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Refurbishing Stamped Concrete

What is this grasshopper looking at?

A friend told me one should never remove a concrete patio's patina. Well, one man's patina is another man's twenty years accumulation of dirt and mildew, and Lou determined that our old concrete parking court, patio and walkway needed a good power washing. The walkway and steps which lead to the garden are of stamped concrete in a flagstone pattern, originally stained by professionals to resemble the real thing. The same stamped concrete feature also trims both the parking court and the patio. At first I wanted genuine stones. The stamped concrete was a compromise made for budget and practicality, and it functioned well and looked nice.

Over the years our concrete had developed a lot of 'patina'. A good power wash removed all that dirt in no time, but to our dismay we realized the original coloring of our stamped concrete was almost gone, with many areas stripped bare.

No problem. We would simply cover it with a good concrete stain. It seemed too daunting a task to duplicate the original colorings, but we thought a solid color would be OK. It wouldn't look like stone, but the pattern would still be attractive. 

We tested a small area. It looked awful.

We tried a different color, and it still looked terrible. A dreadful realization was coming to me. The only way this would look good again would be to restore the stone colorings. Which meant I would have to painstakingly hand stain: Every. Single. Individual. Stone. Hundreds of them. And because I am the one who enjoys decorative painting, and Lou doesn't have the artistic inclination, I knew I would have to do this myself. Our power washing had escalated into a major project.

The best way to handle such an undertaking is to just do it. For several days I spent every spare moment sitting on hard concrete under a blazing sun. The 70+ sunscreen I wore made me feel like a pig, basted and roasting in its own juices. (Fortunately, the sunscreen worked, and I have only a rosy glow to show.) But in the end, the work wasn't that difficult and went faster than I had anticipated.

We used a solvent based solid concrete stain made by Sherwin Williams. This product is recommended for drives and was necessary since cars park over part of the area. I chose four colors that look good with the natural stone on the front of the house: Oak Creek, Bittersweet Stem, Cedarwood Brown, and Sandstone. I rubbed, brushed, pounded, and dragged the colors onto the concrete, blending them for a natural stone appearance. Lou came behind me, staining the grout lines with Autumn Brown. 

I have finally finished with the stonework, and here is the result:This is a section of the walkway that runs in front of the house.

Here is a close-up of the stamped concrete.

The grasshopper in the first photo seems to be checking out my faux painting. Maybe he is wondering where all the patina has gone! We still have a few details to finish; then soon we will move the patio furniture back in place. I am looking forward to some relaxation, and I promise no more big projects till cooler weather returns!

6/24/12 addendum: Well, I am no entomologist! Thanks to Toni of Signature Gardens who has pointed out that my 'grasshopper' is in fact a katydid! I have heard these things by the thousands. One would think I would regognize one when I saw it!

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Reader Comments (19)

Oh wow!! I remember how my husband battled to stain the concrete at Elephant's Eye Light Railway. The oxide we could get came in various ferocious horrendous colours. Our Mediterranean Sun Circle came with a commercial 'sandstone' finish. You have earned your gold medal in extreme gardening, doing that under the sun.

Looks beautiful, well done. I don't think I ever heard of anyone staining stone here, we stain wood in all sorts of shades and colors, but stone I don't think. It might also be because we all go for what the masses are doing, and it just never occured to anyone... I think this way you will appreciate it more after the blood and sweat :)

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGraziella

What a magnificent job you have made of it, and in all that heat too! Well done, glad the sunscreen worked !

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPauline Mulligan

Wow! This looks amazing! Your hard work really paid off. I'm impressed.

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia

Deb I love it...wonderful hard work pays off...can't wait to see more shots of it.

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

I hate when those little jobs become a huge production, but you're a trooper staining in the humid Alabama heat. It looks great!

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGirlSprout

That is an impressive result! What an almighty great job you've done, especially given the hot conditions you had to work under! It now looks fabulous.

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBernieh

Looks great, but I'll bet it will look even better when it gets a little of that patina back on it :-) I've been doing some faux painting on a shelf for my laundry room, and it has been fun rubbing, dabbing, and just plain ol' slinging paint around. I can just imagine how fun it was to do that WHOLE area! Wow! BTW, that "grasshopper" sure looks like the NOISY katydid that we encountered on our trip to Georgia last summer.

That's amazing. It looks just like stone. I didn't think you could get such an authentic look using concrete.

A job well done and you have now a beautiful, rustic driveway.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStiletto

Whew, that does look like quite a job! It turned out wonderfully, though!

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

Well done Debs, it looks fantastic! Love it!

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

This looks wonderful. Wow, such a job to be done by hand. It sure looks good......

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris

That is a crazy amount of work, but so worth it!

Patina! well on my drive which is lock blocking, its more like muck. I am going to powerhose it and apply some sealer, which I hope will restore the colour a little. What a fabulous job you have made of yours.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlistair

Holy Cow!!! You're hired!! What an incredible job! You are a true artist!

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCasa Mariposa

Wow, Deb! It looks fantastic -- but you're a far more dedicated and disciplined worker than I am. Especially in all your heat, I would have been tempted to just avert my eyes and pretend I didn't see it. But I would also miss that wonderful feeling of satisfaction that you are enjoying as you look out at this now. :-)

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJean

You and Lou did a great job! Bet you'll think twice before power-washing again. The advantage of your concrete path is that you wont need to spend any more time on you knees pulling weeds growing between the stones.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterb-a-g

Oh my I do not envy that task in the heat, but you did a fabulous job.

July 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay
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