Enhancing a Concrete Patio

Paint, stain, and stamping are options for dressing up a concrete slab.


+ enlarge image This six-month-old concrete slab was stained to give it a weathered look.

Concrete is one of the most popular and common materials used for patios. There are many finishes and colors available to enhance concrete. Most can be found at home improvement centers and are easy to use.

Enhancements to concrete fall into two general categories: those that can be added to an existing slab, and those that must be added at the time of pouring. In general, enhancements made at the time of pouring will last longer and look better over time.

Options for New Concrete

  • One way to enhance concrete is to create a texture or pattern on the surface. Although the tools, techniques, and level of difficulty vary slightly, they all use the same basic principle: A mold or stamp is pressed into semihardened concrete to create the desired texture.
  • Stamps and molds are available to give concrete the look of cobblestones, individual pavers, fieldstone, and slate. It may take a few tries to master the technique, so you'll need to practice before doing the real thing.
  • Another option is to color the concrete. Concrete stains and dyes are available in many exciting hues at most home improvement centers. Plan colors carefully with the understanding that a little can go a long way. As with paint, colors often appear darker or more intense when used over a larger area than when viewed as a small sample.
  • The most reliable and durable way to color concrete is to purchase a powdered dye that is mixed into the concrete while it is wet. The benefit here is that the color is throughout the concrete; as the surface wears, the freshly exposed concrete will be the same color.

Patio Garden Plan

Options for Existing Concrete

  • You can apply paint, dye, or stain to an existing concrete patio. Staining requires cleaning and preparing the surface of the concrete, then applying the dye. You can also use acrylic paint to add a decorative pattern to the patio. Be forewarned, however, that a painted patio will require regular repainting.
  • If the concrete surface is sound but unattractive, you can use it as a substrate to support brick, slate, or other masonry materials.
  • For a concrete slab that is beyond repair, consider building a wood deck on top. This will cover the concrete and eliminates the need to break up the old patio and haul it away.
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