One of the most common questions that customers ask is:
are my options if I want something that looks better than plain concrete for my
walkways, patio, pool deck or driveway?
My answer is it depends. The biggest factor is whether you already have existing concrete or not.
Your options are different if you are building a new house and have not poured any concrete yet, or if you already have concrete and are simply trying to put a decorative finish over it to improve the appearance. The next factor is knowing how the surfaces are or will be used. There is no product that is best for every type of surface. For example, pool decks have to be cool and bare-foot friendly, which eliminates certain product from consideration. Conversely, driveways have stain-resistance and durability considerations that favor certain other products. Once you know all your options, and understand which products will work for your situation, it is really just a matter of budget and what you think looks the best.
Example Pictures of Decorative Concrete Options
Exposed Aggregate Concrete
Floor Epoxy Coating
Polymer Modified Cement
Natural Stone Coating
You have several additional options. Again, the most important attribute of any outside surface is slip resistance. You don’t want visitors or family members slipping and getting hurt because of water from sprinklers, rain, hosing off, or someone using the pool.
Concrete Stain or Paint: you can buy this at Home Depot and simply roll it on. It is low cost and comes in a variety of colors. It does not last that long however, and will interfere with the adhesion of other products should you decide to cover over it with something else at a later date. Because of its low cost, many people will choose this option only to regret it later as they spend more money trying to get it off and upgrading to a better finish. If you are selling your house and want a quick low cost fix, this is not a bad option. Then the new owners will have to deal with it when it starts pealing up and looking bad. This option costs $.05 to $.20 per square foot ($10 to $30 per gallon).
Garage Floor Epoxy Coating: This is a great product for garage floors. However, it is sun sensitive so it can only be used on enclosed surfaces. It is great for resisting oil and other auto related stains, but can become a little slick if wet. This process cost about $3.00 to $4.00 per square foot.
Acid Stain (sometimes called an Architectural Stain): There are some very nice acid stain products that have become popular recently, but I only recommend them for new construction and only for indoor use. And then only after the buyer has gone and looked at several jobs done in the finish and color they are looking for. The biggest problem with this type of finish is that no 2 jobs come out the same. So many times a customer is not happy with how their job looks. This option costs $4.00 to $7.00 per square foot.
Tile: This is a great product for the barbeque counter top (when used with an epoxy non staining grout) it can’t be beat, but that is the only place I would recommend its use outside. I would not recommend it for patio use because it is dangerously slippery when wet. It also creates an elevation difference (tripping hazard) where it stops and starts and the concrete continues. I recommend only using tile for inside the house and for BBQ counter tops outside. Tile costs $5.00 to $9.00 per square foot.
Flagstone or Slate: are great products, but they are hot to walk on and create elevation differences, (tripping hazards), where the area stops and starts and the concrete continues. This problem is apparent in the example picture on page 2. In the case of front patios, they can be used if you take out the last section of concrete adjoining concrete that is not to be covered and re-pour the slab lower so that the Flagstone is flush with the adjoining concrete. For back patio islands (not adjoining concrete) where temperature is not a factor, or where the flagstone will be shaded all the time, this is a viable option. These options cost $6.00 to $25.00 per square foot. Price affected by stone size, thickness, and whether it is a random grout pattern or a uniform grout pattern.
Stamped Polymer Modified Cement Finish: This is similar to stamped concrete, only it is applied over concrete at ¼” to ½” thick. This is a beautiful product if done by a skilled applicator. This product is hotter to walk on though so I would only recommend it for front patio and front walkways. If you choose this option, I would recommend going with a well established company and have them come out every year and professionally re-seal it. This product receives a lot of its strength from the sealer, so it is important that you have the company come out every year and do any touching up needed and completely re-seal for you. This option costs $5.50 to $11.00 per square foot.
Epoxy Stone: If you must have something done to your existing driveway, then I would recommend this option. Just make sure you use a good company, and make sure you have them come out every year to clean and re-seal. If you don’t re-seal then the epoxy deteriorates in the sun and it start coming apart. Then it’s a mess, so be sure to spend the money and have it professionally maintained every year. Epoxy Stone costs $5.00 to $9.00 per square foot.
Kool Deck: I only recommend this product to people who are building a new house and only plan to live in the home for a couple of years. Then this product is a very low cost way (when done at time of the concrete pour) to blend all of the concrete together, and it is cool in temperature to walk on. By the time it needs replacing, it becomes the problem of the next homeowner. Then they have to deal with the only real disadvantage of this product, which is trying to touch it up or replacing it. It needs touchup usually in 2 to 7 years, and it is virtually impossible to repair and make the repair look good. So most people redo their Kool Deck every 3 to 10 years or upgrade to a product like our Natural Stone Coatingä. Kool Deck over existing concrete costs $3.00 to $4.00 per square foot.
Natural Stone Coating ä: is a very strong, durable product that is less than 1/8” thick so it does not create an elevation difference or a tripping hazard. It can be made to look like tile, slate, brick or flagstone. It is slip resistant and cooler in temperature (same color) than Kool Deck. One of the best parts about it is that you never will need to redo your entire deck again. Since the Natural Stone Coating ä is multi-texture, multi-color, touchups can be done as needed over the years, and no one but you will know where they are. You can touch it up yourself or hire it done. If you will spend an average of 15 to 30 minutes on it once per year you will never have to redo it again. Natural Stone Coating ä costs $4.00 to $5.00 per square foot over concrete. More detailed information is provided on pages 6-8.
professional recommendation: I would bust out the concrete and install Pavers
for the driveway. If you don’t want to go to that expense for your driveway,
then I would use either the Epoxy Stone or the Natural
Stone Coating ä. On
all other concrete areas, I would choose the Natural
Stone Coating ä.
You have several options. The most important attribute of any outside surface is slip resistance. You don’t want visitors or family members slipping and getting hurt because of water from sprinklers, rain, hosing off, or someone using the pool.
It’s a shame people have to drive on such a beautiful surface. Driveways are unique from other surfaces around your house in that they are subjected to hot car tires that have been out rolling through oil, brake fluid, tar, gum and who knows what else! Driving on any surface will create somewhat of a maintenance irritation no matter what surface you select.
I would recommend one of the following for this application:
Stamped Concrete: is generally poured thicker than regular concrete, has higher cement strength, and is beautiful in appearance. Price $7 to $9 per square foot.
Pavers: look great, can be done in a variety of patterns and hold up as well, if not better than Stamped Concrete. Price $7 to $9 per square foot.
Exposed Aggregate Finished Concrete: has a nice rocky look and is a lot less expensive. Price is $.75 to $1.25 per square foot more than regular concrete.
options for New Front walkways and front patios
Options for New Back Patios and
Kool Deck is a low cost way (when done at time of concrete pour) to blend all of the concrete together, and it is cool in temperature to walk on. The only real disadvantage is that when it needs touchup done (usually in 2 to 7 years), it is virtually impossible to repair and make the repair look good. So most people redo their Kool Deck every 3 to 10 years, or upgrade to a product like our Natural Stone Coating ä. Kool Deck costs $1.00 to $2.00 per square foot if done at the same time as the concrete. $3.00 to $4.00 per square foot if applied over existing concrete.
Natural Stone Coating ä is a very strong, durable product that is less than 1/8” thick so it does not create an elevation difference or a tripping hazard. It can be made to look like tile, slate, brick or flagstone. It is slip resistant and cooler in temperature (same color) than Kool Deck. One of the best parts about it is that you never will need to redo your entire deck again. Since the Natural Stone Coating ä is multi-texture, multi-color, touchups can be done as needed over the years and no one but you will know where they are. You can touch it up yourself or hire it done. If you spend an average of 15 to 30 minutes on it once per year you will never have to redo it again. Natural Stone Coating ä costs $4.00 to $5.00 per square foot over concrete.
If you don’t need cool to walk on, then you can use any of the other products listed above under driveways, front walkways and front patios… Just remember to wear your shoes because they are too hot to walk on in the summer in your bare feet.
professional recommendation: If I was building a new home I would select the
Pavers for the driveway, front walks and front patio. I
would use Natural
Stone Coating ä
for my back patios, pool decks, and walk ways.