Concrete block foundations may be sturdy but they are dull -- just gray expanses of block and mortar. Landscape plantings are the traditional way to hide concrete block foundations, but there are other options. Check with local building authorities to make sure there are no restrictions -- some residential areas and historic districts have regulations governing foundations and additions or improvements to existing structures. Some foundation cover options may require masonry tools and skills, but basic enough that most homeowners can handle the work.
Cover your concrete block foundation with stucco. This is a very easy construction alternative to hide a block foundation. You simply mix up stucco -- a mixture of Portland cement, lime, fine sand and water -- and apply it over the blocks with a trowel. You can add color to the stucco, to match or contrast with the house walls. Make sure the foundation is straight and any cracks or holes are filled first and power-wash the surface to remove any mold, dirt or debris. You can make any texture you want from smooth to very grainy. It's best to slightly dampen the blocks first, to help adhesion.
Paint your concrete block foundation. This is probably the cheapest and easiest way to cover the concrete blocks. Many manufacturers make paint or epoxy especially for concrete surfaces. Clean the concrete blocks thoroughly and patch any cracks or holes. Then simply use a brush or roller to apply the paint or epoxy. Both come in a variety of colors; you also can use a special concrete waterproofing paint, but color options will be limited. Use foam brushes or rollers which can be discarded after use. If you're artistic, add flower or animal designs on the painted surface.
Lay a brick or stone facing to cover your concrete block foundation. Use half bricks, thin-cut stones, or artificial stones which apply directly to the blocks and do not need additional support. For full bricks or stones, dig a small trench at the bottom of the concrete block foundation and fill it with concrete to make a footing or solid base for the bricks or stones. Make sure the bricks or stones complement the existing exterior of the house.
Plant shrubs to cover your concrete block foundation. This is a traditional option that blocks the concrete blocks from view and adds color and visual appeal. Boxwood is often planted around foundations and works well as a cover, but requires regular trimming to keep it low and neat. Globe blue spruce is a good alternative -- it is evergreen and a compact slow grower that won't require regular maintenance. Some landscapers like burning bush (a colorful form of euonymus) at corners for contrast. Bulbs or annual flowers can be planted in front of the shrubs for color and variety.
Bob Haring has been a news writer and editor for more than 50 years, mostly with the Associated Press and then as executive editor of the Tulsa, Okla. "World." Since retiring he has written freelance stories and a weekly computer security column. Haring holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri.