Choosing Patio Concrete Designs: Concrete Stain or Concrete Paint

Among the more popular ways of laying a patio floor involves the use of concrete in some form – corny pun intended – or another. Here, we’ll be discussing some of the more aesthetically pleasing patio concrete designs. These concrete finishes and designs have a number of benefits over other flooring options. There was a time in the not too distant past where the only choice you really had was a poured concrete slab in a few different colors – gray, light gray, darker gray, smooth gray and flat gray.

Now, today’s concrete stain and paint choices allow you to finish that floor or patio any way you like. There are also patterns that can be set into the material as it sets. These stamped concrete designs, as they’re called, come in a range of patterns. Some are more organic and nature inspired, while others are more geometric or linear in appearance. In our discussion on retaining wall ideas, we mentioned a technique whereby the form could be used to create a natural wood grain appearance. This similar principle is what is used in creating these patterns. As more people are choosing to create outdoor rooms, there are many great innovations and choices available that are both functional and elegant. So, let’s get into these different approaches.

Concrete Paint

Let’s begin our discussion here about different ways of finishing or resurfacing concrete with concrete paint. Probably the more basic approaches, but one that does require a little bit of introduction. As you might guess, you can’t just roll down some leftover paint that you have from an old project and expect to get any long life from it. There are specific paints used for the express purpose of walking on. Moreover, paints for concrete also need to adhere to certain specifications for issues like moisture control. Aside from the typical recommendations regarding a clean and prepped surface, watch this video to learn more.

Concrete Stain

Similar, in principle, to paints, concrete stain is more of a process and semi-permanent solution. As with all quality projects, preparation is where it starts. Staining concrete involves a cleaning stage, an acid stage and a stain stage.

You can also find kits and products specific for the steps necessary. Here are a few examples:

Rust-Oleum, 3 Gallon Kit, Tuscan Rock, Penetrating Water Based Concrete Stain, No Chipping Or Peeling, UV, Chemical & Abrasion Resistant, Transforms, Beautifies & Protects Both Exterior & Interior Concrete Surfaces.
A safe alternative to muriatic acid. It is ideal for cleaning, degreasing, and acid etching concrete floors, walls, and basements prior to coating, staining, or sealing. The concentrated formula cleans up to 1000 sq. ft. per gallon. No. CE32 6: Quart No.
This tint base transforms ordinary concrete into an inviting space with a multi colored appearance that looks like natural stone. The transparent, low gloss finish highlights natural variations and texture of concrete, brick, pavers, and unglazed tile and stone. the durable formula provides long lasting decorative color while protecting interior and exterior surfaces from water damage, household chemicals, and wear from foot and vehicle traffic. Ideal for use on floors, patios, pool decks, sidewalks, privacy walls, and driveways. This product is not recommended for use on garage floors. Allow 30 days minimum for new concrete to cure. Clean and etch new or bare concrete with Bond Lok cleaner etcher. Previously painted or stained concrete: Strip off all old coating and then follow bare concrete instructions. Coverage: 200 to 400 sq. ft. per gallon depending on surface porosity. Do not thin. Dry time: Dries to touch in 2 hours, wait 24 hours for application of durable topcoats. Refer to model No. 002.0051390.007 Wet Look Sealer optional topcoat. 1 gallon tint base can be tinted to 30 colors using either Valspar or Sherwin Williams colorants. Call Valspar for color cards and formula pages at 800 253 1101.

Read reviews and pricing details about these products here…

Cleaning – more than just washing with water, this step should include a thorough degreasing, removal of mildew, and general scrubbing with a solution designed to prep a surface for staining. A hard bristled brush should be used to ensure that you get in all the cracks and crannies of your slab.

If you have a fairly new or clean area, a hose may be sufficient. If you have a rougher surface or one that has spills, stains, grease or mildew, cleaning with a power washer will be your best bet. Keep in mind that if you have cracked or loose concrete pieces, you may end up breaking them off as you power wash it. Better to find out now, then after it is stained.

These larger cracks can be filled and sanded. Smaller cracks can be left for a nice effect. You’ll need to clean with a power sander and water solution to make the concrete ready for the next step. After power sanding (which you can rent at your local home improvement warehouse), you’ll need to thoroughly clean up all the wet concrete fragments and slurry you created. Finally, you can mop the floor to give it a ‘finished’ cleaning surface.

Etching/Staining – This step typically involves some sort of acid product (usually muriatic acid) to etch the concrete and allow the stain to ‘take’ or penetrate properly. You should see some type of visual clue that it is working, this is a bubbling or fizzing appearance on the concrete. When this is complete, you can wash off the excess and get ready for your last step.

Sealing – You’re almost there! This is the final step and one that will ensure your new stained patio looks great for years to come. The sealer will keep any nicks and dings from allowing the gray concrete color to show through your stained patio area. Newer ‘green’ sealers come in water-based and non-toxic styles as well.

Though this is an indoor application, these steps are very similar:

Stamped Concrete

As mentioned, this is probably one of the older techniques in this field of concrete resurfacing. The general procedure depends upon how or what stage of the slab you are in. In other words, if you’re pouring a new slab, then the pattern can be stamped directly into the newly poured surface. This type of application will yield a more long-lasting effect.

Compare this with the other option which is to stamp your chosen design into a fairly thin layer of newly poured concrete that goes over your existing slab. This is still a very viable solution and one that is used most often. Because of the relative newness of this technique, it is often used on or for older patios that are being given a facelift or – what’s it called now – a rejuvenated appearance. Ha! Whatever you call it, it boils down to a brand new look for your patio!

This particular technique is not exclusive of using the stains or paints mentioned above. In fact, many times, these concrete patterns are colored using dyes that can be added to the mix before it is laid. This will ensure a more even color to the finish and one that is part of the concrete itself. Both, the stains and paints will never be quite this permanent – though the stain is nearly so. This is how concrete pavers achieve their uniform look throughout, even when cut. If you chip or cut your stained surface, you’ll see that gray color beneath it. For this reason and others, some people opt for patio pavers to use as their patio flooring. Our articles on patio paver designs give you a variety of looks at the types of patterns available and the work that goes into laying paver them.

Stamped Concrete Patterns

The following are some pictures of various stamped patterns available from your local stamped concrete contractor. You can also find some of these at the Concrete Network. Custom design solutions are also possible to give you a one-of-a-kind look. The use of a combination of these patterns can also create a nearly limitless number of variations.

patio concrete designs_stamped concrete

This is a more basic pattern, one that you could repeat in an easy stamped fashion into your wet concrete surface.

patio concrete designs_fieldstone

This pattern is made to look like fieldstone. It is a common pattern in the southwest, stained terra cotta or reddish-brown made to resemble natural flagstone.

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patio concrete designs_pavers

This repeating pattern is made to resemble tumbled patio pavers or cobblestone.

patio concrete designs_trowel

This design looks more like a tile than a stamped pattern. It has a more slate appearance using a troweling technique.

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