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Decorative Techniques for Concrete Patios and Walkways

With families spending more time outdoors and curb appeal an essential element in selling your home, patios and walkways have become the focus of


This concrete walkway was stamped to look like Roman slate. Photo courtesy of Progressive Concrete in Escondido, Calif.
This concrete walkway was stamped to look like Roman slate. Photo courtesy of Progressive Concrete in Escondido, Calif.

many home improvement projects. If your concrete has seen better days, there’s no reason to spend another summer in an ugly backyard, according to Khara Dizmon, spokesperson for ConcreteNetwork.com, who says springtime and warmer weather encourage homeowners to get out and dress up their patios for entertaining.

The patio, for instance, has become so essential to backyard retreats that it was among the top 10 features ranked "very important" by home buyers in the 2007 Profile of Buyers’ Home Feature Preferences, published by the National Association of Realtors. There are several ways to spruce up its appearance quickly and without the expense of pouring a brand-new surface. “If you have a concrete patio that needs work, the traditional option has been to remove and replace it with new concrete,” said Paul Koury, president of Westcoat, a San Diego-based concrete restoration company. “While that’s still an option, a lot of people are using newer methods of staining, painting or changing the texture of the concrete to improve the appearance.”

A New Color
Concrete that is in excellent shape can often be stained or painted in a fresh


Concrete is stamped and stained to mimic the look of terracotta tile. The same design was used indoors and out to tie together the two spaces. Photo courtesy of Life Deck Specialty Coatings in San Diego.
Concrete is stamped and stained to mimic the look of terracotta tile. The same design was used indoors and out to tie together the two spaces. Photo courtesy of Life Deck Specialty Coatings in San Diego.

hue. In fact, staining is one of the most popular makeovers of concrete slabs. Concrete is very porous, which allows stains to penetrate deeply into the surface, acting almost as a blank slate for artistic expression. Contractors often use acid-based chemical stains to achieve the look of natural stone and marble on walkways and pool decks. The acid in the stains lightly etches the surface, which allows the color to penetrate deeply. The more layers that are applied, the deeper the color you will achieve.

A New Texture
Resurfacing your concrete is a great way to make a worn patio look new again. Homeowners can match the stone façade of their house by placing a concrete overlay on to their existing patio surface. Using this method, you can get the look of flagstone, brick, cobblestone, slate, terracotta tiles and many other patterns by pressing stamps into a layer of freshly poured concrete. Stamping can also help create the look of a stone border or alternating pattern along the edges of the surface.

Surfaces are first repaired and prepped. An overlay, or layer of concrete, is then applied thinly or thickly, depending on the look you are after. In professional installations, such as those used by Westcoat, the look is achieved using an epoxy primer, stamp and a stain or color wash. In addition, it is possible to add a layer of slip resistance to make areas around pools safer. A sealer is then applied to lock in the look.

Design Ideas
One of the biggest reasons why homeowners opt to makeover their concrete


Concrete can also be stained and textured to create an anti-slip surface around pools. Photo courtesy of Life Deck Specialty Coatings in San Diego.
Concrete can also be stained and textured to create an anti-slip surface around pools. Photo courtesy of Life Deck Specialty Coatings in San Diego.

patios and walkways is the broad design options available. Any style home, from traditional to modern, can be accentuated with the right color or textured concrete surface. A Tudor style home, for example, might look elegant with a design that mimics Old World materials, such as cobblestone or aged brick. A Mediterranean style home would look great with concrete stamped to mimic flagstone, slate or Spanish tile. Smooth stained concrete and a decorative edge detail can also give a colonial home wonderful appeal. ConcreteNetwork.com has a fabulous online gallery that showcases concrete design ideas based on architectural style.

Color can also play a big role in boosting concrete’s allure. Many homeowners will opt for a natural look—such as brown, gray or beige—that will complement their home’s exterior. New technologies and application techniques, however, make it possible to stain or color concrete to any imaginable hue. And, with most color options, the hue you choose can have multiple effects. One solid hue can help make a backyard patio look larger. Choosing a color that’s similar to the hue on your interior floors can visually connect the outdoor and indoor spaces. If you’re looking for inspiration, Concretenetwork.com has an extensive gallery of photographs that will inspire design ideas and motivate change.

Hiring a Professional
While concrete stains, paints and some textures can be a do-it-yourself job, Koury says, the finishes homeowners purchase at a local home improvement store and apply themselves won’t last as long as a professional application. “Homeowners usually won’t take the time or know-how to properly prepare the surface, and the color will begin to flake off after a short period of time,” he said. “They won’t have saved any money, and that’s why these jobs should probably be left to the pros.” An experienced contractor will have at least 10 years of experience, so shop around and ask for references before hiring a professional.

While DIY jobs can cost just a few hundred dollars, professional concrete treatments can cost several thousand dollars, depending on the size of your patio or walkway. Also, factor maintenance into the overall cost of the project. “When you raise the standard on your outdoor flooring, plan on having maintenance on it every three to five years,” Koury said. “The sun, traffic and weather will eat up the overlays, but with the right sealers and maintenance, you can get 10 to 20 years out of the project.”

No matter which colors, patterns and textures you select, a concrete makeover is sure to boost the curb appeal and beauty of your home.

Credit: Renovate Your World