When you're looking for something with staying power for your backyard projects, concrete is just the thing. However, many homeowners are discouraged by the plain grey finish that they're left with. For those inexperienced with concrete structures, you might think that's your only option. The good news is that if you're adding concrete features to your property, whether it's a floor, patio, walkway or other structure, you don't have to sacrifice appearance for that durability. There are many options for concrete finishing that will leave your concrete looking great without sacrificing the structural stability that is inherent to concrete. Here are some of the most common finishing options to consider depending on where the concrete is and what you're trying to accomplish.
Concrete stamping, also known as imprinting or texturing, creates a pattern in the surface of the concrete. It can be stamped to resemble other materials, like brick, stone, wood or tile. In fact, stamping makes the finishing possibilities nearly endless. Concrete is stamped when it is partially cured so that the pattern sticks in the surface. Most concrete contractors have a variety of stamps and may even be able to create a custom stamp if desired.
Stenciling is another unique and versatile decorative option that allows you to create most any look on the surface of the concrete. Stenciling is similar to stamping, though stamping is usually imprinted deeper into the concrete itself. Stenciling is quick and easy to apply, and since it only affects the surface, it produces a smoother finish than stamping. It is typically done when the surface is moderately cured so that it will retain the shape from the stencil without settling.
An epoxy finish forms a clear, solid cover over flooring or a patio. It is only applied after the concrete cures, though, so you'll need to wait for everything to set up before you apply it. To apply epoxy to a concrete surface, you'll want to start with an acid etching material, then finish it with the epoxy mixture. If you want to keep that epoxy from being slippery, you can even scatter textured granules across the surface before you seal it so that it adds some texture and grip to the floor. Epoxy coating is usually poured in small sections, then spread out with a squeegee-like tool to an even layer in that area.
Float and Trowel
You can produce a free-form finish on the surface of the concrete with a float and trowel. Like stencils and stamps, a float and trowel works well when the surface is partially cured so that it's thick enough to retain the pattern without shifting. Simply run the tools across the surface of the concrete to produce the texture that you desire. The deeper you push the tools into the concrete, the more textured the final surface will become. Wood floats often create a deeper texture than aluminum floats or steel trowels, but you can use any of these options to produce the level of texture you prefer for your finished project.
You can add a unique broom-bristle finish to the surface of concrete by sweeping it while it's curing. Wait for most of the water content to settle out of the concrete, then brush the top with a heavy broom. While sweeping doesn't allow for intricate designs or specific patterns, it does create a non-slip surface. You can even run the broom across the surface in several directions to create a more decorative and multi-textured finish, though most people simply sweep side-to-side to produce a smooth, flowing texture.
Rock salt produces a truly unique pattern on the surface of flat concrete. Whether you're finishing a garage, basement, patio or walkway, rock salt can set it apart from the rest. Scatter rock salt crystals across the surface of the concrete as it starts to set. Press the granules into the concrete, then wash the floor once the concrete cures. This produces a finish that resembles pitted and weathered stone, because the rock salt dissolves, leaving small, textured holes in the concrete surface.
With so many different options available for finishing concrete, there's no reason to settle for the same-old concrete finish for any project in your yard. Don't let your inexperience with concrete leave you believing otherwise. If you really want to set things apart, talk with your local concrete contractor like Good Day Concrete about these and any other options that may be available to you.