Are you planning to build a patio, but don’t know what kind of texture you would like? Or maybe planning for the pool deck, but worried about what kind of surface would be good?
I’ll go through 6 types of concrete finishes that are popular and ageless today. With that, you can have good ground for your decision, what ever it may be.
Decorative concrete finishes
Modern concrete finishes, in my opinion, should be something that expresses the times we’re living in. To me, it doesn’t necessarily be anything too fancy, even two steps away from the plain old grey concrete are something.
When it comes to exterior concrete finishes that would be different kinds of broom finish, sand finish, stamped concrete finish, salt finish, or exposed concrete finish. Now all of these are pretty familiar, but what I mean is doing them with a twist.
You will also need to think about what you need when you look for the best concrete finish for the patio, pool deck, or driveway. Something like a pool deck shouldn’t be too slippery right? And the patio should not be too rough either. The driveway should have qualities of both.
To move on, next some textures and what they are good for.
Broom finish concrete texture
Broom finish concrete texture is one of the most typical ones you see when you look for concrete textures. It’s simple to do, it has good qualities such as being non-slippery so it can be said that it has good qualities going on.
Broom finish types
There are few concrete broom finish types that I can think of without searching for it.
The chessboard texture is done by making squares and finishing them in different directions. These can be done to one slab or if there are control joints in a square formation, finish them horizontal and vertical and you have a chessboard pattern.
The brushed concrete finish is simple to do and you can use the control joints to create different kinds of pieces for your exterior concrete slabs. Try brushing from different angles and if it doesn’t work out just float it again and brush.
Concrete broom finish tools are also quite easy to get. Just need a wide soft-bristle broom for fine to medium texture and a stiff-bristle one for medium to coarse texture. Practicing is easy, just make a small test pad with concrete and brush it until you feel you’re good.
After that, you’re ready to broom finish concrete driveway or pool deck in a controlled workspace. What I mean is that there is always room to improve and while most can learn how to do this sort of texture, not everyone is made out for it.
Swirl finish concrete texture
If you don’t like broom finish, you can try doing swirl finish concrete textures. These are done with the floats as concrete cures.
It’s a smoother surface like this, if you need a rougher surface you might need to do it small notched trowel to leave swirls. You would start from one end and make half circles with the notched trowels, then next row you would do them a little on top of the ones you already made.
Think like scale of lizards or something like that. New half circles always going a little over the ones already made.
If you do it with float, it would be like making teardrops on the concrete with the float. Every time you make one, the next one will be done a little over the last one you made. If you move from left to right you would make first on the left, then do the next one exactly on the same height but almost half on top of the first one.
Now this is something that would take a little skill. It’s not easy to start with as broom technique.
Sand finish concrete texture
Sand finish concrete texture gets to the more professional textures as it is more difficult to execute without experience. It is referred to as sandblasted concrete and sand-washed concrete and what defines it is the worn-out, older concrete look with earthly colors.
Now I don’t mean it always looks like an already used piece of slab. When the concrete is washed and the top layer of sand and aggregates are being exposed, it creates a look that resembles sandblasted surfaces. It only makes sense it can be done with sandblasting and acid washing as well.
Doing this surface with water and polishing machine is more nature friendly maybe than the acid wash at least.
Sand finish concrete pool deck and walkways are fine examples where this technique shines. The texture is easy to barefoot and as it’s rough, it’s anti-slippery as well.
When it comes to slippery sand finish vs broom finish both are on the same level, but I think the sand finish is a little easier to the feet so for things like pool decks I’d choose it over the broom. For walk and driveways, it’s a matter of taste.
Use of concrete retarder
You can probably guess that pouring concrete and washing the surface on the same day can be challenging. For that reason, most use concrete retarders on the surface so it is workable later.
Sand finish concrete retarder is used to get the surface to stay wet longer than the deeper parts of the slab. When the concrete cures unequally, the washing of the concrete won’t damage the deeper parts of the slab. This way the sand finish texture can be achieved without messing up the cement to water ratio and it won’t compromise the curing process.
Stamped concrete finish
A stamped concrete patio is something that I’ve written a lot about here. From DIY guides to other informational articles. The thing is that imitating other surfaces with concrete is interesting for me, as it brings more depth to my job.
That being said. The stamped concrete finish can be multiple things. You can use it to imitate wood, tiles, stones, etc. The best thing is nothing stops you from combining it with sand finish texture for example.
Actually only thing I’d not combine it with is the broom and swirl finish and that might be because my understanding isn’t deep enough.
So if you want to create non-slippery concrete, it’s entirely possible with stamped concrete. The only con side is that as it’s deeply customized concrete if you can’t DIY it will cost you.
Salt for concrete finish
Salt is another traditional concrete finishing texture and it’s again on the simple end of textures and you can DIY with ease. It used to be quite common and it became a little rare, maybe because of being that common, and now it’s making a little come back.
It’s made by introducing salt to a wet concrete surface and the salt is pressed in it with a roller of float. Now, after a day when the concrete is done with the first 24 hours of curing these are washed off with a pressure washer leaving a rough surface.
It reminds me a little bit of sand texture as it can look a little like old concrete as well. The earthly colors can be the same as well.
Now that we know it’s another rough finish, maybe even a little more than broom depending on salt, we can say that salt finish concrete around pool works. It’s non-slippery and actually can be used on every exterior surface if slipping is a problem.
Salt finish concrete process is also simple so it would make sense if the people who like to their concrete work themselves would use it.
Exposed aggregate concrete finishes
Exposed aggregates? Didn’t we go over the sand blasting and washing. No, this one’s a little bit different again.
Exposed aggregate concrete finishes are closer to polished concrete than acid washing or sandblasting concrete. It’s done by removing the top layer of the concrete, the cement “cream”. When you polish concrete, you most often polish the cream to stain it or leave it like that.
Here we want to expose the fine and rough aggregates in the concrete. As you might guess, it will create truly unique look for the concrete.
So is an exposed aggregate concrete patio, driveways, or pool deck a good idea? Depending on what grit wheel you use it can be. Obviously, we don’t need to polish exteriors as we do indoors, a rougher texture will do just fine.
Now that we have gone through all 6 different types of concrete finishes, you should have some idea of what is good for what. Or you might be just more confused as everything can be used with different techniques.
After that, it will come down to aesthetics and what do you like. For me, sand texture and stamped concrete seem like something I’d like to do, but some of that comes from my curiosity about the techniques.