Give tired concrete a facelift

The concrete patio ― an iconic element of the post-World War II suburb ― is aging fast. The original smooth surface often becomes worn, with bulges and cracks appearing here and there.

Such was the state of my 55-year-old patio, which was originally colored with a red pigment but had faded to mottled pink. Because removing and replacing it would have been expensive, I decided to give it a facelift. In order to break up the expanse and make it resemble a more elegant terrace of paving stones, the plan was to score a grid into the existing concrete surface and then stain the surface a dark terra-cotta color.

The cracks and mottling are still there, but they give a welcome patina. I chose an environmentally friendly, water-based stain because of the patio’s age; toxic, acid-based stains do not always bond with old concrete. This is a two-person project: One uses the circular saw, the other holds down the 2-by-4 guide.


• Chalk line

• 2 pairs of goggles

• 2 dust masks

• Circular saw with 2 blades for cutting concrete

• Hose

• High-pressure power washer

• Garden or airless pump sprayer, paint roller, or paintbrush


• 12-ft.-long 2-by-4

• Mason’s Select Safe Solution Concrete Etcher (optional; see step 2; or 800/825-5382)

• Water-based stain, such as Mason’s Select Transparent Concrete Stain (available in 10 colors, as well as clear satin or gloss sealers; about $25 per gal., which covers 200-300 sq. ft., depending on porosity of the surface; see above for source information)


1 Score. With the chalk line, mark a grid of roughly 30-inch squares on the concrete. Have your assistant set the 2-by-4 along a chalk line and stand on it or hold it in place. Both of you should put on goggles and a dust mask. With the two blades on the circular saw, cut shallow lines about ¼ inch into concrete, using the weighted 2-by-4 as a guide (left). Keep dust down by spraying with water. Repeat process to cut entire grid.

2 Spray. Use a power washer to remove the concrete dust and years of ground-in grime (right). Since my patio was weathered, it had enough texture for the stain to bind. If you have a new patio, stain may not bind; you may need to experiment with a small patch of concrete first. If you need more texture, prepare the surface by applying an etching solution (see “Materials,” above).

3 Stain. Use a pump sprayer, roller, or paintbrush to apply the stain.

Photos: Peter O. Whiteley