An old concrete patio can be the most boring part of an exciting backyard. You don’t have to live with that plain concrete patio, though. A little creativity and a liberal helping of elbow grease, and you can breathe new life into that old patio.

Cover an old concrete patio with a wood or composite deck to bring a warm, organic look to the backyard. Build the new deck with wood or composite decking and attach the deck directly to the concrete patio.

There are several considerations regarding the kind of deck you build over your concrete patio, as well as a few other options for patio covering. Keep reading to pick up some tips and ideas.

How Do I Put Decking Over Concrete?

Building a deck from scratch can be a difficult and costly project, but if you’re covering an existing concrete patio, it’s a lot easier. You can check out the different outdoor decking material and choose what the best fit is for you. You’ll need some tools and supplies and it can’t hurt to be handy – but you can do this.

Should I Use Wood or Composite Decking?

The warm and natural feel of a deck can be accomplished with either wood or composite decking. When you’re putting a deck over an old concrete patio, your first decision will be which material you want to use.

Wood Decking

Wood decking is the more traditional approach to building a deck, but it is fading in popularity. While it does look nice, it is prone to fading, rotting and drying over time. It does have the distinct advantage of being considerably more affordable than composite decking, however.

Composite Decking

One of the many benefits of composite decking is that it is built from a combination of wood fibers and PVC plastic. These are molded planks or tiles, not natural wood, and so they are not as prone to warping, swelling, drying or splitting like wood decking. They last longer than wood and require considerably less maintenance. If your project budget allows for it, composite decking is the superior choice.

Can You Install Composite Decking Directly onto Concrete?

An existing concrete patio will make your deck installation much easier and faster, and you can install your deck directly onto the concrete.

You will want to account for water drainage and material expansion/contraction, so it is best to place boards called ‘sleepers’ underneath the deck. It is also a good idea to add small spacers between the sleepers and the concrete patio.

  • When you install your sleepers, keep them no more than a foot apart. You want to provide as much support for the top planks as you can, and too much distance can leave your deck feeling unstable and springy. It can even be dangerous – nobody wants to put a foot through the deck.
  • Some composite decking can be installed directly onto concrete without sleepers. In this case, you will want to make sure your patio is very level and well settled. If your concrete patio sinks an inch in various places over the years, so will your deck. Do yourself a favor and check the manufacturer installation guide before you decide on a deck built flush to the concrete.
  • In either case, there will be a need to attach some elements to the concrete. To do this, you will need to drill holes and add plastic anchors to the concrete. Regular nails and screws will not attach to concrete.

How Do You Attach Wood to Concrete?

With wood decking, you have to really account for water seepage. If you have water pooling underneath the boards, it could soak into the wood and cause considerable damage. Damp wood can attract insects, cause dry rot and otherwise damage your deck.

For a wood deck, it is important to build a framework of sleepers and attach them to the concrete with plastic anchors and concrete bolts. You can use angled brackets to hold the vertical sleeper planks in place.

How Tall Should My Deck Be?

Adding a deck over an existing concrete patio will add height. Depending on the step down from your back door to your concrete patio, this additional height could be problematic. However, you do have options if space is limited.

If you are using a composite tile that can be laid directly onto the concrete, the deck will only add an inch or so to the height of the patio. You will likely be adding retaining pieces, called fascia, at the edges of the patio to hide the sides of the tiles and hold them in place. The tiles themselves are designed to allow for water run-off, so this option may be more feasible if your patio is close in height to your back door.

On the other hand, if you have a considerable step down from the back door, a raised deck might be a big improvement! Rather than that short drop to get out to the grill while you’re carrying a big plate of ribs, your new deck could be level with the back door. It will be a straight transition from the house to the deck, making it a lot less likely that you drop dinner before you can cook it.

If you have stairs down from the back door to the patio, you can add height to the stairs themselves to compensate for the added height of the deck. This is especially easy if you are using the composite tiles that lay flush on the concrete.

What Other Options Do I Have for Covering My Patio?

Building a deck is a very attractive option for covering your old concrete patio, but there are several other options you could try.

  • Resurface your patio to repair cracks and pits.
  • Use paint or stain to lend some color and dimension to a boring old patio.
  • Cover your patio with pavers and you’ll add visual appeal and texture, not to mention long-lasting durability.

Resurface Your Concrete Patio

If you’re just looking to give the old patio a refresh and make it look new again, resurfacing is an uncomplicated option. You can buy the needed supplies easily and knock out the job in a weekend.

  1. Clean the Patio

The first step will be to clean the patio. Use a pressure washer to remove stains, dirt and debris. A little tip – just this step alone can take years off the look of your old concrete patio. Removing those old mildew stains and spilled sodas is like a facelift for your patio.

  1. Repair the Patio

Before you resurface the whole patio, spend a little time patching the cracks and pits. We recommend Sakrete Flo-Coat Concrete Resurfacer. For this stage, mix it to a consistency that lets you apply it easily with a trowel. Let the repairs dry completely before the next step.

  1. Resurface the Patio

Once your repairs are dry, completely saturate your concrete patio with water, then remove any standing water. Work in manageable sections, as the resurfacer will set up very quickly, and make sure to separate the gaps between workspaces to maintain the spaces between slabs. Mix the resurfacer one work section at a time and apply with a long-handled trowel, then go over it with a push broom or squeegee to get that flat finish.

And if you are not sure of how you want to resurface or if you want to put new concrete over old concrete, you can look at that article to come up with your decision. If you decide to resurface your old patio, check out this video from Quikrete for a step-by-step guide.

Paint or Stain Your Concrete Patio

If you just want to add a little flavor to your outdoor space, adding some color to your patio might be just the thing. There are plenty of options here, from a simple coat to diagrams and scoring. Here are just a few ideas.

Score Lines to Add Depth

Decide on a pattern, then use a chalk line to ‘draw’ the diagram onto the concrete.

  • Use a diamond-tipped blade on a circular saw with a depth about 1/8” to carve straight lines into the concrete.
  • Once you add the color, you’ll be able to create alternating color patterns, abstract blocking, or just give the illusion of paving stones.

Tape Off Sections for A Tapestry Effect

If you don’t love the idea of cutting grooves into your old concrete patio, you can still get those cool color sections by taping off sections. You can simply use painter’s tape and apply your color sections one block at a time. Taping instead of scoring adds considerable flexibility for designing shapes – you may not even have to stick to straight lines!

Paint or Stain?

The difference between paint and stain essentially comes down to where the color goes. Paint sits on top of the concrete and provides a layer of color. Paint will allow you the greatest flexibility for vibrant color. If you’re an artist, you can even create a mural directly onto your patio.

  • Use concrete paint for best results. Most other paint will peel off before long and leave your new patio looking ragged. Even with concrete paint, pressure washing will strip it off, so you’ll have to settle for regular scrubbings.
  • Stain, on the other hand, soaks into the concrete. This is a much deeper color application, and it’s a lot more permanent. If you choose stain, pre-treat your clean concrete with a product like Rust-Oleum Clean & Etch. Then you can apply the stain.

Build Up Your Patio with Pavers

Pavers are probably the most time-intensive and costly method for covering an old concrete patio. For this solution, you will need to build a border of bricks around the outside of the patio.

  • Set up your border. Use construction adhesive to hold the border in place.
  • Once your border is built, lay down landscaping fabric and cover that with sand. You will want to make sure the sand is flat and clean before you start laying pavers. This process is called screeding, and it is important for making sure your pavers don’t end up wavy and misaligned.
  • Now you can lay your pavers.

Your options here are limited only by your imagination. You could even turn that concrete slab into an outdoor kitchen! (Here are some must haves for your outdoor kitchen!) Though for your first project, you may want to stick to smaller, individual paver bricks and save the fancy stuff for when you’re a seasoned pro.

Additional Resources

A deck is a great way to cover your old concrete patio, and we outlined a few other options as well. Once you decide on one of these options, you’ll want to do a little more in-depth reading. Here are a few other resources for you to reference.

Building a Deck Over Your Concrete Patio

Stain Your Patio to Look Like Tile

Spray-Paint a Pattern on Your Concrete Patio

Guide to Covering Your Patio with Pavers

(If you decide to hire someone to do if for you, you’ll definitely want to check out this article on concrete patio contractors!)