This patio makeover gets a kick start from a fresh paint job on an ugly concrete block wall. Further proof that paint really does fix everything!
This month I’m tackling a patio makeover that all started last year with our new gazebo. We installed the gazebo, loved how it looked and functioned, and immediately wanted to fix up the rest of the backyard but got distracted by summer activities with two kids. (The best kind of distraction!)
Now that the weather is getting nice again, my husband is planning several sprinkler and landscaping upgrades, and I’m looking for ways to get out of digging ditches with him. So I’m painting instead!
I want to make this back patio an oasis for outdoor living and dining. Right now it’s functional (the shade from the gazebo helps!), but it needs a little more decorating to make it feel inviting and comfortable.
I plan on painting the table and chairs, adding some lighting, and generally brightening up the whole area with color and accessories. But first, I needed to do something about our ugly cinder block wall.
Here in Albuquerque unpainted block walls are a common building material, and great for privacy. But they can look a little, well, institutional. And mine looked especially bad because previous owners had added on rows over the years, causing several color variations that just looked cheesy.
I thought about stuccoing the walls or creating a faux stone wall, but that was waaaay out of our budget. So you know my motto: when in doubt, paint it!
I love how clean it looks now with a fresh coat of paint, and once we put in some more plants and trees I think it’ll be the perfect backdrop for some greenery.
Painting a Concrete Block Wall
As we were working, I came up with a few tips to share with you if you decide to try painting a concrete wall at home. I can’t say it was super fun and easy, but it wasn’t technically difficult. It just took some time, and a couple of extra hands. And 7 gallons of paint!
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Picking Colors and Paint
We chose a neutral warm gray for our wall because we wanted a good backdrop for greenery. The color is “Stone Mason” by Valspar, which seemed like an apt description of what we’d be painting over.
While I didn’t give it much thought at the time, it turned out to be a good thing that the new color was similar in tone to the concrete blocks. It made it so much easier to cover the concrete color without having to put on extra coats.
While the new color is somewhat similar to the old, it’s a much warmer brown-gray, and more like a color you’d see in nature. That makes it feel much more cozy and less like a prison yard when you look out our back window.
Color Picking Tip: Exterior walls will generally look a little lighter and brighter in real life (especially in daylight) than the sample suggests. Something about painting a color over a large area and then shining full sun on it makes the color seem a little less deep and dark than when you’re looking at a picture or color swatch. Don’t be afraid to go a little darker when picking colors for a wall.
We used Valspar Duramax Exterior paint in a Flat finish. I thought we’d need a masonry surfaces paint or elastomeric paint for the porous surface of the blocks, but the paint guy told me this would work better in our sprayer, and he was right. The exterior latex paint has a much more liquid consistency than masonry paint does and it made it easy to apply, both with the roller and the sprayer.
Time will tell how well it holds up to the weather and elements. I’ll try to remember to update this post next year and tell you how it’s doing.
Update: It’s been a year since we painted our fence, and this durable paint has held up amazingly well. No peeling or fading whatsoever. I guess the paint guy was right!
Let me throw a disclaimer in here before I tell you what we used. First I’ll tell you that if I’d had access to a commercial grade paint sprayer, that would have been the way to go for this project.
With such large areas to cover, a professional sprayer would have helped. But that’s one tool I don’t have in my arsenal (yet), so I relied on my trusty little Homeright Finish Max and a traditional roller. I was impressed by how well they got the whole thing done!
Here’s what we used to paint our block wall:
- Valspar Duramax Exterior Paint, flat finish, color: “Stone Mason”
- Heavy texture paint roller – at least 3/4″ or 1″ nap roller to get into all the texture of the blocks
- Extendable roller handle
- Homeright Finish Max paint sprayer
That’s all there is to it, not a lot of finesse or fancy tools required to do this job!
Tips and Tricks to Make the Painting Process Easier
Speaking of the best way to do this job, here are a few things we found as we went that made it easier:
- The first step is to use a broom, scrub brush, or a pressure washer to completely clear away any dust, debris, cobwebs, or old paint from your wall before getting started. This will help the paint adhere better to the concrete surface for a smoother and more durable finish. (As with any painting project, taking a few minutes for proper preparation before you even apply your first coat of paint will make the whole job go better.)
- Take a few minutes to rake the rocks or dirt away from the base of the wall before painting. You’ll get a cleaner edge when you’re done, without accidentally painting your ground cover or having to put down a drop cloth.
- Work in the shade! Working in direct sunlight was not only hot and sweaty, but it was actually hard to see where the paint was going. The sun washed out the difference between the concrete block color and the wet paint color.
- Use your roller around any edges of the wall that you don’t want to worry about overspray. The HomeRight sprayer doesn’t have a large overspray area, so one roller-width should do it.
- This is a two-step job, but if you have two people, you can do both steps simultaneously. We found it easiest to have one person roll on the first coat over the flat parts of the bricks, while the other person used the sprayer to fill in all the gaps (grout lines and highly textured areas) and give it a finish coat. It doesn’t matter which goes first, so we kind of leap-frogged our way around the yard.
- Couldn’t you just do one or the other? Yes, but it takes a lot more time with either the roller or the sprayer to get into all the nooks and crannies of the block. (This wouldn’t be a problem with a professional sprayer, but we’re working with what we got here!) Plus we got a built-in second coat on the wall as we went.
The Next Step for our Patio
Now that we have our backdrop painted, we can get busy planting pretty greenery. I’ll happily leave this job up to my family, as I’m known as the plant killer.
For me, it’s time to move on to our seating area. I’ve got plans for better mood lighting, perhaps a fun outdoor rug, and updating the furniture with paint. That should keep me busy for a while! Be sure to check back for those updates throughout the month.
And let me know if you have any questions about painting your concrete block wall. I’m always happy to help. (With the questions, not the actual work!)
- Valspar Duramax Exterior Paint - I used Stone Mason
- Heavy texture roller – at least 3/4″ or 1″
- Extendable roller handle
- Homeright Finish Max paint sprayer
- Use a broom or a pressure washer to clear away any dust, debris or cobwebs from your wall.
- Rake the rocks or dirt away from the base of the wall before painting.
- Use your roller to paint around any edges that you don’t want to worry about overspray.
- Roll on the flat parts of the paint.
- Use the sprayer to fill in all the gaps.
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HomeRight Power Flo Pro 2800 C800879 Airless Paint Sprayer Spray Gun, Power Painting for Home Exterior, Fence, Shed, and Garage 2800 psi, 0.24 gpm
HomeRight C800766, C900076 HomeRight Finish Max Paint Sprayer HVLP Electric Spray Gun, 1 Nozzle Sprays All, Superior Brass Spray Tip, 3 Spray Patterns
Purdy 144630095 Colossus Roller Cover, 9 inch x 1 inch nap