When we bought our house, the one thing I hated about it was the concrete area out the back.
What an eyesore, right? My first instinct was to get it all ripped up and put down some turf, but we quickly realised it was THE BEST THING EVER for our kids, who spent hours riding their bikes and scooters around on it.
So the concrete stayed. And bugged me every time I walked out our back door. For the next three years.
I mean, it was uuuuuugleee. Kind of a cross between a grimy old garage floor and a prison yard. Just the sort of delightful ambience you want for social gatherings.
The area is too undulating to tile successfully, but at one point we got quotes to get it stencilled.
After that $3000 heart attack, it sat unchanged for another couple of years.
Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer. If we couldn’t justify the cost of stencilling, I was gonna have to DIY.
I really wanted to somehow create a tile pattern to make the backyard look like a real entertaining area. I figured if I could paint stripes on a wall, I could create a striped tile pattern on the ground – surely?
I mean… how hard could it be? Right?*
(*Future me looking back and giving a word of sage advice to my trusting, naive self: It will be hard. ‘Kay?)
Closing off my mind to any recognition of my temporary insanity, and bouyed by my hatred and loathing of what I had begun to refer to as The Bunker, I took myself to Bunnings and bought some paving paint. In two colours. I chose a light grey to create my “grout lines”, and a dark charcoal grey for the “pavers”.
I’d planned to use painter’s tape to create my tile lines, ignoring the inner voice telling me that it would
I bought rolls and rolls and rolls of the stuff. Even so, I still had to go back mid-project and get some more. This is a BIG area, y’all.
Step 1: Etch the concrete. This process roughens the concrete to improve adhesion of the paint. I bought my concrete etch at Bunnings. You mix it up with water in a bucket, then slosh it on and use a stiff-bristled broom to kind of sweep it round and cover the whole surface.
I did the whole large end of the area, aaaaaaaand then I ran out before I got round to the smaller area behind the stairs.
I get one kid-free day a week, and this was it. I did not want to waste time driving all the way back to Bunnings to buy more concrete etch and run out of time to actually paint. I examined the area I’d already treated. It didn’t particularly look or feel any different than before. Couldn’t be that important, could it?* I decided to skip this step on the small remaining area.
(*Note from future self: YOU FOOL! You will regret this quite a lot after spending a week measuring and marking and taping and sweating and labouring to paint this area, only to have the paint peel off like wallpaper in that one little section. You will then despair at the thought of going through all that agony again, park the BBQ and some tubs of kids toys on top of the worst bits, and ignore it for the remainder of your days in this house.)
Step 2: Paint the entire concrete area in light grey (the “grout” colour).
I cannot tell you how satisfying it was to see that grimy, ugly concrete (AKA: THE BUNKER) disappear beneath the light grey paint. My mood lifted. I felt invincible. I wanted to hug strangers and kiss puppies. And I don’t even like puppies.
2 hours in. At this point I was pretty sure I was crazy. What had I been thinking? All this work just to tape off some lines and cover it up in a second colour? Why hadn’t I decided to skip the whole tile pattern idea and paint the area ONE colour, like a NORMAL, SANE person would do??
Yep. Definitely crazy. Still… whenever I took a break to lean on my roller and rest my aching back and blistered hands, I gazed at the pretty, clean paint and felt butterflies of love in my belly. (Well, that could have also been hunger. I forgot to eat all day. Must. Finish. First. Coat. Before. Collecting. Kids.)
Ditch project while ahead Tape off tile pattern
I started by using a set square to find a 45 degree angle from the wall of the house. I attempted to use a chalk line to mark out the straight edge, but it wouldn’t apply properly due to the slope of the concrete. Then I figured out it’s actually pretty easy to make a straight line just by taping down one end of the tile tape, then stretching it out taut to the other side of the concrete and pressing it down in between.
I wanted to go for an oversized-tile effect, since it’s such a vast area and I figured small tiles would look too busy. I decided on 65cm square (25.5 inches) as the tile dimension.
To create the next line I measured 65cm out from my taped line at each end of the strip. (I didn’t actually have a ruler that long, so I had to mark, shuffle the ruler along a bit more, and mark again). I used the set square to keep my ruler at a 90 degree angle to the tape so the measurement would be more accurate. Then I just stretched the tape taut between the two marks to make a straight line and patted it down.
I then repeated this again. Many times. Voila – parallel stripes.
Same dealio to create the crossover lines. For my first crossover I used a set square to ensure I had a 90 degree angle from the initial taped line:
From then on it was just a matter of repeating the process, but in the opposite direction – measuring 65cm, marking it at each end, sticking down the tape in between.
Here’s the finished pattern, all taped out:
Step 5: Paint two coats of the “tile” colour (charcoal grey)
Another several hours of my life were involved in this step. I cut in around the edges with a big brush and then rolled a coat, left it to dry, and rolled it again.
You can hardly see the taped-off lines now, unless you look closely. My excitement was building again at this point, because I knew what was coming next.
Step 6: Remove tape!
Angels sang. Flowers sprang up spontaneously in our neglected garden beds. Little bluebirds swooped around me, tweeting merrily. This was the most awesome feeling in the history of DIY-ness.
All that soul-destroying labour had not been in vain.
I’d been worried about bleeding, and there was some here and there. You can see the speckles in the picture below where a bit of the darker paint crept beneath the tape. But it actually didn’t look too bad. I figured I could always touch up those bits later with a small brush if I wanted to, but meanwhile the overall effect was so striking you didn’t really notice the small speckles here and there.
Time to put the outdoor furniture back in place and enjoy our new entertaining area!
The kids were just excited that Mummy had finished painting and they could get back on their trikes and scooters again!
This little tot thinks she’s such a big girl. Hasn’t quite got the hang of making the scooter actually move forward yet, but balancing on it is a good start. 🙂
Here’s one last before and after.
So, the million dollar question. Was it worth the hours and hours (and hours and hours) of work??
Answer: HECK YEAH! Only utter loathing (or temporary insanity) could have driven me to tackle such a mammoth DIY task. But when you get to that point where you know that you JUST CAN’T STAND to live with something for a single second longer, it’s amazing how much energy it gives you to tackle a daunting project.
What’s the most daunting DIY project you’ve taken on? Anyone else ever hit that mid-point where you’re pretty sure you were insane to even attempt it? What do you think about this makeoever – worth the time and effort?? (Please say yes. Otherwise I might cry actual tears. Remember, we’re talking about a week of my life here.) 😉
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