By Mary Boone
First impressions matter. If your concrete driveway is cracked, chipped or stained, the impression you’re giving visitors or potential buyers is that your home also is a little worse for wear.
The good news is there are more ways than ever to give your home a facelift by updating that dreary, gray welcome.
Plain concrete does the job, but a bit of color can add serious pizzazz.
A do-it-yourselfer with moderate skills can use a chemical stain to create beautiful color tones in existing concrete. Stains react with the concrete's minerals and produce uneven, variegated color effects.
Staining is done on cured concrete. You’ll first need to use an organic degreaser to clean the surface. Concrete stain is not a cover-all; imperfections in the concrete will show through.
Concrete stain can be applied using a variety of methods: mops, brushes or rollers. An ordinary garden sprayer will provide the smoothest broadcast of the stain.
Concrete stain kits are available at hardware and home improvement stores. Note that, because concrete stain is a chemical reaction, surfaces previously treated with muriatic acid or otherwise acid-etched cannot be stained.
If your driveway is in decent shape but lacks visual appeal, it makes sense to resurface it rather than dig out the old concrete and pour new.
Coatings and micro-toppings can be applied to existing concrete for a fresh look. The toppings can be broom-swept in countless design variations. Thin-set toppings can be imprinted or textured to look like rock, brick, marble, stone, tile or slate. What's more, you get all the performance advantages of concrete but often at a lower cost than the material it's imitating. Another bonus: Unlike brick or stone, stamped concrete has no open joints for weeds to sprout in.
Of course, if your driveway is in really bad shape and you simply have to start over, imprinting can also be done in freshly placed concrete.
Mix it up
Interior designers often speak of the need to mix fabrics and textures to add interest to a room. This same concept applies to your exterior hardscapes, except instead of silk and linen, you’re mixing and matching materials such as concrete, stone and interlocking pavers.
For example, by adding a paver border to your concrete driveway, you’ll add interest, define your landscaping and make your space more attractive.
If your existing concrete driveway is in good shape with no major cracks, it may be a candidate for engraving.
Professionals can use engraving machines to score straight or curved lines into the concrete. Homeowners most often opt to have their driveways engraved with brick, tile or cobblestone patterns. Want a driveway that expresses your personality? Perhaps you want to have a Celtic knot or a college insignia engraved there. Stain can be used to accent the engraved surface.
The maintenance required for a decorative concrete driveway is basically the same as what’s needed for conventional concrete.
You should keep the surface free of debris by sweeping it or using a leaf blower. Water will remove dirt from concrete, but cleaning chemicals followed by power washing and scrubbing may be needed to remove tough stains.
Applying a high-quality sealant will extend the life of your driveway and will improve the appearance of decorative concrete by enhancing the color and sheen.
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