Everything about deactivated concrete: what it is, how to do it and price

Currently, there are multiple techniques and materials for constructing pavements of all kinds in the exteriors of private homes as well as in public use floors such as sidewalks, parks and gardens. Among all the options offered by a constantly evolving and innovating market, deactivated concrete is a great attraction for its attractive aesthetics, its high resistance and durability against the most abrupt conditions and, of course, for an affordable and economical cost compared to other options.

Washed concrete or exposed aggregate concrete, as it is also called, is one of the simplest and most effective methods to create in situ pavements whose appearance closely resembles that of gravel. A roughness that offers numerous virtues, among which is the anti-slip texture it provides.

Next, we are going to delve into everything related to deactivated concrete. We will explain what this technique consists of, its main benefits, how to do it correctly, what products to buy to execute this pavement, as well as its price per square meter, among many other issues.

Government building in the United States with deactivated concrete cladding

What is deactivated concrete?

Exposed aggregate concrete is a type of concrete characterized by being a slab in which the aggregate materials are partially exposed after undergoing a special treatment. In this way, the aggregates of the concrete protrude from the surface and are noticeable at first glance thanks to the use of a concrete setting retardant called deactivator or desactivator. Hence it is also known by the names of washed concrete or exposed aggregate. These names refer to the fact that the concrete is left bare.

Cement, water and stone granules make up the exposed aggregate concrete that, depending on the type of stone and colour chosen in its formulation, will offer one type of decorative finish or another. This roughness that the stone provides is what triggers its non-slip texture and high resistance to the action of external agents and weather conditions.

Advantages and most notable properties of deactivated concrete

Smooth, common and boring surfaces disappear, giving way to original and beautiful pavements where concrete takes the form of decorative aggregate. An appearance virtually identical to a piece of granite or marble. This decorative technique from which deactivated concrete was born dates back to the early 20th century, long before the emergence of another type of very popular outdoor concrete such as imprinted concrete. However, despite the passage of years, it is not at all outdated, but many professionals bring out the best in themselves to create true pieces of art. A creativity with which professionals are taking this finish to another level.

Exposed aggregate concrete is classified within decorative pavements. A categorization to which other systems such as imprinted concrete or polished concrete belong. In the case of exteriors, washed concrete is one of the most versatile and guaranteed alternatives.

Its superior mechanical and chemical resistance make washed concrete a perfect solution for any geographical location as it tolerates abrupt temperature changes, wind, rain, sun, pedestrian and vehicular traffic, etc. For this reason, floors with this finish are ideal for those places that suffer from high humidity, cold-heat cycles and snowfalls. To help you decide if this is the right material for your project, carefully read the main advantages that deactivated concrete holds.

It runs quickly with hardly any equipment setup. It finishes drying in 24 hours, so it can be enjoyed in a potentially short period of time. A very simple application that translates into a saving of time and labour.

Its cost per m2 is very affordable.

Sun exposure does not affect or degrade it.

The deactivated concrete is a non-slip pavement.

Its granular appearance makes it unique, no other type of concrete can recreate such aesthetics.

To the exposed aggregate concrete a retarder is applied that delays the setting of the concrete and allows the aggregates to break through the surface.

It is a very versatile decorative finish that adapts perfectly to any environment. This is due to the different stones and colours available, which allow this material to be adapted to any setting.

Free of toxins. The chemical added to highlight the aggregates of washed concrete does not cause adverse effects to people or the environment.

It's a long-lasting floor. The roughness of its finish and its intrinsic resistance, greater than that of conventional concrete, allow this material to enjoy an unbeatable state for years. A quality finish intact for a long time.

The deactivated concrete has a high resistance. Mechanical and chemical performances that are given by its roughness and porosity and that make it untouchable against sunlight, rain, pedestrian and vehicular traffic as well as against chemical agents.

Easy and low maintenance. Unlike other types such as polished, exposed aggregate concrete does not require a constant maintenance process.

Main utilities and fields of application of washed concrete

Washed concrete or exposed aggregate concrete stands out for enabling a wide variety of applications and utilities. This is due to its great ability to adapt to different environments and the versatility of a pavement that offers an infinity of textures and colours.

Thanks to its anti-slip properties, it is a fantastic solution for carrying out various road constructions. Therefore, it is frequently used to pave sidewalks, driveways, streets, shopping centers, terraces, parking lots, and gas stations. Its striking aesthetics, given by the exposed aggregates, make this type of concrete a highly demanded decorative system in access roads to developments that provide a touch of exclusivity that very few materials are capable of conceiving.

In addition to these fields of application, washed concrete or deactivated concrete is perfect for creating pedestrian walkways, old town areas, areas of architectural tradition, sports areas, ramps, public squares, parks and gardens. Whatever the use given to it, this pavement offers very original designs with loads of personality. A neat finish where beauty and resistance merge to meet the needs of the most demanding customers.

Garden with beautiful pedestrian path made with deactivated concrete

How to make deactivated concrete? Method explained step by step

Even though the components are similar to conventional concretes, the application method is quite different. This is because to make deactivated concrete a deactivator must be used on fresh concrete. A product whose functionality is to slow down the setting of the concrete.

Next, a washing process would be carried out on the pavement so that the selected aggregate stones are clearly visible on the surface. As a result, we would obtain an exclusive finish with highly valued ornamental and non-slip properties. Elegance and resistance at every step. We proceed to explain how to carry out this pavement step by step.

1. Level and compact the pavement

It is essential to ensure that the ground is in good condition. To do this, the first thing is to make sure it is well leveled and compacted before pouring the concrete. Next, you should proceed to replant the ground, which will allow you to check if the levels are correct to avoid future defects.

2: Delimit the work surface

Mark the boundaries of the surface that will cover the surface of the future deactivated concrete pavement very well. This step is super important as the liquid concrete when it is not yet dry is very moldable. If the surface is not delimited when pouring the concrete, unwanted spills could occur that would mean a failed installation method.

3. Pour the concrete over the surface

Spread the concrete evenly and homogeneously along and across the surface. To do this, a tool called a "screed" is used, which facilitates the correct leveling of the concrete throughout the perimeter. That is, it is smoothed manually.

Important: the type and amount of cement included in the concrete formulation will proportionally affect the setting of the latter.

Professional tip: we advise applying monofilament synthetic fibers to aid the cohesion of the concrete. The fibers will facilitate the subsequent application of the concrete deactivator.

4. Troweling of the concrete

Next, it would be the turn to carry out the trowelling of the concrete with the help of a power trowel or helicopter. This step will contribute to the final roughness and the anti-slip texture of the pavement.

5. Apply a concrete deactivator

To slow down the setting process of the material, a positive surface retarder must be applied approximately 30 minutes after pouring the concrete. While the outer layer dries slowly, the rest of the layers continue the usual process. Thus, the outer layer ends up eroding and making visible the aggregates that give the exposed aggregate concrete its name. It is very important to follow the indications in terms of proportions that each manufacturer specifies in the technical sheets.

Professional tip: use the concrete deactivatorfrom the Naturcem® family.Spray evenly at 2/4 bars with a 0.79 mm diameter nozzle.

Entrance of a chalet coated with deactivated concrete

6. Wash the surface to expose the aggregates

When the concrete has completed its drying and hardening process, the surface will need to be washed with pressurized water to remove any unhardened mortar remains and make the aggregates shine on the surface. This wash will be carried out between 3 and 24 hours after the application of our Naturcem®. Do it with a pressure washer between 100 and 150 bars.

Important: if the product is exposed to strong sun and wind, or if the temperature is below 30ºC, cleaning should be done between 4 and 12 hours later. If on the other hand the temperature exceeds 30ºC, shorten the time to 3-8h afterwards.

7. Seal the deactivated concrete

Although sealing is not strictly mandatory, we as professionals recommend applying a special resin like those from the Sealcem® family to finish the process. This optional use resin will give shine to the deactivated concrete pavement. The result is simply spectacular.

What deactivate to use for an exposed aggregate concrete pavement?

In the Naturcem® range, we find three types of deactivators to make exposed aggregate concrete floors. There is not one that is better than another. The difference between them lies in the color, the degree of attack, and the size of the aggregate:

Naturcem® Low: in blue colour, with an attack degree of 2 and an aggregate size of 5-8.

Naturcem® Medium: pink is its colour, 4 its attack degree and 10-14 its aggregate size.

Naturcem® High: yellow in appearance, an attack grade of 5 and with an aggregate size of 14-18.

All three are solvent-free deactivators, which greatly facilitates their use. As for their performance, it is 5 - 6 m²/L and they guarantee a touch dry time of 1-2 hours.


Recommendations on the maintenance of deactivated concrete

Even though deactivated concrete is a material that practically does not need maintenance, due to its porosity and roughness, there are a series of products that we can use to prolong the lifespan and glossiness of the finish.

Sealers to keep dirt and grease at bay

Grease and dirt can become the great enemies of a porous and rough-textured pavement, two characteristics that deactivated concrete combines. This is because they can penetrate with extreme ease.

To avoid this causality, we recommend using sealers that cover and seal the existing micropores in the pavement. With this product, we will provide the surface with a more prolonged protection over time of the outer layer of concrete against these agents, which will facilitate its cleaning at the same time. Likewise, thanks to the sealer, it will ensure that the aggregates do not deform and remain intact.

Professional tip: use a sealer that does not yellow when exposed to sunlight, that protects against grease and oil and enhances the colour of deactivated concrete. You have a wide range to choose from in the family of Sealcem® varnishes and sealers.

residential housing with deactivated concrete terrace

Resins for a shiny deactivated concrete

Greater protection and an everlasting shine for glossy and unforgettable finishes. That's what you'll achieve if you use resins like Sealcem® that favour the permanence of aggregates. An almost everlasting and elegant result.

Specific cleaners

Cleaning deactivated concrete with pressurized water is correct, but using products specifically designed for this purpose is a plus. Multiply the longevity of your deactivated concrete pavement with frequent use of effective cleaners like those in the Ecoclean letter.

Enhance the color of deactivated concrete

Deactivated concrete is very durable, but not impregnable. Over time, due to more abrupt and adverse weather conditions, as a result of climate change and high vehicular traffic, the colour may lose some of its essence and fade. A situation that can be remedied with the application of a colour enhancer like ours. Sealcem® DSV Colour .A paint that will not only revitalize the color of the exposed aggregate concrete pavement, but will make it more resistant to impacts and abrasions.

How to repair washed concrete like a true pro

Decorative finishes are not just for looking at and admiring their beauty, but also for using them. To walk on the pavement without fear and even drive and park vehicles on top. Too much traffic or an unheard-of storm can cause minor damage that needs to be rectified. We explain how to repair washed concrete as if you were an expert in the field.

1. Prepare and clean the pavement

Clean the cracks, holes or dents that may be in the pavement. Sweep and even use a pressure washer and a brush to help us eradicate any excess residue. The goal is to promote as smooth a surface as possible so that the new concrete we are going to pour can adhere without problems.

pool with deactivated concrete pavement in the area

2. Mix the aggregates with the concrete

Choose the type of aggregate that we like the most and mix with the concrete strictly following the precise instructions of the manufacturers.

3. Apply a layer of epoxy adhesive

Add a layer of epoxy adhesive to the surface so that the concrete adheres properly and does not come off after completing the drying process. When the epoxy is neither too dry nor too wet, we will proceed to add the patch.

4. Place the patch on the washed concrete

Fill the cracks, holes or dents with the newly made mixture. Tools such as a spatula can be very useful to ensure that all the space is perfectly filled with the concrete with aggregates. Then, level the surface.

5. Wait between 24 and 48 hours for the patch to dry

Respect, with patience, a prudential period between 24 and 48 hours for the patch we have added to be completely dry.

6. Wash the surface

Clean the washed concrete pavement again so that the aggregates are exposed.

7. Protect the support with a sealer

We want the patch to last and you to enjoy your pavement for a long time. For this, it is very important to apply a sealant that protects the support and let it dry for about a week to achieve its maximum performance.

single-family home with deactivated concrete on exterior staircase

What is the price of deactivated concrete? Cost per square meter

There are several factors that determine the cost per square meter of deactivated concrete. The type of stone and color selected to mix with the concrete, the labor of the construction company, the geographical area where the work is located as well as the deactivator that will be used to achieve the popular finish of exposed aggregate concrete. Taking into account all these elements, it is a material with an excellent quality-price ratio, being much more affordable than other construction materials.

In general terms, although depending on where you look we can find very different costs taking into account the previously described factors, the price of deactivated concrete per square meter ranges between 20 and 60 euros.

Textures of deactivated concrete: infinite textures and colours

Deactivated concrete constitutes a continuous pavement with a rustic and earthy appearance of infinite textures due to its available aggregates: pebbles, marbles, gravels, etc. Regardless of the chosen aggregate, the result is always the same: a smooth, rough, and non-slip pavement.

For greater customization, cement can be combined with any aggregate, grain size, and color. To the consumer's liking. The catalog is endless, being able to play with different geometric motifs and materials such as wood, stone, or brick. Any shape and texture can be projected with the deactivated concrete, creating very different pavements from each other but all of them in perfect harmony and consonance with the environment that surrounds them.

Types of aggregates you can select

Some of the aggregates that you can mix with the concrete to achieve this decorative finish are:

- Crushed stone

- Pebbles

- Decomposed granite

- Salt rocks

- Limestone

- Quartzite or basalts

Colours for your deactivated concrete

The most common colours are undoubtedly white, grey, brown, and black. However, thanks to the customization allowed by deactivated concrete, you can play with all kinds of shades and even combine different colours to create a much more special support. The help of an experienced professional will be decisive for you to give the pavement a unique and non-transferable finish for your outdoor space.

Deactivated concrete or imprinted concrete? Which one to choose?

These are two types of concrete that require a special decorative technique to achieve the final finish they boast. While deactivated concrete is characterized by exposing the aggregates after applying a deactivator, imprinted concrete stamps molds of different shapes onto the pavement that mimic the appearance of other materials such as stone, wood, or brick.

Both are abundant in resistance, being very durable decorative pavements. Two very grateful materials in terms of maintenance and with very competitive and affordable prices per square meter. Which one to choose? The answer is simple. It depends on the finish you want to achieve, as they have nothing to do with each other.


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