Private Residence – 8000 sq. ft.
Back yards, especially concrete patios, are being transformed into luxurious extensions of the house. They’re the new favorite room to relax, entertain, and cook. And the heart and soul of the backyard resort area is the concrete patio.
The Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association, which recently held its annual trade show and exposition, says the growth of the outdoor living phenomena is the result of North America’s interest in ‘cocooning,’ the trend toward a more casual lifestyle, an aging population and the popularity of porches, decks, and concrete patios in homes. Concrete patios, sometimes referred to as cement patios, provide the perfect sanctuary for outdoor living spaces because they are often connected to the house and blend the interior with the exterior living areas. For example, homeowners can match the stone facade of their house by installing decorative concrete to create a stone patio without the expense of installing traditional individual stones. With stamped concrete, homeowners can get the look of flagstone, brick and many other patterns when stamp patterns are pressed into freshly poured concrete.
The swimming pool industry sees that trend, too. In fact, pools are getting smaller and are playing a less dominant role in the back yard.
The Pool and Spa Institute says the pool is just one amenity – an increasing number of homeowners are going all out with outdoor kitchens, furnished seating areas, fireplaces, decorative concrete patios, pizza ovens, elaborate water features, and more.
Homeowners want to enjoy their homes, but they also see upgrading their back yards as an investment. Creating the look of an authentic stone patio, or slate patio, or cobblestone patio is more economical to install using decorative concrete, and adds value to the home.
Patios – The Heart of the Outdoor Oasis
When homeowners embark on building their outdoor oasis, they typically envision a range of features. Many want a total package–a backyard retreat in which they can escape and relax at the end of the day and on weekends.
More people are into renovating their homes, especially their back yards. People are spending more time outdoors.
But the first thing most people start with is the concrete patio. And rest assured, it’s not just the plain old gray anymore. Today’s backyard concrete patios are as unique as their owners. Modern stamping and texture and coloring techniques complement any landscape and provide a touch of individuality to your back yard.
Across the country, companies that specialize in concrete patios are seeing an enormous increase in elaborate outdoor living spaces–all kinds of hardscaping and landscaping projects and decorative concrete is quickly emerging as the new material of choice for today’s patio. It’s booming. Every year I think it can’t get any bigger and it does. You don’t have to settle for the old gray stuff anymore.
Concrete Patios – The Benefits Abound
Why are concrete patios so versatile? Concrete can be shaped into any pattern. It can be lightly smoothed or heavily brushed; surfaced with attractive pebbles; swirled or scored; tinted or painted; patterned; or molded to resemble another material.
While many concrete patios are designed to complement the outdoor landscape and native greenery, some homeowners choose a style of concrete patio based on their interior living space.
In addition to concrete’s versatility, concrete is durable and can stand up to a range of weather conditions found across the country. In fact, many companies in colder climates take special measures to ensure the durability of the concrete patios they produce.
Whereas traditional pavers and cobblestone settle unevenly during the freeze/thaw cycle of winter, stamped concrete is reinforced with 3/8-inch steel reinforcing rods or fibers that gives the concrete the necessary tensile strength to resist the constant heaving produced by the freezing and thawing of the ground.
Stamped concrete is also better than pavers and cobblestone in spring and summer. Pavers and cobblestones are susceptible to joint deterioration if sand is not constantly brushed into all the joints. This joint deterioration results in ant hills, growth of unsightly grass and weeds and produces dangerous tripping hazards when the individual pavers settle unevenly.
Contractors who create concrete patios and those who have concrete patios will quickly tell you concrete patios cost less than patios made of stone, brick or tile.
Many say that the lower price tag combined with the wide array of patterns and colors available is one of the main draws of choosing a concrete patio. Your concrete patio can be stamped to resemble brick, slate, flagstone, stone, tile, and even wood.
Decorative concrete has become more popular than stone, brick and tile for patios because it costs less, is better in quality and it has the unlimited ability to be created into whatever you want as far as color, texture, and pattern go.
Concrete Patio Colors – Endless Possibilities
One of the biggest draws of concrete patios is the expansive range of colors available. Because of ever-advancing technology and jaw-dropping chemical techniques, concrete can be colored in just about any hue you could ever imagine.
Colored concrete can be used in combination, abutting each other, or stamped with a variety of textures to simulate brick, flagstone, pavers, or tile. The same colored concrete can be made to look different, just by using different finishing techniques: For example, a broom finish creates one look. Brooming the concrete in opposite directions creates shadow effects. Swirl or fan patterns create a different type of look.
For even more dramatic effect, the colored concrete can be lightly sandblasted or heavily sandblasted, or a retarder can be used and then the aggregate exposed. Color to concrete can be integral to the mix, meaning it is added at the plant or added in bags at the job site, or dry-shake, where it is dusted on the surface at the job site. The availability of custom colors and penetrating stains has translated into concrete patios that are natural-looking and attractive.
Many homeowners tend to gravitate toward the more natural browns, tans, charcoals, and terracotta reds.
Concrete Patios Blend Fabulously With Surroundings
Another appealing benefit of a concrete patio is that because it can be created in so many textures, patterns, and colors, it is the perfect choice for blending into your backyard environment, whether you have a modest-sized patio and barbecue area, or you have a sprawling, luxurious outdoor retreat spilling over with amenities.
Combining concrete with other materials, like brick, tile, or flagstone, is also popular. And wood, steel, or copper dividers can be used as control joints to help prevent cracking.
Once the concrete patio is in place, it is the perfect complement to additional amenities like swimming pools, water features, outdoor kitchens, sinks, burners, warmers, refrigerators, even storage areas.
“Lighting is also big. Homeowners want lighting that reflects their mood for parties, romance, family, or just a great backdrop. They want a vacation spot they can go to every day.”
Many contractors view themselves as part contractor, part designer, part artisan. They’ll help you create whatever you are envisioning for your concrete patio and accompanying backyard retreat.
Concrete Patio Maintenance Is a Breeze
Cleaning and sealing stamped and colored concrete should be done on a regular basis just like any other home maintenance. The frequency will depend on how high a traffic area to cars, foot traffic, water, and any chemicals the concrete is exposed to.
Concrete should be resealed every 2 or 3 years. If you wait longer, you may notice the color fade slightly. But just like waxing a car, reseal your stamped concrete and the color will be as vibrant as the day it was installed.
- Rinse dirt/debris off stamped concrete surface with a garden hose or pressure washer.
- Apply a small amount of liquid dish soap to surface and scrub with a push broom.
- Rinse well with a garden hose or pressure washer until there is no sign of soapsuds.
- Allow surface to dry at least 24 hoursDO NOT APPLY SEALER TO A DAMP/WET SURFACE.
- Once the surface is completely dry, apply the sealer as follows:Stir in one jar of Anti-Skid material to a 5-gallon pail of sealer.APPLY SEALER USING A 1″ NAP ROLLER ONLY. ANTI SKID MATERIAL WILL NOT TRANSFER THROUGH A SPRAYER. Apply sealer in approximately 2′ x 4′ sections. This will ensure full coverage without missed spots. Keep stirring sealer while applying to keep the Anti-Skid suspended in the sealer.Sealer should be applied when air temperature is above 55 F. Best results will be obtained by applying sealer during cooler temperatures — fall and spring — or before 10 am and after 4 pm in summer months when surface temperatures should be under 90 F.
- A second coat can be applied after the first coat is tack free (not sticky to your touch).
- Your stamped concrete should be resealed every 2-3 years to protect your investment. One 5-gallon pail of sealer will cover approximately 1,000 sq.ft.
Decorative Concrete Driveways
It wasn’t long ago when deciding on a driveway material was easy: asphalt or concrete. Today, the concrete choice has expanded to include a multitude of decorative concrete options. Sometimes referred to as colored cement, or painted concrete, the effects that can be achieved with decorative applications can be astounding on a concrete driveway. While plain gray concrete is still the most often installed, listed below are some of the alternatives. Don’t feel left out if you already have a driveway. The concrete industry has rapidly developed many decorative products that can resurface existing plain gray driveways, as well.
Sub grade Preparation Essentials for Concrete Driveways
The sub grade should be compacted and have an even thickness. A standard driveway is 4″ thick—you want 4″ thick continuously, not a 3″ to 4″ varying thickness.
Many western states have expansive soils. In these conditions, from 2″ to 8″ of crushed rock should be used as sub grade material depending on the soils level of expansiveness. If you have doubts about the soil characteristics in your area, consult a soils engineer.
Concrete Driveways – The Correct Concrete Mix
A 3500-psi, .50 water-to-cement ratio is best for driveway construction. This provides better wear ability and a “denser” concrete than the typical 2500-psi mix. Concrete is permeable and “wicks” moisture from beneath the slab. With the moisture come salts from the soil which can leave efflorescence on the surface. The .50 w/c mix provides a geometric reduction in this “wicking” action.
Excess water should not be added at the project site, as this will dilute the water to cement ratio.
In cold climates, air entrainment should be added to the concrete at the batch plant. This entrained air allows any moisture which does enter the concrete to expand in the microscopic air pockets during a freeze/thaw cycle instead of putting internal pressure on the concrete.
Placing Joints in Concrete Driveways—Choose Wisely
Joints should be at least 1/4 the concrete thickness so a 1″ deep joint should be used in a 4″ thick driveway. Joints should also be spaced 2-3 times in feet the thickness of the concrete: so a 4″ thick driveway should have joints no farther than 8′ – 12′.
If joints are spaced too far apart, cracks will often occur where the joints should have been.
Proper Drainage for Driveways
For best drainage, the concrete should slope 1/4″ per running foot away from the home. If proper drainage is prevented due to the area of concrete being locked between two structures, a drain may need to be installed which will collect the water at a low point in the concrete and feed it down the drain.
Concrete Driveway Reinforcement
Reinforcement can be with either wire mesh, fiber, or steel bars placed in a grid pattern. In either case blocks should be used to keep the reinforcement in the center of the concrete. Note that reinforcement does not eliminate cracks—it simply holds them together.
Concrete Driveways – Proper Finishing Techniques
After concrete is bull-floated, it should be left alone until all the bleed water on top of the concrete has evaporated. Starting the finishing operation too soon can trap surface water and create a weak surface.
Of course, there are many other important steps in building a concrete driveway.
Concrete Driveway Maintenance
Plain gray concrete benefits by being cleaned and sealed periodically. But if this basic maintenance isn’t done well, it still looks OK. Decorative concrete, however, needs to be maintained to continue to look good for years. And thus protect your investment.
Usually simply cleaning thoroughly once a year with a pressure washer, or floor polisher using a degreaser, then sealing the surface, will keep colors looking vibrant for years.