Exposed Aggregate vs Plain Concrete: What You Should Know

Exposed aggregate and plain concrete are both strong, durable and cost-effective additions to any home, but how do you know what’s right for you?

What is Plain Concrete?

Plain concrete is the standard, grey finished concrete that is utilised across many spaces in both the residential and commercial sectors. It is often textured to provide non-slip qualities and is thought to be highly cost effective. Physical properties of standard concrete are similar to stone, including the ability to withstand great pressure and weight. Concrete is a combination construction material made from cement, gravel, and granite, while some types of concrete include chemical mixtures, sand and water.

What is Exposed Aggregate?

Exposed aggregate is a type of decorative concrete in which stones, pebbles, and other materials are added in with concrete to create custom mixes. This is a unique, complex and decorative style of specialty concrete which is extremely eye-catching. Like standard concrete, it is a hard-wearing, durable surface that provides a high level of grip for vehicles and pedestrians, particularly in wet conditions. Keep in mind that exposed aggregate is far more labour intensive to install, and such should be completed by an experienced professional.

Comparing The Two Concrete Options

Let’s take a look at the two concrete finishing options in regard to a few key factors that homeowners should consider.


You can expect a longer construction process dealing with exposed aggregate when compared to plain, standard concrete. Once an aggregate mix is poured and trowelled, installers spray the concrete surface with a chemical retarder. These chemicals keep the top layer of concrete from solidifying and allow the layer to be removed to expose the stones and other additives in the concrete mix. When compared to regular concrete, exposed aggregate finishes are far more labour intensive to install.

It is recommended that all exposed aggregate installations are completed by professionals who are experienced with this type of finish.


Plain concrete generally requires very little maintenance and can withstand extreme weather conditions relatively smoothly. Standard concrete rarely requires extensive repair work and is suited to homeowners looking for a low-maintenance option.

Exposed aggregate finishes are comparable in terms of durability and robustness to plain concrete. However, an exposed surface can potentially be more susceptible to weathering and deterioration under the same conditions, due to the textured surface. Chipped aggregate, loose stones and the build-up of dirt and grime between the varied surface are all possibilities for aggregate installations.


In terms of decorative options, plain concrete is far more traditional. Many homeowners prefer the appearance of a clean concrete patio, driveway or pathway over a decorative concrete styling. Plain concrete can be coloured with oxides that are added to the mix prior to installation, which affords homeowners greater flexibility to match their home’s existing décor or style.

Exposed aggregate finishes provide homeowners with a greater degree of creative control due to the huge variety of aggregates that can be added to the concrete mix. Exposed aggregate installations are generally one-of-a-kind mixes and feature popular aggregates including limestone, granite and quartz.


The uneven surface of exposed aggregate concrete generally requires a hose down or light pressure wash to maintain optimal visual appearance. Dirt and debris can be caught in the surface, which can make the concrete look dirty and dull. Homeowners should take care when using pressure washers on exposed aggregate surfaces, as high-force washers have the potential to dislodge the various aggregate.

Standard, plain concrete applications also experience this build up of dirt and debris but providing they aren’t cracked or chipped, pressure washers can be used without too much concern.

Limitations of Plain Concrete & Exposed Aggregate

Although concrete installations provide homeowners with wide-ranging benefits, there are some limitations that you should also be aware of before committing to a project.

Plain Concrete

  • Due to its low tensile strength, concrete requires reinforcement to reduce the chance of cracking.
  • Efflorescence can occur if moisture reacts with soluble salts in concrete.
  • Less visual appeal compared to decorative concrete finishes.
  • Low strength to weight ratio.

Exposed Aggregate

  • Unless you have extensive concreting experience, you should not attempt a DIY exposed aggregate concrete project. A professional should always be utilised when installing exposed aggregate.
  • The surface can be prone to damage, particularly the decorative stones. This highlights the importance of choosing high quality materials, as well as a professional installation, to mitigate the risks of surface damage.

Which Concrete Application Is More Expensive?

Plain concrete is relatively cost-effective due to the ability for an easy and quick installation when compared to decorative concrete alternatives. Homeowners can expect a hassle-free installation process that can be completed quickly and as a DIY project for those who feel confident enough.

Due to the labour-intensive nature of exposed aggregate installations, homeowners can expect a greater financial outlay to install this style of concrete application. Exposed aggregate is a visually appealing surface and is proven to help increase the value of home should you decide to put it on the market later down the track.

How Can Terrastone Help Me?

As experts in decorative concrete solutions, Terrastone Architectural Concrete is equipped with the equipment, experience and expertise to provide high-quality concrete installations in your home. Our service team are well-versed in delivering concrete applications across both interior and exterior spaces, turning unused and unsightly areas into feature pieces of the home. We have built strong relationships within the professional community, and we only use the best decorative concrete manufacturers, contractors and concrete finishers in Perth. To turn your concrete visions into a reality, get in touch with the Terrastone team today.

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