Concrete patios are a common sight in backyards, but over time you may have gotten tired of what may have become an eyesore as it has aged. While it is possible to tear up the entire concrete pad and replace it with lawn or a deck, that is a lot of effort and expense!
Luckily for you, there are plenty of easier and cheaper alternatives. You can cover up a plain and boring (or stained and cracked) concrete patio in many different ways to create a new and inviting backyard oasis.
Table of Contents
- 1. Install Outdoor Interlocking Deck Tiles
- 2. Paint the Patio!
- 3. Color it Up with Chalk
- 4. Lay Down A Large Outdoor Rug
- 5. Install Permanent Tiles Over the Concrete
- 6. Make a Stock Tank Pool
- 7. Cover the Area with Raised Garden Beds
- 8. Turn into a Fire Pit Area
- 9. Go Crazy with the Flower Pots
- 10. Lay Pavers or Bricks
- 11. Turn it Into a Basketball Court
- 12. Place or Build a Playset on It
- 13. Shade the Area with a Pergola
- 14. Cover it with Artificial Turf
- 15. Turn into an Outdoor Dining Space
- 16. Coat the Concrete with an Epoxy Coating
- 17. Get Comfy Seating
- 18. Install a Wood Deck Over the Concrete Patio
- 19. Turn Patio into an Outdoor Movie Theatre
- Final Thoughts
Outdoor interlocking deck tiles are easy to install and will instantly upgrade an old concrete patio into a chic and comfortable outdoor space where you’ll be proud to welcome guests.
Whether you opt for wood or plastic tiles, there are lots of different styles to choose from. As a bonus, they’re easy for you to install yourself, making this an easy weekend DIY to create a whole new look. You won’t even need to use any tools, as they snap together quickly.
You won’t even have to do much prep work before opening the first box of tiles up. Because the surface will be completely hidden, stains or minor cracks aren’t an issue. Just make sure that the slab is level and stable. Patch any large holes with a commercial patching mixture.
Because these tiles have a raised grid underneath, water will easily drain away, keeping your new patio surface dry and safe.
2. Paint the Patio!
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Painting your concrete patio is a less expensive DIY solution, but it does involve more work on your part. Wait for a stretch of warm, dry weather to undertake this job, which will take about a week from start to finish.
Because the surface of the concrete will still be exposed, you will need to ensure that it’s in excellent shape before you get out your paintbrush. Patch any cracks and when they’re cured, wash down the whole surface with trisodium phosphate (TSP) and a pressure washer. Let it dry completely.
Prime first to give yourself a more even surface for your top coat. Wait at least 8 hours for the primer to dry, and then get creative. You can either choose a solid colour, or use a stencil to create the illusion of patterned tiles. Make sure you’re using exterior grade deck paint to ensure that it will last, and that it’s anti-slip for secure footing even in wet weather.
Let the paint dry completely between coats. If you’re going to stencil on top of the base coat, you may want to apply a clear sealer over top to increase its longevity.
Once you’ve gone to all this trouble, give the paint a week to cure before putting your patio furniture back. And then stand back and admire your accomplishment!
3. Color it Up with Chalk
Maybe you’re not ready for the commitment of a painted patio, but you’d like to play around with colour and pattern for awhile. Have you considered chalk as a semi-permanent option?
Sidewalk chalk manufacturers warn consumers that their chalks can stain cement, advising parents to keep their kids from drawing on patios. But what if you want that stain?
Try drawing a colourful design in your favourite shades on your concrete patio. If you decide that it’s a bit much, you can let it fade away, but if you love it, try applying a clear deck sealant to preserve as long as you can.
Pro tip: if you wet the stick of chalk before drawing, the colours will be more intense and penetrate further into the surface of the concrete.
4. Lay Down A Large Outdoor Rug
You don’t have to create your pattern underfoot yourself, of course. There are many outdoor rugs available that will instantly brighten up your plain concrete patio and provide a softer, more inviting surface.
Whether you want a classic oriental design, a splashy tropical flower print, or a simple woven grass covering for your concrete patio, there’s plenty to choose from.
Vacuum it regularly, and clean any stains with soap and water, but don’t worry about it getting wet when it rains. Outdoor rugs are designed to stand up to any weather. You will want to roll it up and find a spot for it over the winter, however, just to increase its longevity.
5. Install Permanent Tiles Over the Concrete
Installing tiles over a concrete base is a classic way to upgrade a basic patio. You can choose from a wide variety of plain or patterned tiles to enhance your outdoor décor.
This is a pretty permanent solution, so take your time to plan this job out thoroughly ahead of time. First, make sure that the tiles you are buying will stand up to the rigours of outdoor conditions. Ceramic tiles absorb more water than porcelain, so won’t last as long. The tiles should also be slip-resistant for safety.
After you’ve cleaned and patched the surface, apply a waterproofing membrane, and then lay the tiles using a waterproof outdoor mortar. Use a stain-resistant and waterproof grout that won’t require sealing.
6. Make a Stock Tank Pool
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If you have considered adding a pool to your landscape, why not use your old concrete patio as a base for a stock tank pool?
A stock tank pool is a sort of a cross between a children’s wading pool and hot tub. It’s literally made from a stock watering tank, usually made of galvanized steel. The most popular size is 2 feet high and 8 feet across, so it will fit perfectly on all but the smallest patios.
Make sure that your concrete patio is perfectly level with no sticks, stones, or other protuberances.
Once it’s installed, you can get creative with décor. You can cover the steel walls with wood or stone, or leave them as is for a country feel.
7. Cover the Area with Raised Garden Beds
Maybe you would like to turn your patio into a garden? That’s easy to do with raised beds. They’re increasingly popular, and now there’s lots of commercially available raised garden boxes, made from metal, wood, or even recycled plastic lumber.
If you’re handy, you can also make your own. If you can get some pallets for free, you can save a lot of money by doing a bit of work. Just cut the pieces to your desired height, and nail them to 2x4s at the top and bottom, and then screw the 4 sides together. That way, you can make custom sizes or shapes for a bargain price.
Fill the beds with good quality topsoil or compost. If they’re higher than a foot (30 cm), you might be able to add a layer of crushed plastic bottles at the bottom (15 cm) to save money on soil. You can then plant them with a variety of annual and perennial plants, including flowers, herbs, and vegetables.
8. Turn into a Fire Pit Area
You might not even need to cover the concrete up completely; just provide a focus of attention that will draw the eye. Centre a firepit on the patio, surrounding it with comfortable chairs for evenings under the stars.
While you can certainly spend many hundreds of dollars on gas or wood burning fire pits, you can also make your own wood fire pit with salvaged materials such as bricks or rocks. Just make sure that they are fireproof.
9. Go Crazy with the Flower Pots
Maybe all you need for your concrete patio is lots of potted plants. You can find all sorts of containers to fill up with flowers (and maybe a cherry tomato plant or two!). Don’t rush out and buy them from a garden centre or big box store, however. Get creative and see what you can find rummaging around in your shed or at a yard sale.
Galvanized pails or tubs, for instance, are extremely durable and add a rustic touch to even a city backyard. You can even repurpose old white plastic pails; paint them in whatever colours or patterns appeal to you. Just be sure to punch some holes in the bottom for drainage.
10. Lay Pavers or Bricks
Pavers or bricks are a good way to turn a plain concrete patio into a high-end outdoor space. Whether you buy new interlocking pavers or score a deal on old bricks, the process is basically the same. Lay down a layer of sand between ½ to 1 inch (1.25-2.5 cm) deep, and level it out carefully. Then, carefully lay out the bricks or pavers.
Finally, spread another layer of sand over the entire surface, and sweep it into the cracks. Wash down the surface, and spread and sweep more sand if necessary. That’s it!
11. Turn it Into a Basketball Court
Is your family the sort that loves to play sports? You can turn an underused concrete patio into a basketball court! Since concrete is recommended as a base for a backyard basketball court, you’re already most of the way there. All you have to do is add a basketball net on a post or adjacent wall.
12. Place or Build a Playset on It
A concrete pad is also a great place to set up a children’s playground. The stable base is perfect for playground equipment.
You will, however, want to provide a softer landing for the inevitable falls to avoid injury. The easiest way is by purchasing interlocking rubber tiles designed for playgrounds. They’re available in a wide range of colours. Choose the thickness designed for the maximum fall height of your play equipment, whether that’s a slide, trampoline, or treehouse.
I recommend the Rubber-Cal interlocking tiles to place over concrete for a children’s play area, these are eco-friendly and provide a great safe location for the kids.
13. Shade the Area with a Pergola
Maybe your main complaint with your concrete patio is how hot it gets on summer days. Why not build a pergola to provide a shady retreat from the blazing sun?
You can opt for a pergola that is covered with a shade, or build one to train vines such as wisteria or grapes. If you want to have a living roof, consider building one out of sturdy but less expensive materials that will end up disappearing into the greenery. Metal poles cemented into the ground with a canopy of wire mesh will do a great job of supporting vines.
14. Cover it with Artificial Turf
Forget what you know about artificial turf. That plastic covering from the past is now new and improved, and will stay looking good for as long as 20 years!
You can opt for artificial turf that is glued directly on the concrete, or add underpadding for additional softness underfoot.
You can even decide to use the turf on part of the patio, and cover the rest with pavers or bricks for added interest.
Want to grow real grass instead? Don’t worry, find out all you need to know here in our growing grass over concrete soil guide here.
15. Turn into an Outdoor Dining Space
Using a concrete patio as an outdoor dining room is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, and add extra living space without building an addition.
Don’t rush out and buy a patio set at the store, though. Check out second hand stores and yard sales for old tables and chairs that you can repurpose for your patio. Refinished and sealed with an outdoor-rated finish, all they will need is some protection in rainy weather, and a place to spend the winter months in a shed or garage.
Add some shade with an umbrella or gazebo, and you’re all set for meals outside!
16. Coat the Concrete with an Epoxy Coating
Maybe all that concrete patio needs a is good fresh finish. Resurfacing it with epoxy will create a tough, waterproof surface that will last for decades. It’s available in a wide range of colours, and will create a luxurious, high-end look for your backyard.
While there are plenty of professionals that can do this job for you, it’s also a good DIY project. The key is preparation. The concrete has to be clean, dry, and without any cracks. Patch where necessary and give it a thorough cleaning. If there is any sealant already applied to the concrete, it will have to be removed before applying the epoxy.
It’s then just a question of applying the epoxy with a roller and letting it dry for several days before putting any furniture on it.
17. Get Comfy Seating
A patio is always more inviting when there’s comfortable seating. While a dining set is great for meals, if you want to curl up and read a book, or enjoy a glass of wine with friends, nothing beats a comfortable chair.
It’s easy to spend big bucks on patio furniture, but use some creativity to save money and create a really individual space. There’s lots of plans for pallet furniture, for instance. Once they’re built, either buy cushions or sew your own covers using outdoor fabrics for longevity.
Try slinging a hammock in a shady corner of your patio; it’s a perfect spot for an afternoon nap!
18. Install a Wood Deck Over the Concrete Patio
If the surface of your concrete patio is in really bad shape, you may have no choice but to replace it. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to rip the whole thing out, with all the mess and expense that entails.
Instead, consider simply building a new wood deck over the concrete base. As long as there’s a 3 inch or so clearance between the level of your existing patio and any door thresholds, you should be able to do this.
You’ll be able to use the concrete patio to support the deck, saving you the trouble of digging post holes. Just make sure that the concrete is relatively level and won’t heave in future. Lay out a framework of 2x4s that will support the decking. Add shims where necessary where there are dips in the concrete. Then attach them to the concrete with a hammer drill and concrete screws. Then, attach the decking with decking screws.
It’s a lot of work, but not too complicated for someone with basic carpentry skills. Of course, it’s always easier if you can get friends to help!
19. Turn Patio into an Outdoor Movie Theatre
Why not create an outdoor entertainment venue in your own backyard?
Set up comfortable seating for a crowd (or just your family), all facing towards your movie screen. You’ll want as flat and smooth a surface as possible, and the cheapest way to do that is by hanging a large white sheet. Consider attaching it at all 4 corners and pulling it taut for the best results.
Thanks to modern technology, you don’t need a big movie projector; you can pick up one that hooks up to your cell phone for less than $50! Then, all you need is popcorn and you’re ready for movie night on your patio!
Don’t assume that your old, ugly, concrete patio needs to go. There are plenty of alternatives that can turn that eyesore into a showpiece of your backyard! All it takes is some creativity and the willingness to do some work.
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.