Getting your brick, concrete or stone patio ready for summer fun is as easy as 1-2-3. There are just three easy steps to follow, and you’ll be ready for barbecuing and entertaining before you know it!
Get things ready
Start by removing any furniture, planters or other objects that are sitting out on the patio. Next, give the patio a good sweeping with a push broom to clean it off. Avoid the temptation to use a pressure washer, as the hard spray can damage the bricks and break out loose mortar joints.
Now inspect the condition of the patio and see if anything needs to be repaired. You may have bricks that are loose, mortar that’s missing, or concrete that’s cracked. Depending on the nature and the extent of the damage, make whatever repairs are necessary. You can find replacement bricks, mortar mix, mortar patching compound, and other repair materials at home centers and other retailers that carry masonry and concrete supplies.
Wash the patio
Your next step is going to be a thorough washing of the patio, which will remove dirt, mildew and other grime that’s keeping the surface from looking its best. For that, you’ll want to use an oxygen-based bleach.
This is not the type of chlorine bleach you use in the laundry. Oxygen-based bleaches are powdered, and are designed to be mixed with water. They’re safe for a variety of surfaces, won’t harm plants and other landscaping, and won’t bleach the color out of surrounding wood.
Mix the powdered bleach with water in a 5-gallon bucket according to the manufacturer’s instructions. And while these products are generally very safe, be sure to follow any of the manufacturer’s instructions for proper clothing or other safe-handling procedures. Stir the mixture well to be sure the powder is completely dissolved in the water.
Depending on how large of an area you have to clean, you can either dip a scrub brush in the solution and wash the patio one section at a time, or simply pour the solution out onto the patio and then scrub it with a stiff push broom. Most oxygen bleach solutions will instruct you to allow the solution to remain in contact with the surface for anywhere from five to 30 minutes before you begin scrubbing, so be sure to time it according to the package instructions.
Work across the patio in sections, flooding and scrubbing each area in turn until you’ve done the entire patio. The important thing is that you not allow the solution to sit and dry, because that will leave a white residue behind.
Rinse the solution off the patio with water from a garden hose. You can also use a pressure washer set to low pressure, with a wide spray tip. Be sure you rinse off all the solution, and allow the patio to dry completely before moving on to step 3.
Seal the patio
The final step is to apply a sealer. The sealer will seal the bricks or concrete to prevent moisture from getting in, which has a couple of benefits. During the summer months, the sealer helps prevent dirt from penetrating into the surface of the patio, so it’s easier to rinse it off and keep things clean. During the winter, the sealer repels water, so it’s less likely to get down into cracks in the masonry where it can freeze and expand, causing significant damage over time. And year-round, the sealer makes the masonry look nice!
You want to use a sealer that’s specifically formulated for use on exterior masonry surfaces, and you can get them at home centers, paint stores, hardware stores and other retailers. Most are oil-based, and they dry with very little sheen to them.
The sealer can be applied with a brush, pump-up garden sprayer, or paint roller. Brushes work well for small areas, or for areas where you want to control the application to prevent getting the material on other surfaces. Sprayers are fast for large surfaces, especially if you have rough surfaces or a lot of vertical areas, but you have to watch the overspray. A roller helps the sealer penetrate, and works best for large flat surfaces.
Apply the sealer on a day when the temperatures are within the recommended range. If it’s too cold, it won’t dry; and if it’s too hot, it’ll dry too fast. You also need to apply it at a time when it has sufficient time to dry before any rain comes — usually within a couple of hours. Complete application and drying instructions are on the can, and will vary between manufacturers.