Give Your Concrete Patio A Unique Textured Look With A DIY Rock Salt Finish

Wondering how to add a bit of character and charm to an otherwise uniform and bland patio concrete? Let's talk about a little trick that can totally flip the script on your outdoor space: rock salt finish. Yes, that humble compound you've been chunking on your icy driveway or sidewalks in the winter can work wonders. The magic of this concrete patio idea happens when rock salt is patted into freshly laid concrete, fashioning a beautifully intricate, pitted texture that's a treat to look at and walk on. Who knew something so straightforward could instantly elevate your concrete patio

So rocking a rock salt finish isn't rocket science, but it does scream "cool." Why? Because not only does it elevate the look of your concrete with subtle sophistication, but it also offers additional traction, making it safer to walk on your patio when the weather throws its tantrums (think rain and snow) and the ground gets slippery. 

For this DIY, you'll need about a pound of rock salt for every 33 square feet of patio concrete. That's about nine pounds for the average patio size, which typically sits at around 270 square feet. And with 10 pounds of rock salt setting you back a mere $3, this project isn't going to drain your wallet. Of course, you might need to shell out for new concrete, but what you're investing in is more than a surface but an experience you'll cherish every time you step outside.

How to do rock finish on concrete

Executing this design idea for your concrete patio begins with cleaning the surface— you don't want dust, leaves, or bits ruining that sleek finish. You could even summon household bleach for that mold and grime clinging to the old concrete. Now, given you are layering fresh concrete over an existing slab, a bonding agent like the Quiktrete Concrete Bonding Adhesive, available for $11.52 at The Home Depot will suffice. Next, follow the manufacturer's instructions to T to whip up the perfect concrete mix, but not without first setting up wooden forms around the perimeter to keep the fresh mixture right where it should be. Go ahead and pour the concrete in, then use a straight board to smooth it out.

You want to give the concrete a moment to set, but timing is everything when it comes to salt application. Leap into action too early, and the salt crystals vanish into the wet cement. Hang back too long, and you're out of luck, like trying to decorate an iced cake. So, aim for that sweet spot where the concrete's firm, but still has a bit of give. Then, sprinkle those salt crystals like you mean it and embed them into the wet concrete with a trowel, magnesium float, or rollers. Let the new slab cure for up to 48 hours, after which you blast the surface with a pressure washer to dissolve excess salt crystals. And there, you've made your patio concrete textured.

Additional hacks for DIY salt rock finish for patios

Looking to spice up your patio concrete with a bit of color? You could go for integral color right off the bat, or for a bit more of a hands-on approach, use a color hardener. Sure, the latter demands more elbow grease, but the payoff is durability and flexibility, as you can jazz up different sections of your slab without investing more in concrete.

As for exactly when to sprinkle rock salt crystals, simply give the applied mixture a gentle poke. If your finger makes an impression about ¼ inch deep without any gooey concrete sticking, you're good to go. Now, when your newly poured slab bonds with the formwork, you might end up doing some unwanted damage when it's time to strip it apart. A simple trick is to brush on motor oil to keep that concrete from sticking, making dismantling the planks a piece of cake. Plus, that timber will be clean and ready for repurposing.

Amidst the enthusiasm, don't skimp on personal safety. Pop on a respirator to fend off cement dust when concocting concrete. You'll also want to gear up with sturdy work boots that support your ankles and tough, alkali-resistant gloves to keep your hands free from the ouches of wet concrete. Rock salt finish doesn't ask for much. However, cleaning your concrete patio gently and often will prevent dirt and muck from piling up, with occasional resealing keeping the surface safe from moisture and stains.