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Concrete Coating

What Are The Cons of a Concrete Overlay?

June 30th, 2023 | 7 min. read

What Are The Cons of a Concrete Overlay?

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If you are considering a concrete overlay for your garage, outdoor patio, or commercial space, you want to weigh the pros and cons of this project.

While concrete overlays have gained popularity over several years, you want to be aware of the potential drawbacks you may encounter. 

Southwest Exteriors has been a San Antonio remodeling company since 1989 and has offered concrete coatings from Penntek for years. 

These high-quality polyurea and epoxy coatings, paired with our expert installation, ensure your coating won't only transform your space but will last. 

However, before investing in any project, you want to know any potential cons or issues you may run into to better understand if this project is worth investing in. 

Let's look into what a concrete overlay is and some of the major cons. 


What is a Concrete Overlay?

Before diving into the cons, let's first define a concrete overlay and how it works.

Essentially, a concrete overlay is a thin layer of concrete applied over an existing surface. This method can be used to update or improve the appearance of driveways, patios, garage floors, and other concrete surfaces.


Common Uses for Concrete Overlays

Concrete overlays are often used to cover up ugly concrete and damaged surfaces. You can also use them to enhance the appearance of outdoor or indoor spaces.

For example, a concrete overlay can give a plain concrete pool deck an attractive, slip-resistant finish.

Another common use for concrete overlays is to add texture or patterns to a concrete surface. This can be achieved through stamping, stenciling, or engraving the overlay. The result is a unique and personalized look that can give off the look of more expensive materials such as brick, stone, or tile.

Concrete overlays are also a popular choice for commercial and industrial applications. They can be used to create durable and long-lasting surfaces that can withstand heavy foot and vehicle traffic.

Concrete overlays can also be customized to meet specific safety requirements, such as slip resistance or fire resistance.


The Benefits of Concrete Overlays

Now, we know you're here to learn about the drawbacks of concrete overlays. But first, let's highlight some of their major benefits. 

One of the main benefits of using a concrete overlay is its cost-effectiveness. A thin layer of overlay can be applied instead of tearing out and replacing an entire concrete surface, saving time and money. 

Concrete overlays are also low-maintenance and easy to clean, making them a practical choice for busy homeowners and commercial property owners.

Another benefit of using a concrete overlay is its versatility. Concrete overlays can be customized to match any design or color scheme, making them a popular choice for both residential and commercial applications.

They can also be used on both interior and exterior surfaces, making them a great option for creating a cohesive look throughout a property.


Potential Issues with Concrete Overlays

While there are many benefits to using concrete overlays, they are not without their challenges. Here are some of the most common problems homeowners and contractors may face.


1. Surface Preparation Challenges

Overlays require a clean and dry surface to adhere to. This means the surface must be free of oil, grease, paint, and other contaminants.

If the surface is not properly prepped, the overlay may not bond correctly and can lead to delamination.

To ensure that the overlay bonds correctly, it is important to hire a professional contractor who has experience with surface preparation. A lack of experience or knowledge regarding surface prep can result in a failed project, and you will need to hire another contractor to fix the problem. This will add to the overall cost of the project.

Additionally, it is important to note that surface preparation can be time-consuming. This means that if you are on a tight schedule, an overlay may not be the best option for your project.


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2. Moisture-Related Problems

Moisture is the enemy of overlays. Any moisture that is trapped between the overlay and the existing surface can cause the overlay to fail.

This means that if an overlay is applied in an area that is prone to moisture, such as a basement or a pool deck, it is necessary to take extra precautions.

To prevent moisture-related problems, it is essential to ensure that the existing surface is properly sloped away from your house. A slope will help in channeling water away from your property to avoid any potential damage.

Additionally, it is important any water can be properly drained away from the area where the overlay will be applied.


3. Incompatibility with Existing Substrate

Not all existing concrete surfaces are compatible with overlays. An overlay will not improve the situation if the substrate has significant structural problems or cracks. The existing concrete also needs to be in good condition if you plan to cover it with an overlay.

It is important to note that overlays are not a solution for all concrete problems. If your existing concrete has significant structural problems, it may be necessary to remove and replace the concrete rather than applying an overlay.

Additionally, it is important to consider the type of overlay that you plan to use. Some overlays are better suited for certain types of concrete than others. It is important to consult with a professional contractor to determine the best type of overlay for your specific situation.


4. Aesthetic Limitations of Concrete Overlays

While decorative overlays offer a lot of aesthetic potential, there are still some limitations to keep in mind. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Limited Design Options

Concrete overlays come in many different colors and textures, but the design options are limited. The contractor will be able to apply different finishes, including stains, stencils, and stamps but will not have unlimited design options.

The effect can replicate any particular design, but it cannot feel like the real thing, which limits limitations the creativity and authenticity of your design ideas.

Difficulty in Achieving a Consistent Finish

It can be challenging to have consistent results when working on a large area. 

Before the project begins, discuss the finish you want to achieve with your contractor. This helps them accurately determine if their team can deliver the desired final product and if any extra costs will be incurred.

Potential for Discoloration

Some concrete overlays are prone to discoloration from stains, UV exposure, and other factors. The concrete may also develop hairline cracks over time, which can be disappointing because it can seem that the concrete is not entirely new.

To ensure your overlay does not discolor or develop hairline cracks, it is necessary to work with professional installers who offer a quality warranty.


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5. Durability and Maintenance Concerns

It's critical to consider the durability and maintenance requirements of your chosen concrete coating type. Here are some potential problems to plan for when it comes to durability and maintenance. 

Susceptibility to Cracking

The thin concrete layer of overlays, like other thin materials, is more susceptible to cracking than traditional concrete surfaces. When you are applying the overlay, make sure to perform your surface preparation correctly.

This can minimize the potential risks of cracking, standard wear and tear, and other issues that might affect the long-term durability of your overlay.

Wear and Tear Over Time

Like any other flooring material, overlays are vulnerable to wear and tear over time. Subsequently, if you intend to use a concrete overlay in an area that receives a lot of foot traffic, it is critical to make sure that you prepare the surface correctly.

A weak or poorly prepared surface could not bear the weight of foot traffic, leading to damage and deformed spots.

Maintenance Requirements

Concrete overlays require routine maintenance to preserve their appearance and durability. Ensure the company your work with follows the installation instructions correctly and puts in the extra effort to care for the concrete once the project is completed.

Maintenance may include regular cleanings, re-sealing, and occasional repairs.


Is a Concrete Overlay Right For You? 

Concrete overlays are a fabulous renovation option for homeowners looking for an affordable project to transform their space. However, like any home renovation project, it is essential to weigh the potential benefits against the challenges.

If you're interested in investing in a concrete coating for your home or commercial space, it is crucial you find the right company to work with. 

By hiring a professional contractor, taking extra precautions in moisture-prone areas, and ensuring that your existing concrete is in good condition, you can avoid many of the issues that can arise with concrete overlays.

If you work with a faulty contractor, you risk running into more problems with your concrete coating, costing you more in repairs and maintenance in the long run. 

But how do you find the right concrete overlay company for you? 

Check out this article that outlines 10 questions to ask a concrete coating contractor during a consultation to ensure you get all your questions answered and find a trustworthy company to work with. 


Ready To Transform Your Space With A High-Quality Concrete Coating? 

Southwest Exteriors offers high-quality polyurea and epoxy concrete coatings from Penntek. 

Our installation crews are professionally trained to properly prepare your concrete surface and install your coating in as little as just one day. Walk on it that night and park your cars on it the next day. 

Ready to elevate your space? Schedule your commitment-free consultation with a design consultant today!