Q: I enjoy your column and have a question for you. We built a home last year and have a concrete patio at the rear. It already has a crack in it (not very large) and it’s starting to stain. I would like to improve the appearance. What would be the best choice? Paint it, carpet it (I do not like the look of the turf like outdoor carpeting), lay down a stone covering over it, or something else? It is fully exposed, and we live where the winters are not very cold but the summers can get very hot. There are few trees around it so leaf stains are not really an issue.

Q: I enjoy your column and have a question for you. We built a home last year and have a concrete patio at the rear. It already has a crack in it (not very large) and it’s starting to stain. I would like to improve the appearance. What would be the best choice? Paint it, carpet it (I do not like the look of the turf like outdoor carpeting), lay down a stone covering over it, or something else? It is fully exposed, and we live where the winters are not very cold but the summers can get very hot. There are few trees around it so leaf stains are not really an issue. We keep our grill, a few chairs and a patio table on it. It gets direct sun about half the day. Suggestions?

A: If the patio is low enough in relation to any doors so that adding a layer on top won’t cause any height issues, my recommendation would be to add a new decorative layer of masonry on top of the concrete. This will add resale value, and also be easy to maintain. Depending on your preferences and what would go well with the house, you might consider bricks, tile (look for exterior floor tiles, also called paver tiles), flagstones or other materials. Lighter colors will reflect the sun to some degree, but be aware that any masonry surface will absorb heat, about to the same degree as the original concrete patio.

Again depending on the height in relation to doors, another thing to consider would be a layer of stamped, colored concrete on top of the old patio. A good concrete-stamping contractor can offer an amazing selection of colors and patterns that look great and hold up very well.

BUY NEW OR IMPROVE?

Q: With so much inventory in the housing market for sale, is it better to build new, or buy and improve?

A: When you have a down market like this one, in my opinion it’s the best time to buy and improve. You have a better chance of finding a good bargain on a fixer-upper, perhaps even a foreclosure, and with sweat equity you have a good chance of making a nice profit when it comes time to resell the house when the market picks up again.

If you decide to go this route, concentrate your remodeling efforts on rooms such as the kitchen and bathrooms, stay neutral with your color choices, and also look at the curb appeal aspects of the landscaping and exterior. I like to use a philosophy of quality over quantity: do good work; use good materials; always get the necessary building permits; and don’t cut corners like you see on too many television "house flipping" programs. …CONTINUED

DO I NEED AN AIR COMPRESSOR?

Q: Thanks for your article on air compressors. I was told that the only way to remove ceramic tile from our floor is with an air compressor, and I was actually looking at them today at Home Depot. I’ve been doing it manually because I’m not in a hurry, but the mud is a pain to remove. Should I consider an air compressor? I would be using it only for this task and then see no other application for it. So I hate to spend the money if there is an alternative that I can use over time.

Thanks in advance for your advice!

A: First of all, it’s important to understand that all an air compressor does is compress air so that it achieves a high-enough pressure to be able to power different tools, such as air guns. The only way I can think of that an air compressor would help you out with your tile-removal task is if you also purchased some type of air-powered chisel to chip up the mud — which would definitely be faster and easier than chipping it all up by hand.

As far as other applications, an air compressor is actually a very useful piece of equipment to have if you do much home improvement work. It will power a wide variety of nailers, from large framing nailers to smaller finish nailers and staplers, as well as paint-spraying equipment and inflation accessories. There are currently a number of air compressor/nailer combinations available at many home centers and hardware stores that offer you a good opportunity to get a top-quality, name-brand compressor with one or two nailers and even a hose, all for a very good price. You could then also purchase a basic air chisel for less than $50 to help with your tile removal. With any of these applications, always remember to wear both eye and hearing protection.

If you don’t think you’ll have any future use for the air compressor and you don’t want to buy one, you can always rent one at any rental yard, along with the air chisel.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.

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