When you think of a patio, you probably picture summer BBQ’s on a crisp sunny afternoon, s’mores around a campfire, and a great place for recreation and relaxation. In fact, the word patio originates from a Latin word patere. The Latin word means “to lie open”. Whether your patio looks like some of the original Spanish-American architecture from an old America, or your patio has taken on a new, modern appeal, one thing is certain: decorative concrete overlays for patios can add the finishing touches on a beautiful gathering area.

Stamped Concrete 

First off, let’s learn the difference between stamped concrete and a stamped concrete overlay. Stamped concrete is known by many different names: imprinted, decorative, and textured, to name just a few.

Stamped concrete is very popular because you can attain the look of high-end building materials – such as brick or natural stone pavement – at a much lower rate. Only an experienced concrete or flooring professional would even be able to tell the difference (and even then, some can’t!). Stamped concrete can even replicate tile, wood, slate, fieldstone, flagstone, and more. There is a ton of room for choice in color, pattern, and design, which is why it has become such a popular design choice. 

Stamped concrete exhibits strength, durability, and weather resistance, which makes it an ideal choice for areas like patios, driveways, walkways, steps, pool decks and interior floors.

decorative concrete overlay walkway

Stamped Concrete Overlay 

A concrete overlay is a thin (around ⅛ – ¼  inch) coating of concrete that is set on top of an existing concrete surface. A stamped concrete overlay differs in composition when you compare it to a regular concrete mix. So, whatever you do, don’t try and pour regular concrete or cement over your existing concrete floor. It won’t end well. 

Instead, what we use is a mix of concrete and polymer resin. The polymers add a level of performance and adhesion that regular concrete does not display. Stamped concrete overlays are most often used to restore pool areas, walkways, hardscape features, and patios. 

A stamped concrete overlay is essentially the same thing as stamped concrete, except it is poured over already-existing concrete; a concrete overlay is much less expensive than tearing out the entire concrete slab, disposing of the concrete, and pouring/contracting a company to bring in new material. Stamped concrete overlays can refresh and improve the look of tired, dull, and worn out concrete floors with much less hassle. 

As an aside, concrete overlays cannot be applied to badly damaged, waterlogged, or cracked concrete surfaces. In the event of a heavily damaged concrete substrate, you may have to initiate the messy process of breaking up and tearing-out the concrete, then hauling it to the dump. It’s time consuming and costly, but is necessary in certain cases. For minor damage, concrete overlays should be fine. Just make sure to talk to a concrete contractor to double check.  

Generally, a homeowner will contract a concrete company to prepare the existing surface for a stamped concrete overlay, which means that a concrete grinder or a shot blasting machine will have to be used to grind down the surface to a bare and uniform level. This is heavy equipment that should be handled with extreme caution by certified professionals. 

The goal of preparing the concrete is to make it look like plain, ordinary concrete again, so that it’ll be ready for the stamped concrete overlay process.

stamped concrete overlay

Pros of Stamped Concrete Overlays 

If applied properly, a stamped concrete overlay will be very durable and easy to maintain. Here are just a few of the pros of stamped concrete overlays: 

  • Less expensive than tearing out an old concrete floor and installing a new one.
  • Very durable, long-lasting, and weather resistant.
  • Brings new life to your house by enhancing your outdoor spaces.
  • Adds more value to your home if you are looking to sell.
  • When sealed, it is very easy to maintain.
  • When treated with a non-skid additive, it is very slip-resistant.
  • More affordable than brick, pavers, or natural stone.
  • If sealed and re-sealed regularly, concrete overlays can last up to two decades.
  • It is lightweight, which means it won’t compromise the structural integrity of the substrate underneath.
  • Does not absorb a tremendous amount of heat, so it’ll be cool to the touch, even during a hot summer day.
  • Waterproof and resistant to mold and mildew.
  • It’s fire resistant, so grill in peace!

Stamped concrete overlays are hard to match in terms of the amount of options they give you. From hundreds of patterns, colors, and designs to choose from, you can easily match your home’s architectural style and color, or even the surrounding landscape of your home. For example, if your home boasts a beautiful brick structure, consider mimicking that in the stamped concrete overlay border. 

Stamped Concrete Overlay Designs For the Patio

Stamped concrete most often mimics natural building materials, such as cobblestone, brick, wood, flagstone, slate, and fieldstone. Patterns can be pressed into ornate architecture as well, such as fountains, steps, and bridges. 

stamped concrete overlay red brick (1)

As for colors, earth tones and grays are always the most popular choice. Like we said above, brick colors and patterns do match houses that have brick settings. Consider your garden or surrounding areas. Are you trying to echo the natural landscape? Is there a nearby river, brook, grassland, or natural habitat that you want to imitate? 

If you live near the beach, a mixture of beachy greens and blues might be just the thing your patio needs; but overall, we see most people go with deep browns, cool whites, and rich reds. 

Stained Concrete 

A simple, yet powerful solution to your decorative concrete woes is stained concrete. It can turn regular concrete into a stunning feature that’ll light up your whole patio. Your patio won’t be looking like a sidewalk after a solid concrete overlay is applied to the floor with the addition of a stain! 

Stained concrete can mimic the high-gloss and shimmering that is produced by marble. It is also known for producing hundreds of different shades of color. There are two types of concrete stains: water-based and acid-based. 

Acid-based stains produce a depth of natural color that includes earth tones: soft blue-greens, terra cottas, tans, and browns are just a few of the examples. Homeowners tend to love the color produced by acid stains. The only caveat is that since acid-stains create color through a chemical reaction with the stain and the limestone content in the concrete, the color is not always an exact match to the stain. 

If you’re a more what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of person, water-based stains are the way to go. These stains come in a broad range of colors, which can include oranges, yellows, blacks, whites, blues, greens, and reds. You can use stained concrete overlays to mimic many types of finishes, such as a brick-like finish or a textured, wood-grained look. Skilled contractors can also mimic the look of natural building materials, so the sky really is the limit. 

Your Dream Concrete Overlay Patio 

There’s no need to rip out your old patio floor. Call a concrete contractor and tell them you want to resurface the floor and apply a concrete overlay. They’ll grind down the concrete until it is uniform, and then you can decide between stamped concrete, stained concrete, or a mixture of both! Since stamped concrete and stained concrete overlays have thousands of different design options, those are the only two options you really need when it comes to decorative concrete overlays for patios.