When it comes to laying concrete and bringing in a new look to an outdoor area, few options can compete with exposed aggregate. This is a combination of material designed to give you unlimited design choices. The combination of different stones allows for a brilliant display wherever it is installed. For anyone who is looking for something different from the normal concrete look, exposed aggregate is the way to go. However, there is a number of pros and cons to know before opting for this concrete type. So, before moving forward with any kind of project, it is always important to consider these pros and cons and determine whether or not it is the right option for the property.

The Costs and Materials

The cost and materials of exposed aggregate can vary. Concrete is used as a base. However, as a filler, any number of stones, pebbles or combination can be used. It all comes down to what someone is interested in and what kind of design they would like. In general, it is less expensive than the installation of just concrete, as the stones do not require any mixing and take up space. However, it does come down to the kind of stone someone uses. It is also possible to use seashells or even pieces of smooth glass, should an individual desire this as an option. Because the materials can vary so wildly, the cost will vary along with it. In general, though, choosing exposed aggregate will cost less than any other traditional form of concrete, which is one of the main reasons why so many people opt for this design.

Materials used within the aggregate are broken down into a few different categories. The first is a decorative aggregate. This uses colorful stones that are often locally sourced. It is important to consider the size and grain size, and whether the stones are polished or angular. Some decorative aggregate is colored through an oxide pigmentation process. Ancient stone, like quartz, is popular as well, thanks to the natural sparkle it offers. This leads us to the next category which is metallic and mineral. These materials are typically stronger and can take up to 10,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. This is best when used for industrial sites where forklifts and other heavy machinery will travel overhead.

It is possible to discuss different building materials and aggregate options with a local contractor or home improvement store to see what the best options are and what each material costs.

Advantages and Pros to Using Exposed Aggregate

Exposed Aggregate

There are a number of beneficial aspects to using exposed aggregate as a building material. The most appealing of all the pros is the overall price for the material. It is possible to create any number of designs and looks for a small price with exposed aggregate. Few other building materials provide this kind of flexibility for design and financial freedom. It also doesn’t require much; you can use outside concrete and the stones, shells, glass or other materials.  If someone has a considerable amount of stones left over from a previous project, they can add it to the exposed aggregate. It is a great solution for someone who has collected building materials over the years and wants to find a way to use it. In this way, it helps to drop the price even further.

Once someone knows how to work with concrete, it is relatively easy to use the exposed aggregate. There is a learning curve for concrete, but beyond this, it does not take any additional knowledge. The materials can be mixed and then laid out; although it does take some extra work to ensure that everything is flat due to the added stones and materials in use.

The exposed aggregate does not require regular maintenance. It may collect dirt or salt stains used on a sidewalk, but outside of the occasional cleaning of the surface, it doesn’t require much in the aspect of maintenance. Additionally, it likely will only need to be resealed every couple of years. This helps add to the financial benefit of the material, which is exactly why it should be used as a viable building material for any location.

Thanks to the durability of the exposed aggregate, it can be used for driveways. The colorful stones or seashells instantly adds a new look and desirable appearance to the driveway which few other driveways in the area will probably have.

It is fairly easy to take advantage of the appearance benefits of exposed aggregate and to implement it onto a property. So for anyone who is interested in applying a unique look to the driveway or walkway while saving money all at the same time, this is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to go about doing so.

Disadvantages and Cons

Pebble stones

Before diving headfirst into the world of exposed aggregate, there are a number of cons to consider as well.

1. For someone who has never used concrete before, there is a learning curve and it may prove more difficult than one can assume. Concrete experience is highly recommended before moving into exposed aggregate, as it is more difficult to work with. Due to this, it might require someone to hire a professional to lay the concrete, which will increase the cost of installation. It is extremely important for someone to consider these prices and know ahead of time what the professionals charge. This might be the difference between deciding to go with one building material over another.

2. While there is limitless potential with the kinds of materials used, some are more prone to damage than others. Decorative stones, for example, are stones that may damage faster than others. These stones will not only crack but may require additional maintenance, so knowing about the material used with the exposed aggregate is a must. Some of these stones may also need to be replaced.

3. When installing the exposed aggregate on an area where cars will be driving or parking, it is extremely important to look into the materials. If a stone is removed or picked out, it will leave holes and allow for water to seep into the area of the missing stone. This may cause the concrete to expand and contrast faster, which causes the stone to crack. Patching these repairs are more difficult and time-consuming. It isn’t as simple as removing a cracked piece of concrete and filling it back in. The concrete must be delicately added to the missing area or new stones must be pushed in. If someone uses a stone that cracks and becomes dislodged easily, then this will be a process they need to routinely do over and over again. Over time, if the stones first selected were of a poor quality, it means they will end up with a patchy looking driveway or walkway.

4. Cleaning the surface, while not often required, is difficult to do. This is because dirt may become lodged and caked around some stones. Washing and sweeping with a broom is likely not a viable option due to the texture of the stones. In order to correct this, it is then necessary to invest in a power washer to remove all the difficult to locate and clean dirt. If the stone is already loose or damaged, then the power washer is that much more likely to kick off the stone. Plus, if the stone becomes loose and falls out, it ends up allowing for water to absorb into where it was removed and crack, so the power washer is not always the best cleaning option to use in terms of longevity for the exposed aggregate.

When it comes down to selecting exposed aggregate, an individual needs to consider the kind of stone they want to use with the concrete. This may be all the difference between a concrete that lasts and is able to sustain cleaning, the weather and vehicles driving over it and a surface that requires constant fixing. As long as someone is able to make the right decision in the building materials, it will last a long time without much-needed maintenance. If someone is interested in avoiding the rough surface and some problems of pieces becoming dislodged, they may want to consider a sealant that is applied on top. This is another layer that does take time to apply, but it will go a long way in protecting the aggregate and preventing the natural wear and tear it normally would go through.


Exposed aggregate concrete is an excellent installation material. It is inexpensive and provides a home or property owner with unlimited design options. However, there are some negative aspects to it as well, including difficulty installing for anyone who does not have experience working with the material. Should someone decide on using exposed aggregate as a viable option, though, it will go a long way in offering a unique look and bringing in desirable attention to the wall, floor, or any other location where it is used.


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