Exterior concrete wall finishes vary in type and expense. You can install stone veneer, which comes in an array including man-made stone, stucco (the cheaper of the two), brick veneer (a bit more difficult to install), and paint, which can be applied quickly and easily but is the most generic of all. You can install your own exterior concrete wall finish in two to three days, depending on the size of the project.
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Cultured stone can be applied as an exterior concrete wall finish. You will need to purchase the stones from a stone supplier, usually found in your local phone book. You can also find a supplier on the web. The stones are applied by sticking them to your concrete wall using type "S" mortar as an adhesive. The mortar is applied to the rear of the flat synthetic stones, and the stone is stuck to the wall in various patterns, much like a puzzle. The wall should be cleaned using muriatic acid before application. Cutting horizontal and vertical lines in the concrete wall will help the mortar bond the stones to the wall. Use a right angle grinder and a concrete cutting wheel to make the 1/2 inch deep cuts. Space the cuts about two inches apart, and criss-cross the vertical and horizontal lines into a grid.
Brick can be purchased at any brick or block supply yard. The bricks must be laid on a foundation that extends from the concrete wall. They are more difficult to install because they must be stacked and kept level and plumb. It is possible to apply a thin brick veneer that is stuck on the wall in the same way as the cultured stone. The brick veneer should be staggered in the same way as regular brick. The veneer sections should begin at the base of the wall in the same way as the regular stacked brick. The difference is that regular bricks are self-supporting, while brick veneer adheres directly to the wall.
You may paint or stain the concrete wall using an acrylic stain/paint. Choose either a penetrating stain, which will seep into the concrete pores, or a concrete paint, which will coat the surface of the concrete wall. The surface should be well cleaned first using TSP(trisodium phosphate), and wire-brushed using a right angle grinder and a wire wheel. This preparation procedure will help the paints and stains stick to the surface.