Concrete Patio Finishes: Find Out the Best Patio Flooring Over Concrete

Concrete is a very versatile material that offers a wide array of options for patio finishes. It can mimic more expensive materials like stone and wood and stand up to the elements better, especially in heavy rains that might leave other materials soggy or damaged.

In this post, we’ll explore different finishes for concrete patio ideas, guiding you in choosing the best patio flooring over concrete.

What Is Concrete?

Before we delve into various concrete finishes, let’s understand what concrete is. Concrete is a versatile material made from cement, aggregate (sand, gravel, or crushed stone), and water. The type of concrete you use for your patio can significantly affect its look and feel.

The concrete slab, typically 4-8 inches thick, forms the foundation of your concrete patio. Once poured, the wet concrete needs to be finished while still wet to create a smooth surface. If you are going for a basic type of concrete finish, this would mean using a trowel to smooth out the concrete surface, removing any excess concrete, and ensuring a uniform finish.

If you opt for decorative concrete, it can be finished differently. From stamped designs to stenciling, acid staining, and more, the possibilities are almost endless for decorative finishes.

What if you have existing concrete and want to make it look better? You can resurface your concrete patio with a new finish. This involves cleaning the existing concrete, repairing any cracks or chips, and then applying either a coat of polymer-modified overlay or thin stamped overlays for decorative finishes.

Types of Concrete Patio Finishes

Now let’s dive into the different concrete patio finishes, each offering a unique appeal.

1. Smooth Finish

A smooth finish is the most basic type of concrete finish and is often used for interior floors. A smooth finish may become slippery when wet for an outdoor space like a patio. Thus, this type of concrete finish is not commonly used for exterior concrete such as patios or sidewalks.

2. Broom Finish Concrete

Broom finish concrete provides a skid-resistant surface for patios, sidewalks, and swimming pool decks. Once the concrete floor is trowelled and smoothed, a broom is dragged across the surface of the poured concrete to create small ridges that provide traction. In addition to being practical, broom-finished concrete is aesthetically pleasing and blends well with various outdoor spaces.

3. Exposed Aggregate Finish

An exposed aggregate finish reveals the larger aggregate in the concrete mix, creating an attractive surface of varying textures and colors. The process involves removing the top layer of cement paste to expose the aggregate underneath. This can be done using a surface retarder on the wet concrete or washing and brushing the surface after it has slightly hardened.

Because they are slip-resistant and highly decorative, exposed aggregate finishes are popular for outdoor kitchens, patios, and sidewalks.

4. Stamped Concrete Finish

Stamped concrete patios are trendy due to their decorative appeal. The wet concrete is imprinted with stamp patterns that can mimic brick, tile, natural stone, or even wood, creating a patio floor that is both functional and beautiful. Stamped concrete finish is also a versatile option for other exterior concrete areas, such as swimming pool decks and sidewalks.

5. Salt Finish

A salt finish, also known as a rock salt finish, is achieved by sprinkling rock salt onto the wet concrete and pressing it to the surface. Once the concrete sets, the salt is washed away, leaving tiny holes in the concrete surface for a textured look. Salt finishes are popular for swimming pool decks and other outdoor spaces requiring a slip-resistant surface.

6. Stained Concrete

Staining concrete is a popular method of adding color to your patio. Acid and water-based stains are commonly used to achieve various hues and effects. Acid stains react with the concrete to create a mottled, variegated finish, while water-based stains provide a more consistent color. A concrete sealer can be applied afterward to enhance the color and provide protection.

How to Finish Concrete Patio?

Concrete finishing a patio requires careful preparation and patience, but the result can be a beautiful, durable outdoor living space.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

Materials and Tools Needed

  • Concrete Mix
  • Gravel
  • Rebar or wire mesh
  • Wooden planks for framing
  • Concrete float
  • Steel trowel
  • Edging tool
  • Grooving tool
  • Expansion joint strips
  • Water
  • Protective gloves and eyewear
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel
  • Concrete mixer (optional)
  • Concrete sealer (optional)

Step 1: Plan and Prepare the Area

  • Measure the area where you want your patio and mark it using stakes and strings. Take note of the desired shape and size of your patio.
  • Make sure the area is clear of grass, roots, rocks, and other debris.

Step 2: Create the Frame

  • Dig about 4 inches deep into the marked area to create space for the concrete.
  • Make a frame using wooden planks. This will hold your concrete in place as it sets.

Step 3: Prepare the Foundation

  • Pour a layer of gravel into the hole you dug, about 2 inches deep, and compact it. This provides a solid base for your concrete.
  • If your patio is large or will be bearing heavy load, install rebar or wire mesh for added strength.

Step 4: Mix and Pour the Concrete

  • Mix your concrete according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Mix it in a wheelbarrow or rent a concrete mixer for larger jobs.
  • Pour the concrete into your frame, starting at one end and working to the other. Make sure to spread it evenly.

Step 5: Level the Concrete

  • Use a concrete float to level the surface. Do this immediately after pouring while the concrete is still wet.
  • For large patios, use a long straightedge to ensure an even surface. “Saw” the edge back and forth across the surface to remove high spots and fill in low spots.

Step 6: Edge the Concrete

After the concrete starts to harden but is still soft enough to work with (about 1-2 hours after pouring), use an edging tool to create a rounded edge around the patio’s perimeter. This gives a professional look and helps prevent chipping.

Step 7: Create Control Joints

Use a grooving tool to create control joints in the concrete. These lines encourage the concrete to crack along them, rather than randomly, as it shrinks during drying. Space the joints about 8 to 12 feet apart.

Step 8: Smooth the Surface

After the control joints are placed, smooth the surface again using a steel trowel. This should be done lightly, as too much pressure can bring water to the surface, causing discoloration.

You can lightly drag a broom over the concrete for a textured, non-slip surface.

Step 9: Allow the Concrete to Cure

  • Let the concrete cure for at least 48 hours before walking on it. It will reach its full strength after about 28 days.
  • To prevent cracking during this period, keep the concrete moist. You can do this by watering it lightly a few times daily or covering it with a plastic sheet or curing compound.

Step 10: Seal the Concrete

After the concrete has fully cured, you can apply a concrete sealer. This will help protect it from weather damage and stains.

Choosing the Best Patio Flooring Over Concrete

With so many options, how do you choose the right one for your patio?

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Location and use. Consider where your patio is located and how you intend to use it. If you’re planning an outdoor kitchen or swimming pool deck, you’ll want a finish that’s slip resistant and can withstand heavy use.
  • Design and style. Choose a finish that complements the design and style of your outdoor spaces. Stamped concrete patios can mimic the look of more expensive materials, making them a great choice if you’re going for a high-end look.
  • Maintenance. Some finishes require more upkeep than others. For instance, stamped concrete and exposed aggregate might need to be resealed every few years.
  • Budget. Consider your budget. Stamped concrete, while beautiful, can be more costly per square foot than a basic broom finish.
  • Weather conditions. Certain finishes may be better suited to specific climates. For instance, if you live in an area with heavy rains, a finish with a slip-resistant surface would be beneficial.

Should You Hire Professional Contractors to Finish Your Concrete Patio?

Whether or not to hire professional contractors to finish your concrete patio is a question that largely depends on your skills, experience, resources, and the time you can commit to the project. Note that creating a concrete patio can be a significant undertaking, particularly if you’re planning a large or complex design. Pouring and finishing concrete is a time-sensitive task, and a lack of experience could result in an uneven surface or improper curing.

Hiring professionals means you can take advantage of their expertise and equipment, ensuring the job is done correctly and efficiently. They also understand the local building codes and can ensure the patio installation is compliant. However, hiring a professional contractor can also be more expensive than doing it yourself, depending on the size and complexity of the project. If budget is a concern, completing the patio on your own may be a more cost-effective solution.

That being said, while the initial expense of hiring professionals seems high, the investment can save you money in the long run. Incorrectly installed patios may crack or show wear prematurely, requiring repairs or even complete replacement. Furthermore, a professionally installed concrete patio can add more value to your property than a DIY job. Ultimately, the choice depends on your comfort with the task, budget, and desire for long-term quality and value.

What Is the Labor Cost to Finish Concrete?

The labor cost to finish concrete as of September 2021 is between $2.50 to $5.00 per square foot for basic installation, which includes a simple broom finish. For more intricate finishes, such as a stamped or colored finish, the labor cost could increase to $8 to $15 per square foot or more. Remember, these are rough averages, and actual costs can fluctuate based on regional labor costs, job complexity, and the current year’s market rates. So, it’s always best to obtain several quotes from local contractors to understand the specific costs for your project.the labor cost to finish concrete can vary widely based on the job’s complexity, the finish type, and the rates of the specific contractor or company you hire.

Final Thoughts

Concrete patios are an excellent choice for enhancing outdoor spaces, providing durability and beauty. Whether you’re upgrading an existing patio or starting from scratch, the type of concrete finish you choose will greatly influence the finished surface of your patio. From broom finish to stamped concrete, from smooth to textured concrete finish, there’s a concrete patio idea for every home.

Need professional help? Talk to us now, and let’s turn your vision into a beautiful reality.

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