6 Concrete Patio Ideas to Boost the Appeal of That Drab Slab

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These concrete patio ideas will help you transform what’s typically seen as a backyard eyesore. Because when many people hear the words “concrete patio,” they immediately picture a sad, cracked slab in an unloved backyard or outdoor space.

As it happens, there are plenty of ideas for putting a stylish and personal spin on dull, gray patio pavement, using color, pattern, and outdoor landscaping and accessories, such as a pergola.

Read on for patio design ideas and landscaping tips that will help you see your concrete patio in a whole new—dare we say stylish?—light.

1. Build a stamped concrete patio

“You can create beautiful concrete patio designs that resemble brick, flagstone, or cobblestone for much less than the real thing,” said Rhianna Miller, a trend forecaster and garden design expert at RubberMulch, based in Lakewood, NJ.

Stamped concrete is a cost-effective way to upgrade your outdoor space. Expect to spend at least $10 per square foot for a professionally installed stamped concrete patio. Building an elevated wood deck, on the other hand, can easily cost up three to four times as much. Also, concrete patios are more durable and require less maintenance than wood decks.

Over time, water, sun, and extreme temperatures will cause a wood patio to rot, warp, splinter, and fade.

“Sure, you can slow down the process with yearly staining or weather-sealing, but for some folks, that is too much work,” says John Mochelle, an architect in New York City.

2. Fake the look of stone

There are several different tools and ideas a DIY-savvy homeowner can try, to create a concrete patio that looks like real stone or brick.

“A supereasy way to get fast results is with a patterned rubber roller specifically made for concrete patio designs,” says Mochelle.

It’s shaped like a giant paint roller, and is used when the concrete is curing to create indentations that look like stone or brick. Home improvement stores stock concrete rollers in different stone, brick, and graphic patterns, but they’re not cheap. Prices range from $900 to $1,700 at Home Depot.

“If you plan on installing a couple of stamped walkways in addition to a decorative patio, a roller may be worth the investment to some homeowners,” Mochelle says.

Concrete stamping mats are a less expensive alternative. They are flexible pieces of rubber with embossed patterns. Prices per mat range from $270 to $450 at Home Depot. To use, place the stamp on wet concrete and apply pressure; lift, and repeat.

One of the cheapest ideas for faking the look of cobblestone is with a concrete mold, which costs around $20 ($17.27 at Home Depot). Instead of stamping out the pattern, you place the mold on the ground and then fill it with concrete. Afterward, you pack it down with a garden spade and lift off the mold, and repeat the process until the backyard project is complete.

3. Get creative with paint

Photo by Royal Design Studio Stencils

Other clever and inexpensive ways are available for homeowners to spruce up their existing backyard concrete patios.

“A faux rug, created using paint and stencil, is an affordable idea for warming up old pavement on a patio,” Mochelle says.

For a long-lasting finish, he recommends porch paint rated for outdoor use. Before applying, you should power-wash the concrete. You can rent a power washer for about $60 per day, according to doityourself.com.

4. Install clay pavers for your patio

“You could also resurface your old backyard patio with new clay pavers,” says Marc Barnes from Pine Hall Brick Company, based in Winston-Salem, NC.

Clay pavers are bricks that have been hard-fired in a kiln for maximum strength. This allows them to stand up to the sun’s rays and foul weather.

They are less expensive than natural stone, with professional installation at prices ranging between $3 and $15 per square foot.

More smart landscaping ideas: Order extra patio pavers to make a matching fire pit and for the surround near a pergola.

5. Stain or seal the concrete

Applying a fresh stain or a sealer over an existing backyard patio is the most cost-effective idea for updating concrete.

“Expect to pay around $2 per square foot,” said J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, based in Ann Arbor, MI.

6. Curate an outdoor living room for entertaining

Now more than ever, homeowners are fully focused on creating indoor-outdoor rooms for entertaining. Sassano recommends increasing the seating with lounge chairs (check out Restoration Hardware) to make the patio a comfortable gathering place.

A weather-resistant outdoor rug will help establish the dining area. Enhance the landscaping with homemade flower boxes or a container garden, string lights, a water feature, or a pergola, and then heat things up in the backyard with a portable fire pit.

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