While a concrete overlay may not always be the correct application, there are many scenarios where it is the perfect choice. A few quick checkpoints which could rule out an overlay.
- Is your concrete severely cracked? A concrete overlay can often work around some minor cracking but if your concrete has experienced significant movement, it is unlikely to be the right application for you.
- Does the area you’d like to improve has existing concrete? Because a concrete overlay requires a solid concrete base, it generally makes the most sense when the great majority of the area is already in place. Small areas can be added but if the project requires too much new concrete, an overlay will likely lose its efficiency.
- Is drainage an issue you are trying to solve? Because an overlay is approximately ¼”, it is not capable of correcting poor drainage.
Now that I have briefly described some of the limitations, let me dig into the benefits:
- There is no messy tear out. An overlay is like the icing on the cake. If you currently have a high-quality concrete slab, an overlay can generally be applied to the surface in just a few short days. And without the need for heavy equipment, it is often far less invasive to your lawn and landscape.
- An overlay can often be used without creating trip hazards. In areas where your concrete is adjacent to other surfaces (i.e. drains, skimmer baskets, other hardscapes, door thresholds, coping, etc.) the concrete can be feathered to leave you a surface that is almost flush with your existing elements. The thickness can also help supply a high-end look on patios without enough space to install a traditional hardscape product.
- You’ll have a large influence on the final product. Unlike manufactured products such as stone or pavers, many overlays actually allow you to select the design and color that best suits your specific, unique space. You can select a pattern that creates a cohesive design flow with the interior of your home while selecting a color which will perfectly complement the landscaping and construction materials already existing in your yard. In most cases, an overlay can allow you to update your space while making it look like it was done at the same time as the rest of your space.
- Cost savings over traditional options. While overlay products can have substantial variation in price depending on the material itself and your market, they generally present a more cost-effective solution that other hardscape materials. Products like travertine, stone, pavers, decorative concrete and porcelain will almost universally be more expensive. Many times, the savings from selecting an overlay solution can be used to update other areas such as the pool finish, coping, landscape and more.
- Overlays are generally more repairable than slab options. If something impacts the surface of a concrete slab, it can be extremely difficult to repair without leaving obvious scarring from the repair work. In many cases, an overlay can be re-manipulated so that the space looks whole one again.
Is an overlay the right application for you? If all of the above information marries up with the desire you have for your space, it just might be. Call a local expert and see what they think. One thing I know for sure: you’ll be blow away by some of the options available today. In the 80’s and 90’s you would see plain (boring?) overlay applications such as cool decking. Today, we have hand-crafted, custom stone finishes that will leave you wondering how a cementitious product could be made to look like real stone!