I have an external concrete patio, about 3 years old. I'm wondering if there are any finishing or refinishing options to make it look a little better than just boring 'ole concrete.
As mentioned by DA01, acid staining could be a good choice. There is just something to keep in mind with it though. Acid staining is somewhat transparent/translucent though. Is your patio free of permanent marks for example?
When my wife and I built our current come, we considered acid staining, but one of the cautions was that we needed to keep the concrete clean during the building processes. For example, some sub-contractors may like to make marks on the floor with a marker, chalk, etc. thinking it would just get covered up with tile or carpet. If it could not get cleaned up, it would show through the acid stain.
Now, considering that this is an outdoor patio, you most certainly don't have any construction marks, but you need to check and see if anything has marked the concrete since then.
If you do have marks or blemishes that would show through, and you still want to acid stain, then about your only option would be have someone put a new cream coat on the concrete. I'm not exactly sure what it is called, but my concrete sub had it done on a section of my driveway that was messed up cosmetically during the pour.
Finally, you could paint it. Just go and look for a concrete paint. Most can be tinted to any color you wish.
As an afterthought... You also need to decide what look you are looking for. Paint will give you a very consistent look, but acid stain will give a varied look--kind of mottled. Some areas will be a little lighter, some a little darker. It has to do with the way the acid reacts to the concrete. If you are not familiar with the look, just Google "acid stain concrete" and click on "Images".
Oh, by the way, the mottling is completely unpredictable, but that's part of the beauty!
I have been researching this topic a lot lately. I have even done a few test squares. The Acid staining is awesome. You should search for "acid stain" on Youtube. There are countless ways to do it, so watch a whole bunch of those videos and you will get a get idea of it, and some good ideas of what you can do. But here are the basics:
- Clean the concrete. What is on it will determine what to use to clean it. You will want to surface texture to be fairly uniform. You can even put a thin layer of resurfacer on it to even it to hide everything.
- Mask areas or put on stencil. You can put about anything you want on it.
- Apply the stain. Stain runs about $45-$60 dollars for a quart, but it will cover about 300 square feet. The price may limit how many different colors you will want.
- Neutralize. This is just applying ammonia, or a more expensive neutralizer.
- Wash the concrete. Just Soap and water will do.
- Apply Sealer. There are a thousand different sealers. You will need to figure out what kind of a sheen you want on it.