A release agent is necessary whenever stamping concrete. Without it, the texture tools will stick to the concrete. This leads to wear and tear on the tool and, more importantly, damage to the stamped concrete. Release agents are absolutely vital to a satisfactory textured concrete surface.
Liquid Release is a colorless liquid designed for use with texture mats and stamps. It forms a lubricating barrier between the texture tool and the concrete, preventing the tool from sticking to the concrete. Liquid release is suitable for use on interior and exterior applications.
Also called Release Powder or Antique Release, Powdered Release is a bond breaking powder, broadcast into the concrete and texture tools. It also prevents the tools for sticking to the concrete. Powdered Release is generally pigmented, so it highlights or “antiques” during the stamping process.
Liquid vs Powder
Powdered Release adds highlighting pigment to the texture of the concrete. As the texturing tools imprint, pigment is embedded in the concrete. This means stamping and antiquing can be completed in a single step. Many also find it easier to blend multiple colors, for a more natural look with Powdered Release. Some contractors will mix some color into liquid release to achieve the same effect, but that can yield less consistent results. It is also possible to come back later and use a product such as Brickform Antique-It, a water based stain, or other coloring agents to highlight.
Application and Ease of Use
Application methods vary greatly between release agents. A liquid release can only be applied through a sprayer. Powdered Release can be applied using one of several methods. The most common are by hand, grabbing handfuls of material and throwing it onto the slab or stamp, or broadcasting using a brush. While both materials require skill and attention to detail during application, many contractors find that Powdered Release requires a bit more finesse.
Environmental concerns are perhaps the biggest deciding factor when choosing release agent. Powdered Release is well known for producing colorful dust clouds during application and stamping. This airborne material can pose a health and safety risk if the jobsite is not properly ventilated and appropriate safety gear is not used as per OSHA guidelines. Liquid Release is most frequently used in lieu of Powdered Release when the project is indoors, in a poorly ventilated space, or when surrounding areas could be heavily affected by airborne particulate matter.
As a solvent-based material, Liquid Release has a limited working time. This means the material cannot be applied too far ahead of stamping, otherwise it won’t work as well as expected. Powdered Release, on the other hand, can be applied well in advance, leaving plenty of time to stamp and detail the slab. In fact, Powdered Release is sometimes applied in excess after stamping to protect the curing concrete from the elements overnight or over the weekend.
Ultimately, the situation, specifications, and personal preference will determine which kind of release you use. Liquid and Powdered Release both have advantages and disadvantages. There is no one size fits all answer, but there is an answer for any size.