Many people choose to add pigment to their concrete before pouring patios and porches. But if you already have a plain, gray concrete patio cured in place, you are not out of options. You can improve the look of the concrete around your home in many different ways. Two of the most popular finishes--which are quite easy to accomplish yourself--are painting and staining. Paint will completely cover the concrete, disguising the look of the material completely. Stain will add color to the concrete will still allowing the natural masonry texture to show through.
Painting the Concrete
Wash the concrete patio with a degreasing cleaner and a scrub brush. Rinse the concrete thoroughly with a garden hose. Allow the concrete to dry for 48 to 72 hours.
Sand the concrete patio using large-grit sandpaper anywhere that the surface is rough or uneven. Remove any remaining debris with a shop vacuum.
Make any necessary repairs to the concrete patio. Apply concrete patch to holes or cracks using a trowel. Smooth the surface of the patches and allow them to dry completely.
Use a paint roller with a telescoping handle to apply a coat of masonry primer. Prime the entire concrete patio in long, even lines. Allow the primer to dry completely. Apply a second coat and allow it to dry.
Use a clean roller to apply a coat of epoxy paint just as you did the primer. Allow this coat to dry completely, then apply a second coat of paint. Allow the concrete to dry completely for 24 to 48 hours before walking on or touching the patio surface.
Staining the Concrete
Completely cover your bare skin with clothing. Wear thick work gloves and tall, thick boots. Put on a paper mask or respirator and safety goggles.
Use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub the concrete patio with a mixture of outdoor cleanser and water. Remove as much dirt and debris as possible. Rinse the concrete patio thoroughly using a garden hose.
Mix 1 part of muriatic acid and 4 parts of plain water in a large plastic watering can. With the watering can, sprinkle the muriatic acid mixture onto the surface of the concrete patio. Work from the interior of the patio to the exterior. Watch the acid as it meets the concrete to ensure that bubbling occurs on contact. Let the acid sit on the concrete patio for 20 to 30 minutes once the entire patio surface is evenly covered.
Rinse the concrete patio thoroughly with a garden hose. Remove any residual acid mixture by scrubbing the patio with an old broom. Allow the concrete patio to dry for 48 to 72 hours. Sweep the surface of the concrete patio clean with a new broom and a dustpan.
Apply one coat of your chosen stain to the concrete patio with a long-handled paint roller. Work in long, even lines. Move from the interior of the patio to the exterior, if necessary. Allow this coat to dry for 24 hours. Apply a second coat of stain, if desired. Let the concrete dry for 24 to 48 hours before walking on or touching the surface of the patio.