Written by Falon Mihalic and published on

A patio is an essential element in today’s backyards. Concrete is the most popular patio material in the country. With many decorative finishes, concrete patios attract homeowners who want an outdoor surface with unlimited design potential. When compared to wood decks, pavers and natural stone, a concrete patio is also more durable and requires less maintenance.


Concrete is a standard paving material for many home patios, but that doesn’t mean concrete patios have to be boring. In fact, rethinking what the surface is like and how the space is framed, and making some simple additions, can help revive a patio and create a more interesting outdoor living space. Here are some design ideas for using what you already have as a great starting point.

Removing concrete can be expensive, because it has to be broken up (labor cost) and then hauled away (disposal fee). Instead of starting entirely from scratch, try to work with what you’ve got on hand to change how your concrete patio looks.

If your patio simply can’t be refurbished because it is severely cracked or is not sloped well for drainage, work with a professional near you to remove and replace it with something that best suits your home and lifestyle.

1. Refinish the Surface

Concrete specialists can refinish your concrete through staining, scoring and additional paving. Theses surface treatments are for concrete that has already been fully cured.

  • Stain. Stains for concrete work by breaking into the surface of the paving and altering the color, texture or both. Essentially, they weaken the surface and require a sealant over the stain so that the paving doesn’t degrade.
  • Scoring pattern. Scoring patterns are made simply by cutting into the concrete about ¼ inch. The cuts make a pattern across the paving that give the field of concrete a visual rhythm. Popular scoring patterns include grids, diamonds and repeating lines.
  • Paving veneer. It is possible to add pavers over your existing concrete, so long as the finished height of the paving does not pose any hazards with drainage or walking. The construction detail uses the concrete as a foundation, and the pavers are mortared to the concrete base. Pay attention to how the paving’s added thickness affects the edges of your patio so that all of your stairs and walkways match up at the proper height.

A safety note about finishes: When choosing a stain or sealant, you want to maintain a nonslip surface outdoors. Therefore, most interior concrete finishes are not suitable for a landscape patio, because they become too slippery after a rain.

2. Add Walls

Creating a low wall around a patio changes the space into its own contained outdoor room. It’s a different feeling from a wide-open patio. In the space seen here, the patio feels more like a lookout to the lower terrain in the background. The wall, which looks to be a veneer over concrete, acts as an intermediate visual frame between the private patio space and the exposed landscape beyond.

Don’t want to commit to adding a wall? Try a planting a trellis with vines or adding an outdoor screen to create a sense of enclosure and privacy.

3. Change the Light

This patio is framed by a stunning house and a gorgeous landscape, but look at how the concrete patio comes to life as dappled shade dances on the surface.

Think about how you can change the natural light, or add downcast outdoor lights to give your patio a different character at night. Create shade to make a patio that’s blinded by full sun feel more inviting. Brighten a dark, gloomy patio by bringing in more natural light or adding low-glow lights for nighttime.

4. Frame it With a Pergola

Similar to changing the space with a wall, a pergola or another overhead structure can help to enclose the space. People enjoy being in nooks that feel cozy and private.

Look at your patio and see how it can be framed overhead. This will also work to your advantage in changing the natural light. An overhead trellis creates its own pattern of light and offers the opportunity to support flowering vines, lights, a ceiling fan, speakers for music and more.

5. Change the Edge

The edge of this precast concrete paver patio has been cut to be curvy. Concrete that’s in good shape and has no major cracks can be cut with a circular saw to change the edge. This means that you would have just a portion of it removed to create a different geometry. A changed edge, combined with a new type of planting, like added flower beds or new trees, will make the concrete patio feel like a new space.

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