If you're flirting with the idea of putting a new face on an old concrete stoop, chances are you're on a budget. In fact, your budget is the main factor in deciding which method you'll use and why. If money isn't an issue, you'll likely be calling an expert instead of looking for how-to articles. Let's look at the most popular options, both as a hired venture and a do-it-yourself project, with emphasis on the latter. Either way, resurfacing will give your stoop a brand new look for much less than a complete replacement.
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The products used to resurface concrete are available at your local hardware shop and are relatively inexpensive. If you employ professionals to do the job, add labour costs. Experts can restore existing concrete and add dimension with concrete stamps, polymer overlays and acid stains. You can apply these treatments yourself, but it will require extensive knowledge and perhaps a bit of trial and error. If your concrete foundation has complications other than normal age-related wear, a simple refinish may not be enough to correct your problem. So, decide how much of a job you have to tackle and whether you feel competent to complete it on your own.
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Clean the existing stoop to remove old dirt, if possible with the use of a pressure cleaner. It's OK and even preferable that the old surface is wet when you start. For edges and sides, use tape to protect areas that you don't want the new concrete to touch or build a frame or have someone hold a board against the side while you work the surface. If covering the entire area, use a trowel or edger to shape the sides and corners. Cement, sand, aggregate and water ratios vary according to project needs, so it's best for an amateur to buy pre-mixed products. Follow directions, adding extra water only as necessary. Wait 24 to 48 hours before allowing foot traffic after your renovations.
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For a simple update, a thin coat is enough. Go to your favourite hardware dealer and ask for advice on choosing a pre-mixed product. Follow package instructions and use a trowel to spread it evenly to the edges of the stoop.
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A thick coat is needed for serious cracks and worn areas. See how much space you have between the stoop and door frame, because your door won't open if you raise the porch too much. The easiest finishes are smooth or rough. For a plain surface, after you spread your concrete, drag a smoothing float or flat board across the top. You can add a skim coat for a smoother look. For a rough coat, drag a broom or similar item across the surface.
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If your space doesn't allow for the stoop you'd really like and you have steps, do a basic stoop refinish and save the special effects for your steps. One of the easiest and cheapest methods is to use pea gravel. It's best to have your concrete prepared with the pea gravel rather than standard gravel mixed in. After you evenly spread the mixture, very lightly mist the wet concrete with water to expose the pea gravel. Expect a few stones to be loose when you later wash or sweep the surface.
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If you have the extra cash for your project, consider using mortar and something like flagstone or pavers. Some natural stones can be split to make several thinner pieces from one stone. Be sure your largest stone is no thicker than your mortar thickness or the surface won't be flat. Make design decisions before you prepare your mortar so you won't waste time once you're ready to lay them in the mixture. As you place stones, hammer lightly and remove mortar that pushes up between them. When complete, use a wetter mixture to fix the uneven places between stones and clean each stone with a wet rag.