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How to make new concrete objects look old

Give an aged patina to just about any concrete product, from birdbaths to stone benches

You want to spruce up your yard and garden with a concrete birdbath, a stone bench, or maybe a planter. How do you cover that new white look without waiting for time and weather to do the job?

Here are a few ways to use paint and make your new concrete piece look like it has been around for a few hundred years.

This is a messy job. Plan on setting up in an out-of-the-way place. Wear old clothes, especially a shirt with long sleeves, and round up a pair of rubber gloves. Plastic sheeting spread out on the ground will keep splashing contained.

Collect several containers for water and smaller sizes to hold paint. Cut up some old sponges. This project does not require paintbrushes.

A limited palette is all you need. A little paint goes a long way: purchase small cans of exterior latex in the following colors:

Dark Nutty Brown
Medium Brown
Rusty Red
Deep mossy or olive green

Rusty reds may be difficult to find. You want to achieve that real rust look as if the concrete has been sitting under a drainpipe for a long time. The formula for a rust color is approximately 12 parts red, 4 parts yellow, and 2 parts black. Adjust the formula to achieve the type of red you desire.

Pour a little of each of the paint colors into smaller containers to prevent contamination in the original can. The paint will then be watered down by dipping the sponge first in the paint and then into a bowl of water. Do not wring out the sponge. Instead, press the wet sponge on the concrete and let the paint run down from the top and sides.

Add a base of browns and the beige. Then sponge on black for added depth and an old-stone look. Sponge in thicker dabs of paint and then smudge with water to create a dripping effect. Experiment with layering and blending colors. For instance, dab on a green paint then let the rusty red dribble down on top.

Create areas of sponged-on green to give the appearance of moss. Keep adding on layers until you have the desired effect. You can use concrete sealer after the paint has dried. Reapply sealer every three or four years.

You now have a piece that will fit beautifully into the landscape and look as if it has been there a very long time.

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