Both plain concrete and exposed aggregate are strong, long-lasting, and cost-effective additions to your Melbourne home, but what’s right for you? (Don’t worry, we’ll help you answer that right now). Let’s put an end to the great concrete debate!

Too much choice is great…until it’s not.

If you’re planning to install a new concrete driveway, patio, or slab then you’ll be weighing up the finish. Do you go for a traditional, durable, and clean-looking plain concrete finish? Or, are you looking for the aesthetic advantages that come with an exposed aggregate finish?

If you can’t answer that question right now, we get it. As Melbourne’s trusted concrete flooring and formwork team, we’ve helped hundreds of customers choose the concrete that’s right for them – and we’ll do the same for you.

We’ve rounded up all the info you need to know about plain concrete and exposed aggregate concrete, including:

  • Installation
  • Appearance
  • Longevity
  • Cost
  • Maintenance

Read on to find out how to make a solid choice that benefits your Melbourne property for decades to come.

Installation: Plain concrete

Concrete is the world’s most widely used construction material, and for good reason. Providing a stable and even base, concrete is a durable resource that doesn’t often win praise in the home improvement world, but is crucial for keeping your home strong, your vehicles safely parked, or your commercial site protected.

Incredibly strong under compression, plain concrete is a mixture of cement, aggregate, and water. Changing the ratio of materials and type of aggregate is how you can take plain concrete and apply decorative finishes (more on that later).

Once mixed, plain concrete is poured in place and typically smoothed out for the uniform, grey concrete that you’ve seen a million times before. But don’t let the popularity of plain concrete fool you, the result is a strong, durable, resilient surface that can’t burn, rust, or rot.

Installation: Exposed aggregate concrete

There are several techniques to install exposed aggregate concrete, though the most common process involves smoothing poured concrete with a trowel before spraying specially-formulated chemicals to keep the top layer from hardening. This wet surface is protected for 24 hours before power-washing removes the top layer of concrete and exposes the aggregate beneath.

Hence the name, exposed aggregate concrete.

Appearance: Plain concrete

When it comes to your decorative options, plain concrete is, well…plain. This doesn’t mean a more traditional finish is boring. Instead, many Melbourne homeowners prefer the appearance of a clean standard concrete driveway, patio, or pathway.

Concept Concrete Tip: Plain concrete can be coloured through the addition of coloured oxide into the mixture before installation, so you can still enjoy the smooth appearance of concrete with colours to suit your home or style.

Appearance: Exposed aggregate concrete

Exposed aggregate finishes offer a wider variety of control with your creative choices covering dozens of aggregate options, including:

  • Basalt
  • Granite
  • Quartz
  • Limestone
  • Gravel
  • Crushed stone
  • Natural sand
  • Repurposed glass
  • Seashells
  • And much, much more

This range means your concrete surface can be multi-coloured (due to natural colour variation in aggregate materials) and used to complement your home or landscaping designs. For example, your exposed aggregate concrete might pair with your home’s exterior paint, or contrast other concrete surfaces in your outdoor space. Put simply, exposed aggregate offers greater colour and design options.

Looking for more reasons to go with the exposed aggregate look? Click here for 5 of the BIGGEST advantages of this decorative finish

Longevity: Plain concrete

Plain concrete requires very little maintenance and can stand up to the worst Melbourne weather for 30 years (or more). Able to hold up against extreme weather conditions (including Melbourne’s famous ‘four seasons in a day’ climate), plain concrete is a workhorse that rarely requires repairs and very little maintenance.

As a low-maintenance option, plain concrete ticks all your boxes.

Longevity: Exposed aggregate concrete

If exposed aggregate concrete offers greater design flexibility, that can become something of a double-edged sword in terms of longevity. Does that mean an exposed aggregate driveway will crack and crumble within a few years?

Absolutely not.

Exposed aggregate finishes are just as robust and durable as plain concrete. However, an aggregate surface may be more susceptible to weathering and deterioration as a result of the textured surface. From chipped aggregate to dirt and grime building up between surface variations, you may experience more cracks and damage than a plain concrete surface under the same conditions.

Maintenance: Plain concrete

While sealing your concrete offers lasting protection, you can take care of unsealed concrete by clearing debris from the surface with a broom, hose, or pressure washer. This is the easiest type of concrete to clean as a blast of water isn’t going to cause damage.

While exposed aggregate requires a reset each week to get rid of dirt and debris, you can skip the weekly clean and enjoy your concrete surface without adding to your weekly chore list.

Maintenance: Exposed aggregate concrete

Exposed aggregate concrete requires more maintenance than plain concrete. This is because the exposed aggregate surface is uneven which allows for dirt, debris, grime, and muck to get lodged in the surface, making your driveway or pathway look tired and dirty.

While it’s tempting to use a high-powered washer to clear out the mess, this may dislodge small pebbles, stones, or other aggregate material. If you are using a pressure washer, consider using a spray nozzle that produces the lowest stream and reduces your risk of chipping.

Outside of cleaning, you’ll want to sweep your exposed aggregate surface once a week to avoid a build-up of debris that becomes hard to clean over time.

Which concrete finish is more expensive?

Let’s be honest, all the pros and cons in the world are great. But what you really want to know is which concrete finish is going to be more expensive.

The short and sharp version is that plain concrete is cheaper ($60 to $85 per m2) than exposed aggregate concrete ($100 to $150 per m2) – but the figures don’t tell the whole story.

For example, plain concrete is easier to install so you can enjoy a quicker, hassle-free installation process if you’re after quick results. In contrast, exposed aggregate is the more visually impressive surface, which means your increased cost can help increase the value of your home.

While upfront costs are important to consider, remember to take into account the needs of your Melbourne property. If you’d like to get a quote for your next concrete project, scroll to the bottom.

Looking for more price info? Click here for the ultimate exposed aggregate price guide

Which concrete finish is right for you? (Hint: we can help answer that question)

Alright, it’s decision time.

That doesn’t mean you need to choose between plain concrete and exposed aggregate concrete (or between exposed aggregate and stamped concrete).

It’s clear that each concrete finish offers a range of advantages and disadvantages that you’ll need to take into account. From your budget to your location, your expected use to your maintenance preferences, choosing a form of concrete is a highly personal choice.

The choice you DO have to make is whether you’ll call a member of the Concept Concrete team on 1300 366 343 for a 100% obligation-free chat about your concrete options. We’re excited to hear more about your project and how we can help!