5 Ways to Use Concrete to Enhance a Small Outdoor Living Space

By Anne Balogh, ConcreteNetwork.com

A small backyard is often a detriment to selling a home, especially to potential buyers with big families. Although you can’t make your yard larger, you can make it more appealing and functional through the use of decorative concrete. Here are five ideas and tips for using concrete to create a small outdoor sanctuary that makes a significant impact.

1. Install a Stamped Concrete Patio

Backyard patios don’t have to be giant rectangular slabs. Rectangular shapes aren’t always practical and often don’t optimize the space, especially in smaller yards where square footage is at a premium. Stamped concrete patios can be poured in any shape or size and give you an array of decorative options not possible with other patio materials. You can choose from several different stone and brick patterns and even wood-grained textures. Your concrete contractor can also color your patio to look identical to natural stone or customize the color to complement your home and landscape by using stains, powdered pigments, and antiquing agents.

Stamped Concrete Patio, Round Patio
Concrete Patios
Salzano Custom Concrete
Aldie, VA

Photo courtesy of Salzano Custom Concrete, Aldie, VA.

Design tip: Incorporating curves in a concrete patio will give it greater visual impact while allowing it to integrate more naturally into a tight space. Also, consider setting off your patio by adding a stained border in a contrasting color. Colored borders are especially effective when used to outline free-form patio shapes, but they also work well with square or oval designs.

2. Add Built-In Seating

Installing free-standing concrete seat walls helps to define outdoor rooms and highlight focal points. They also make great borders for patios and can provide extra seating for guests. The walls can be straight or curved and finished with stone, stucco, or a stamped pattern. Concrete seat walls with the look of tumbled or chiseled stone are especially popular because of their natural rustic texture.

Outdoor Fire Pits
Hart Concrete Design
Costa Mesa, CA

Photo courtesy of Hart Concrete Design, Costa Mesa, CA.

Design tip: For a cohesive look, coordinate your seat walls with your stamped concrete patio by using a similar pattern and color. Build the seat wall along a portion of the patio rather than all the way around it, so as not to close off the space and inhibit traffic flow.

3. Warm Things Up with a Concrete Fire Pit

Adding a concrete or masonry fire pit to an outdoor space enhances backyard enjoyment by providing warmth, light, ambiance, and even a cooking source. In addition to creating a campfire-like atmosphere, a fire pit can also become an important focal point. You have many choices when it comes to the size, shape, and style of a concrete fire pit. Round, square, and octagonal shapes are all options, depending on the size of your space. You can also face your fire pit with stone or stamped concrete to complement the look of your patio.

Exposed Aggregate, Sunken Patio
Exposed Aggregate
Heritage Bomanite
Fresno, CA

Photo courtesy of Heritage Bomanite, Fresno, CA.

Design tip: Round concrete fire pits often work best in small backyards because they are the perfect shape for guests to gather around and converse without encountering sharp corners. Precast concrete fire bowls are also available that are compact and offer easy setup.  

4. Expand Your Entertainment Options with Concrete Countertops

Do you enjoy outdoor cooking and al fresco dining? Consider adding a concrete countertop to accommodate your existing outdoor grill and provide a convenient surface for food preparation. Concrete countertops are weather resistant and versatile, since they can be formed into any shape to suit the space. A coat of sealer will simplify cleanup by protecting your countertop from stains. If space allows, other amenities, such as concrete bartops and outdoor sinks with plumbing, can be added to expand your entertainment options.


Photo courtesy of Sarché Concrete Design, Dallas, TX

Design tip: Concrete countertops are a great amenity in any outdoor kitchen, especially if you love to entertain. Add a built-in grill and provide ample seating to accommodate small backyard bashes.

5. Soothe the Senses with a Concrete Water Feature

Your small backyard may not be big enough for a swimming pool, but that doesn’t mean it can’t benefit from an attractive water feature. In addition to providing decorative enhancement, outdoor concrete water features serve many practical functions, as well. They can offer movement, in the form of a waterfall, soothing sound, in the form of a fountain or bubbler, and noise screening, in the form of a water wall. With concrete, you can also replicate the appearance of weathered stone or rock to create natural-looking water features without the expense and hassle of hauling around heavy boulders.

Water Feature, La Jolla
Water Features
DC Custom Concrete
San Diego, CA

Photo courtesy of DC Custom Concrete, San Diego, CA.

Design tip: A hollow facade made of concrete panels hides the plumbing for this home’s cascading fountain, which empties into a concrete trough. Vertical water features such as this are the perfect option for a narrow backyard with limited space. The effect is simple, beautiful, and ultra-modern.

Anne Balogh has been a contributing author for ConcreteNetwork.com for nearly 20 years. With a background in concrete construction journalism, she shares valuable tips for ways you can enhance newly placed and existing concrete driveways, patios, pool decks and more. ConcreteNetwork.com can also be found on Facebook and Instagram.