Building Concrete Patios with Overlays

What You'll Need
Cement paint
Small rake
Curing compound

An overlay is like a band-aid of concrete, sand and rocks that you can use to cover up unsightly splits, cracks and other erosion evident in your concrete patios. Since your patio is the place to relax and invite guests, it’s particularly important that you keep its concrete surface well maintained. Even if your concrete patio hasn’t suffered any damage, it might be a good idea to build an overlay just to keep the surface strong and protected.

If you decide to take on your concrete problems by yourself, using overlays is a great way to fix your patio problem, or even to ensure that you won't have problems in the future. You have the ability to choose a high-grade material that won’t degrade like the original concrete did, and by doing the job yourself, you can ensure that the process isn’t rushed. Overlays can last in great condition for over 50 years, ensuring you a virtual lifetime of enjoying your safe and beautiful concrete patio. Keep reading to learn more about typical problems with concrete, why building concrete patios with overlays can be useful and how to do it yourself.

Step 1 - Be Careful with Your Concrete

Concrete is a preferred material for patios because it’s durable, weather-resistant and relatively easy to maintain. Concrete slabs allow you to create a smooth surface, suitable for placing furniture or a grill. Concrete isn’t without its problems, however, especially if it was mixed with improper materials, or poured or cured too quickly. One typical problem is that when the concrete is being finished, the person doing the job may be in a rush to finish and either added too much water to the wet concrete, or spread it too quickly with the trowel. When too much water gets mixed in with the cement, the concrete itself becomes prone to cracks and other damage. So when you mix the concrete to make your own overlays, make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions, don't add too much water and take your time to pour it correctly.

Step 2 - Mix Cement with Sand

Make your own overlay cement by mixing 1 part cement (Portland cement being the most commonly used type) with 2 1/2 parts sand. To make a thicker, even stronger overlay, you can also add 3 parts gravel to the mix, along with a little extra cement.

Step 3 - Prepare the Patio

Once you’ve prepared the overlay, it’s time to get your old concrete patio ready. Makes sure it’s clean and clear of any debris, then apply cement paint (that is, Portland cement mixed with water to create a fine wash) with a brush over the old, cracked slab. This will help you to create a strong bond with the overlay.

Step 4 - Apply the Overlay

Apply your new concrete overlay and let it set until it’s nearly firm (you should still be able to make a thumbprint). You can use a small rake or floater to create a smooth, regular pattern on the overlay by using a light, sweeping motion over the surface. Before the overlay has time to dry, spray on a curing compound to keep the overlay strong for years to come. Let the overlay set for several hours before enjoying your newly improved concrete patio.