As a reliable, practical, and economical paving for patios and walkways, concrete performs admirably on its own. But it can gain dramatically in its overall appeal when given a decorative finish that banishes any visual sensation of cold, drab, or bland.
Color, for instance, can do wonders to cheer up basic concrete. The pigment can be mixed into the material before it's poured for a lasting, color-through finish, or it can be dusted onto a leveled, wet surface and smoothed in with a trowel. Sometimes concrete gets its color after it has hardened from an application of paint or a penetrating stain.
Basic concrete can also benefit from a variety of textured effects, from simple broomed and salt-pocked finishes to imprinted surfaces that disguise a slab as brick, tile, or natural stone. Although small areas of concrete take to imprinting, or stamping, with tools that can be rented from a home improvement center, large expanses usually require the skills and equipment of a professional contractor to ensure realistic-looking results.