How to refinish old concrete steps using decorative cement

Written by jourdan townsend
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How to refinish old concrete steps using decorative cement
Concrete steps should be kept in good repair. (sepia toned entry to old brownstone Boston image by Stephen Orsillo from

If your old concrete steps are looking worse for the wear, it is very easy to make some simple repairs. However, if you desire something a bit snazzier than the traditional cold grey masonry look, consider refinishing those old concrete steps with a layer of decorative cement. Cement is now available with powder or liquid pigments added so that there is sure to be a colour that matches your personality and decor. Adding decorative cement to your steps can boost the curb appeal of your home and is a simple project to do yourself.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Protective clothing
  • Small sledgehammer
  • Cold chisel
  • Siliconized latex caulk
  • Small putty knife
  • Cement patch
  • Metal trowel
  • Cement bonding agent
  • Large paintbrush
  • Tarp
  • Garden hose

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  1. 1

    Hire an inspector to examine any damage to the steps to make sure there are no serious structural issues before refinishing them.

  2. 2

    Dress in clothes that cover as much bare skin as possible. Put on a pair of safety glasses and heavy gloves.

  3. 3

    Remove any jagged or large, broken pieces of concrete from the steps by chiselling them away with a small sledgehammer and cold chisel.

  4. 4

    Squeeze siliconized latex caulk into any small cracks. Smooth the surface with a small putty knife. Trowel cement patch into larger holes or divots. Apply an initial 3/8-inch-thick coat. Once this sets, trowel on a second coat to bring these areas level with the rest of the pavement. Smooth the patches with the flat face of the trowel. Allow the caulked and patched areas to dry thoroughly for 24 to 48 hours.

  5. 5

    Create a V-shaped engraving onto all of the vertical surfaces of the steps using the sledgehammer and chisel. This texturing will hold the new layer of decorative cement in place. Brush a thin, even coating of cement bonding agent over all the visible surfaces of the steps using a large paintbrush.

  6. 6

    Use a clean trowel to apply a layer of the prepared decorative cement to the steps. Just as you did with the cement patch, make this first layer about 3/8-inch thick. Cover all of the visible surfaces with the cement. Use the flat side of the trowel to smooth it. Cure this layer of cement for two hours.

  7. 7

    Trowel on a second coat of decorative cement, making each step as wide and deep as you desire. Smooth the surface of the cement again with the trowel, bringing out as much moisture as possible so it can evaporate. Let the cement sit for 30 minutes.

  8. 8

    Use a large tarp to cover the resurfaced steps. Allow the decorative cement to cure for one week. Each day, pull back the tarp and lightly spray down the steps with water from a garden hose. Replace the tarps after each dampening.

Tips and warnings

  • Seal your decorative cement steps with two coats of masonry sealant to keep them looking like new.

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