Why DIY Concrete Resurfacing Isn’t an Easy Project

Here are 8 reasons why a concrete overlay should only be installed by a professional.
By Anne Balogh, ConcreteNetwork.com | Published October 27, 2023

Find a Contractor


Decorative Concrete Institute in Temple, GA

Many concrete repair and resurfacing contractors are being kept busy by homeowners who attempted to spruce up a worn concrete patio, driveway, or indoor floor with a decorative overlay but botched the job badly. Unfortunately, this is a scenario that’s becoming all too common as more homeowners watch online tutorials showing how “easy” it is to install an overlay as a cost-cutting do-it-yourself project.

Find contractors: Concrete resurfacing near me

Sure, a DIY concrete resurfacing video may make the process look simple. But it’s far from enough to fully prepare an inexperienced homeowner to do the job correctly. From prep work, to placement, to final finishing, putting down a concrete overlay can be tricky and it takes time and experience to master the techniques required.

1. Good Surface Prep Is Key

Although an overlay can disguise some surface imperfections in concrete, such as stains and hairline cracks, it can’t correct major damage or adhere to a deteriorating base layer. An expert can identify these issues and will know what surface prep is required to ensure a successful outcome. Overlooking the prep work, or not doing the job right, is the most common cause of overlay failure.

Learn more about preparing concrete for resurfacing.

2. The Right Equipment Is Essential

Homeowners have to be willing to invest in the right equipment if they want to achieve a successful outcome when resurfacing concrete. Although it may be possible to rent the needed tools, experienced contractors already have the proper equipment, most of which can be quite expensive, such a concrete grinder or shotblaster to mechanically abrade the concrete and achieve the right surface profile for overlay adhesion and a pressure washer to remove any residue. This equipment can also be difficult to operate and can damage the concrete if used too aggressively.

Get tips for pressure washing concrete driveways, sidewalks, and patios.

3. There Is No Room for Error

Once an overlay is placed, the installation is permanent and major mistakes made along the way usually can’t be fixed without removing it entirely and starting over (see Fixing Concrete Overlays). Most professional installers have the experience and knowledge it takes to get the job done right the first time. Many will also guarantee their materials and workmanship.

4. Complex Designs Take Skill

The appearance of a concrete overlay has few limitations in color and finish, with looks ranging from stamped patterns to textured finishes. But complex designs often require special creative skills. Decorative concrete contractors know the right overlay products and techniques to use to achieve almost any look imaginable.

See these decorative concrete resurfacing design ideas.

5. Timing Is Critical

Because many concrete overlays are polymer-modified cement-based systems, they will set quickly after you apply them onto the area to be resurfaced (see Concrete Overlay Products & Materials). To minimize inconsistencies in the final appearance, it’s important to complete the process once it begins. This may not be a problem for a DIYer dealing with a small surface area, such as a garage or basement floor. A large driveway, on the other hand, will generally require two or more experienced installers to spread and smooth the overlay uniformly before it hardens.

6. Overlay Thickness Matters

Concrete overlays range in thickness from ultra-thin systems, like microtoppings and skim coats, to self-leveling underlayments that go on at thicknesses of up to an inch or more (see this comparison chart of overlay systems). A pro knows how to best apply each product at the intended thickness. Some types of overlays, such as stampable systems, need to applied thickly enough to accept texture and cover minor imperfections in the substrate.

7. It’s Not a Project for a Weekend Warrior

Even when overlaying a relatively small surface area, a DIYer should expect the process to take a full week to complete from start to finish. This includes the time required to properly prep the surface, apply a primer and base coat before overlay placement, and seal the overlay after it cures. If the job requires the application of stains, dyes, and other decorative treatments, the work could take even longer.

8. You May Not Save Much Money

Although applying an overlay yourself will eliminate labor costs, you still have to purchase all the required materials, tools, and equipment (see Concrete Overlay Cost). What’s more, if you end up being disappointed in the results, either because the appearance isn’t up to your expectations or because the overlay fails soon after installation, you have little recourse but to rip it up and start over. Hiring a pro to do the work is often worth the extra expense and the best way to go if you want to ensure a job well done. An experienced overlay installer can also anticipate potential problems and will know how to avoid them.

Concrete Driveway Resurfacing Guide
Resurfacing Patios: Make Your Patio Look Better with an Overlay
Concrete Pool Deck Resurfacing Guide
Decorative Concrete Overlays for Floors
When to Use a Polymer-Modified Overlay

Find a Contractor By City