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Do-it-yourselfers and contractors are dressing up interior and exterior concrete slabs with acid stains in every color, with overlays that mimic the look of flagstone and other more expensive, natural materials, and with stamps that can be as unique as the homeowner who picks them out.

Some of the most popular ways to turn a drab slab into something fancy underfoot include:

Stamped concrete. Patterns and textures are pressed into newly poured concrete before it’s fully dry. Combined with stains that add 

realistic color, stamped concrete can imitate the look of brick, cobblestones, flagstone, wood, pebbles or even seashells—at a fraction of the price. Plan to pay around $6 to $8 per square foot for stamped concrete with a single pattern and color, or more for elaborate designs. This is more a job for a contractor than a do-it-yourselfer.

Overlays. Another option for turning a scuffed-up, plain-Jane concrete patio floor into a fabulous faux-stone centerpiece for your outdoor room is the overlay. Also a job best left to a pro, an overlay involves laying a scratch coat of a high-polymer modified concrete over your old slab, taping out a flagstone, cobblestone or other pattern with grout tape, and then pouring another thin layer over that for texture. When you remove the tape from the almost-dry floor, it leaves impressions to look like grout lines, and when you add lifelike color, you’ll fool most people into believing you have a genuine stone floor. Overlays cost from around $3.50 to $6.50, depending on how elaborate your design is and how large your patio is. (Ask your contractor for a discount on a large floor.) 

Acid stains. One of the most popular ways to dress up a concrete floor, acid staining permanently changes the color of concrete because the pigment soaks deep into its pores. A confident do-it-yourselfer can apply the stain by spraying one to three coats onto the floor, then neutralizing the acid with ammonia and water, and finally, sealing the floor to protect the new finish. The most popular colors are sandy tones that blend in with the dusty Arizona landscape. Depending on how much prep work your concrete floor needs—and prep work can be the biggest part of the job—you’ll pay a contractor around $2 to $6 a square foot for labor and materials.

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