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How to Paint Concrete Surfaces

Last modified: 2021-09-07 | Approximate reading time 4 mins

Amanda Harvey

It has become common to preserve and experiment with the concrete surfaces both inside and outside homes. Modern homeowners are exploring the possibilities painting concrete, offering an alternative to its drab shades of gray. Not only does painting concrete take this material to a whole new level, the task itself is easy and affordable.

Most homeowners will be able to complete this job with a few tools, materials and steps to follow. To successfully paint concrete or masonry surfaces, the area must be properly prepped and ready for the paint to adhere. Read on to find out the right way to prep, paint and cure this raw surface!

Here are the steps to paint a concrete surface!

1- Prepare the Concrete

Concrete wall and

source: Pixabay, JoelHuegli

The preparation steps leading up to painting are very important, as proper preparation of the surface will help the paint to correctly adhere. First, sweep away any excess debris that has collected on the concrete surface. If you are working outdoors, debris may include leaves and dirt. Make sure all of this has been collected and removed.

Next, remove any existing gunk, grime or caked on dirt that couldn’t be brushed away, making sure to scrub away anything that is stuck to the concrete. At this stage of the process, do not worry too much about stains that appear in the concrete. Rip away any vines or foliage that has collected around the concrete. For indoor surfaces, you won’t have as much trouble cleaning but it is important to get the surface as clean and bare as possible for the paint to go on smoothly afterwards.

2- Clean the Concrete

Now that the area has been swept and the initial cleaning preparation steps have been completed, it is time to thoroughly clean the concrete of dense areas of oil or grease. If you are working on an indoor concrete surface, you may be able to skip this step. Of course, pay special attention if you are working on the floor of a garage, kitchen or basement floor.

To remove a dense grease buildup, use a tri-sodium phosphate, which can be found at hardware or home improvement stores. Mix with water following package instructions, washing away stains. Make sure to rinse off the cleaner when you’ve finished the job, as leftover TSP will compromise the paint job. Further, allow the surface to dry completely before moving on to the next step. 

3- Patch and Seal the Surface

If you find any dents, cracks or uneven areas, you’ll want to deal with this before moving on to painting. Concrete should be as smooth as possible, as any cracks or breaks in the surface will cause moisture to find it’s way underneath the paint, leading to flaking and peeling paint later. Use a concrete patching solution, following the manufacturer's instructions to know how long the solution will take to dry.

Again, make sure it is completely dry before moving on to the following step. Next, it is important to seal off the concrete surface. This step is crucial if you are working indoors. Concrete is a very porous material, meaning that trapped moisture could easily ruin the paint. A concrete sealant can get expensive, but the best way to guarantee the longevity of the job and the surface itself it to bite the bullet and purchase it. 

Next, follow the sealant manufacturer's instructions for the proper preparation and application. This step does not necessarily need to be completed on outdoor concrete, but it is up to the homeowner’s discretion. 

4- Paint the Concrete


source: Pexels, Tookapic

If you are painting an outdoor surface, the first thing to do is to check the weather forecast. You’ll want to make sure to that you have at least 2 to 3 days of pleasant weather, avoiding rain, heavy winds and other obvious hazardous weather conditions. Each coat of paint will need to dry overnight, and the entire job will need roughly 24 hours to completely dry.

Make sure to do a bit of research before you choose and plan ample time for the process. If you are painting indoors, weather shouldn't be too much of a factor, though it is recommended you keep windows and doors open if possible.

Once you’ve decided on dates, you can begin painting! First, you’ll want to prime the surface, as this will help the paint to stick evenly and correctly, ensuring a strong adhesion. Again, the instructions and dry times will depend on the brand chosen.  If you are covering up an old colour, or you are working outside, it is best to apply 2 coats of primer. Let the first coat dry before applying the second one.

Now on to painting. It is important that you purchase the correct paint for painting concrete. Most homeowners choose masonry paint, which is made to adapt to the expansion and contraction of concrete during changing weather. Masonry paint is sometimes called elastomeric paint or elastomeric wall coating. This paint is going to appear much thicker than regular paint, so to be sure to use a high-capacity roller or brush. Using a paint roller, apply a thin and even coat of the paint.

Make sure to start in one of the corners of the surface, working slowly in an even motion across the concrete.  Bear in mind that you will be adding another few coats, so keep this one thin and discrete. Let the first coat dry completely before applying your second coat of paint.

If you’d like a deep colour, repeat steps and apply a third coat accordingly. Before using or stepping on the surface, wait at least 24 hours, making sure that the paint is completely dry and ensuring a smooth and beautiful surface. 

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