of the finished product. Take your time, follow the proper procedures, and seek professional guidance if needed.


By following these guidelines and avoiding common mistakes, you can achieve stunning results with exposed aggregate concrete that enhances the beauty and durability of your outdoor spaces. With careful planning, preparation, and execution, you'll enjoy a unique and eye-catching surface that stands the test of time. Not looking to DIY the project? Give us a call! We are ready to elevate your outdoor environment with the timeless appeal of exposed aggregate concrete! #exposedaggregate #patio #aggregateinstall #aggregateconcrete #newexposedaggregate #sgc #concretecontractor #specgroupconcrete 314-265-5257 St.Charles County, MO

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