Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

September, 2004

Painting "Tile-like" Exterior Concrete

Q. I want to paint my concrete patio. I would like to use two colors to create a tile effect. I have researched paints, stains, expoxy, and acid etching. More confused than when I started. Concrete slab is two years old, never sealed, bare concrete and open to the elements. I would prefer using concrete stain, but I am not sure how long it would last. It looks the easiest. But the concrete stain I used in my covered porch has worn after only one season. Thank you.

Painting a concrete slab is one thing, but creating a tile pattern is a very ambitious project. Depending on the size of the concrete slab, should dictate the size of the tile type pattern. Consider making the tiles squares large enough so you don�t have too many of them to create.

I am sure that there is a certain level of confusion and uncertainty due to the several types of concrete that are available. By answering a few questions such as identifying what the intended purpose of the concrete item is, where is it geographically located, and how soon after creating the item can it be painted or coated? This will help to determine what type of concrete would be selected for the job.

You have identified this particular item as a Concrete patio slab, that is located outside and exposed to the elements. The coating that is selected must possess the properties that will adhere well to the surface and hold up under these conditions. This is not a project that one would want to repeat any time soon, so proper coating selection is very important.

I suggest that a polyurethane paint system be selected due to its ability to withstand the elements and offer good gloss and color retention, where an epoxy would not hold up as well under these conditions.

As with any coating application the surface must be very clean, free from any dirt, grease, and oil in order for the paint to adhere well to the concrete. Use a good strong detergent to remove any of these surface contaminates. You may even consider an acid etch to ensure the cleanliness of the surface. Be certain that the surface is completely dry before you attempt to apply any paint.

If you are painting a concrete patio floor, please be aware that tile-like finishes, such as those produced with polyurethanes and epoxies can be slippery, especially when rain settles on the floor. We are frequently asked to consult to lawyers on slip-and-fall cases, and I would like you to be aware of this. Therefore, if you intend to paint a concrete floor please do not make the finish too smooth and l slippery. Your insurance carrier won't like you!

Consult with your local paint dealer for product recommendations for this type of application. Explain what your intentions are, and they should be able to offer a product or products to help you perform these tasks.

By applying one full application of one of the colors you wish to use, and then masking off and creating the pattern you wish, prepare the surface by sanding, scuffing, or de-glossing, and then apply the contrasting color.

Please be aware that paints, coatings and solvents are chemicals and therefore you should always pay attention to proper handling procedures and be prepared to wear protective clothing, such as respirators, gloves, coveralls, etc. For further information on the health and safety requirements for the coatings and solvents you wish to use we strongly advised you to contact your local coating supplier. If possible, go the extra step and look for this information on the website of the product vendor.

Acid etching: You MUST insure that you are properly protected with goggles, acid-resistant gloves and proper clothing so that you don't injure yourself. For similar reasons, please insure that you keep others away from this process.


Jim Burke

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