Resurfacing an old Concrete Patio

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A porch or patio can be one of the most useful exterior areas of your home if its covered with an attractive surface material, cleared of all excess junk and with a little thought given to landscaping the area. Unfortunately these spaces are all too often covered with bland concrete which as well as looking rather dull and dreary, may have developed cracks or become stained with grease, oil etc over time. Restoring such areas to a place you would be proud to use for entertaining, outdoor dining or just relaxing may seem like a daunting task. And indeed if the concrete is badly cracked and the surface uneven, generally there is no satisfactory alternative but to rip the lot up and re-lay it.

However if the surface only has hairline cracks and you can be certain that reinforcing mesh was installed when the concrete was laid, it is probable that existing cracks will not open up further (unless your concrete pad is suffering from root damage due to nearby trees). In this case there are a number of alternatives that could be considered to enhance the appearance, including ceramic tiles, terracotta tiles, clay pavers, slate, natural stone pavers etc.

Perhaps one of the best and simplest options however is to use interlocking modular deck tiles. These are simply placed over the surface of the patio or porch and require no adhesives, nails, screws or special surface preparation. Not only are these tiles quite forgiving of small cracks and slight unevenness of the surface, but they can be laid both quickly and easily by anyone without any special skills or tools being required. And as they are not permanently fixed to the concrete base, they can be taken up, moved or added to at will. If you decide to move house you can simply take the tiles with you and lay them in your new location.

Wood tiles can be divided into two basic types. The earliest designs, which are still available today, are constructed of solid wood slats attached to wood bearers underneath. The top wood slats may be either screwed or nailed to the bearers or in some cases, metal staples have been used. Tiles with nailed or stapled slats should be used with caution as the fixings are likely to corrode and/or the slats can work loose from the bearers. Screwed slats are the much preferred system, but check that screws are corrosion resistant or better still, of stainless steel. Most wood tiles are supplied as single modules with no integral interconnecting devices. Some designs provide limited interconnectivity by means of offset bearers which fit under the adjacent tile. However these tiles are generally not held together with fixed connectors but tend to rely on the outside retaining walls to keep them from moving.

An important consideration with the all wood tile design is that the wood bearers could be subject to prolonged contact with water. Whilst most such tiles are constructed of durable timber, prolonged exposure to water may result in some premature rotting of the bearers, or at the very least, it is possible that the bearers could twist or warp under certain conditions. With no means of interconnection of the tiles, there is a potential for adjacent tile surfaces to be uneven in height, leading to the possibility of tripping.

In the latest, more advanced generation of wood tiles, the wood slats are attached to a plastic mesh base. This not only lifts the wood clear of the concrete which allows any water under the tiles to drain away quickly, but also provides a convenient means to interconnect the tiles. With some tile designs the wood slats have holes drilled in the underside which slot into pins moulded on the plastic base so the slats are a loose fit on the plastic base. In other designs the slats are “press fit” onto the base. The most secure design which is also the simplest to install has a multiple of pre-moulded screw holes in the plastic base through which screws are inserted to keep the slats securely fixed to the base.

Another advantage of the mesh based tiles compared with the solid wood tiles is that they can be easily cut with a saw or jigsaw to fit around pipes etc. The mesh base has numerous moulded “feet” which ensures the tile remain stable even if a section is removed. In this respect, the tiles with screwed slats probably have an advantage over the loose or press fit slat design as it may be necessary to install an extra screw or two through the pre-moulded holes in the base to fix any loose slats following any cutting of the tiles.

Whilst some designs use separate clips to connect the tiles, the majority of designs use inbuilt connectors which makes installation faster and easier. These tiles may have “pegs” on two sides and corresponding “loops” on the other two sides, so in certain cases a left hand and right hand version are required.

Probably the easiest and quickest tile to lay however is the type which has an identical set of connecting tabs on each side which mesh with corresponding tabs on adjacent tiles, irrespective of the orientation of the tile. (see for example This has the added advantage of allowing more options for the tile maker to produce different tile designs and for the installer to be more creative in the overall patterns in which the tiles can be laid.

As tiles raise the surface level approx. 1 ¼” – 1 ½” care should be taken at the outer edge of the tiled area to avoid any danger of tripping over the tiles. The major manufacturers supply transition strips to overcome this potential problem which are generally designed to clip onto the outer row of tiles to provide a transition from the tile surface to floor level. These reducers will also successfully cover up the plastic tabs on the outer row of tiles.

The majority of the interlocking tiles are approx.12” x 12” which makes estimating the number of tiles required for a given area an easy task. Many of the all wood tiles and some plastic framed tiles with softwood slats may however be up to 20” x 20” in size, or even larger in some cases. Whilst these can be suitable for large areas or laying as landscape accessories, they are generally not so versatile for smaller areas or areas where tiles must be cut to fit inside confined areas or installed in irregular shaped areas.

All wood tiles designed for installation in exposed exterior situations should be constructed of timber species that are rated as naturally durable under normal conditions and not prone to warping or twisting or significant cracking. There are a number of alternative species with the above properties which are commonly used by wood tile manufacturers and indeed final selection may often be based on preferred colour of the tiles. Hardwood is normally the timber of choice although pressure treated softwood tiles are also available, particularly in larger 2Â’ x 2Â’ tiles. Hardwood species of the highest rated durability include Ipe, Jarrah, Bangkirai, Cumaru, Teak, Tallowwood Other species such as Kempas, Jatoba etc. are rated as slightly lower durability but can also be used in exposed outdoors applications in most circumstances.

Most tiles use wood slats approx.15mm (5/8’) thick. With highly durable and stable lumber species such as Ipe, tiles may be 10 or 12mm thick (approx.1/2”) with no significant disadvantages or apparent longevity issues.