Driveway painting is a very basic, relatively easy DIY project. Here are what I see as the best driveway paint products that are best at standing up to the elements. Read also about putting asphalt sealer down. Concrete is another animal: here are my concrete posts.
Selling your house? The driveway is the first thing people see: major “curb-side appeal”–Literally.
- Whether you are doing lines or doing the entire road, driveway paint colors are available online for free shipping, amazingly.
- These can be applied to concrete or black-top.
- Concrete driveway paint will last a long time but…. the key is good surface preparation.
This post has info for concrete and for asphalt, already painted or not, including walls and steps as well.
See my fun video at the bottom: amazing black top painters!
Sealing an asphalt coating? I have an opinion: don’t seal it. Read my view, bottom of this page.
Painting basketball or tennis courts, or curbs or handicap parking? Jump down to the section on Traffic Paint.
Not sure if you want to paint? Compare:
- Stain penetrates the top layer (about 1/16 inch) and leaves no residue on top.
- Driveway paint (includes concrete and asphalt paint) bonds to the surface, has some thickness and needs regular maintenance.
Stains can (some must) be clear-coated to keep the water out. I’m against clear coating in general as you end up with a mess when the time comes to re-do.
Costs of Painting a Driveway
My motto: there is never an occasion to buy low-cost paint, even if you want a quick-sale facelift, or if you are a landlady/lord. It is always more expensive in the long run.
And if you are selling: how do you feel about doing a bad job for your fellow citizen?
- 3 gallons of the “2-K” epoxy (product below) is about two hundred bucks (for one coat: some people like 2).
- a bit more than 2 gallons “1-K” driveway paint (below), so I would buy 3, for under a hundred bucks. But it won’t last as long.
Every coat multiplies the cost.
Aim to have leftovers and store it well for annual touch-ups (next section).
Please consider my philosophy here: if you spend more on quality paint and spend more time doing the prep very well, you’ll spend less time and money in the long run.
Sort of related: Brad’s 5 points of painting philosophy.
There are lots of paint companies using poor raw materials, but charging nearly as much as the good stuff. Get the good stuff.As a pro, I have never recommended low-cost paint as it makes me look bad!
How long does driveway paint last?
Today’s paints are far better today than just 20 years ago.
The ones I recommend here, some will require a primer and some not. I mention that in the description.
Here is my review of concrete driveway paint:
I picked only quality coatings—ones that will last.
These all resist “hot tire pick-up”. Even cars that come down a long gravel road in the winter have warm tires. Hot tires on paint? Terrible.
Driveway paint: what are the best concrete driveway paints today?
An all American company you probably never heard of has been making specialty coatings for a long time. It’s well-known in construction, but they do not cater too much to the homeowner. Enter online shopping.
AdCoat makes high-performance coatings like epoxy and so on. Their driveway paint is 2nd to none. Check their price here.
Primer? Not required if the new (but ‘aged’) concrete is clean and dry. Old, pre-painted concrete must be de-glossed, clean and dry (see the ‘prep’ section below). So it’s self-priming which basically means it requires two coats. I contacted Adcoat and they confirmed: yes, most applications need two.
It’s not really a true paint: it’s “100%” epoxy. That means no evaporation and the layer is very thick. If you don’t know the difference between 100% and other types of epoxy, read this. This coating hardens without evaporating. If you don’t use it all, it hardens in the can after you combine the 2 parts. But it has a surprisingly long 6-hour pot life (before it’s unworkable). many have a pot life of less than an hour. Smoke that Willie Nelson.
- Interior/exterior, covers about 250 square feet (2 coats recommended, but not necessary)
- Won’t yellow in the sun
- Use on concrete, aged asphalt, brick, wood, primed metal and previously painted surfaces
- Spray or brush/roll (my advice, don’t spray epoxy as there is no cleaning the hose if any hardens)
- Dries to touch in 2 hours, walk-on in 12
- 7 days for full cure/auto traffic
- Fine for wood, but use on interior wood only
- Only comes gray and light gray, which is what we all want anyway says them
Concrete only: One-part “epoxy”. Wha?
There is no such thing as a good ‘true paint’ for driveways: only epoxies will make you happy.
I like Kilz 1-part epoxy interior/exterior garage floor paint for driveway paint. It’s resistant to damage from chemicals, and oil.
The best driveway paints have more total ‘solids’ in the solution and therefore leave a thicker coating. They also bond better.
- For previously painted concrete, follow the prep instructions in the TDS* below
- For new untreated concrete: a primer is best. Use this primer, the best concrete primer available. Ignore cost!
Like all good garage/driveway paint, it resists hot tire pickup and can take other heavy activity except for fork-lifts!
- Water-based, but surface must be very dry before applying
- Slate Gray or Silver Gray only
- Only use on uncoated concrete, masonry, brick
- Satin finish (slightly more glossy than ‘matte’ or ‘flat’ finish)
- Dries to touch in 2 hours, recoat in 4 hours
- Apply 2 thin-ish coats
- Satin finish (not much gloss)
- Covers 400-500 sq. ft. per gallon (smooth surfaces) and 300-400 on rough surfaces
- Not for use on vertical walls
- Spray or brush/roll
* Here is the full TDS (technical data sheet) that gives complete instructions.
Asphalt only: Coal tar epoxy, 2-component
Oil-based, black (matte finish) and only available in 5-gallon pale and it’s gonna cost you.
In the paint name, “Partial fill” means the pale is 5-gal. capacity but only comes with 4 gallons. You add one gallon of the activator sold here.
Big tip: don’t try to adjust for 2 gal to 1/2 gal. You won’t get it right unless you use a measuring cup and if you miss, you ruin your driveway. That’s the voice of an old, tired, so very tired, painter.
- One gallon of the mix covers only 100 to 130 sq. ft./gal. (1/4 what most normal paints cover).
- Industrial/marine environments
- One hour pot life: this means it hardens in the can in one hour. So have your buddy cut the edges while you roll unless you have a small job. Get a drill paint stirrer to cut your mixing time to nothing. Why waste 5-10 precious minutes?
- Drying time is at least 18 hours in a dry hot climate up to 1.5 days for humid.
- Apply only when the air temp is above 50F and below 100F.
- Protects against severe abrasion, strong chemicals and immersion in water
For some interesting driveway paint ideas, check out this video: this guy is doing a great job.
How to Paint a Driveway
Personally, I love to paint driveways and floors: gravity does most of the work. Cha-ching.
1. Picking the perfect day
- Check the 5-day forecast. You want at least a 2-day window of warm, but not scorching hot weather. Also, try to paint when the sun is low: the direct sun will dry it too fast, as will intense heat. (Today’s 5-day is as accurate as the 1-day was in the 80’s! Computer modelling!)
I like to start early in the morning before the sun beats down. When the surface gets hot, the paint dries too fast and you see all the boundaries of where you rolled. That’s why you want to keep that “wet edge”.
Painting with strong work lights after sundown is a good idea too. I never do that, however!
2. Materials needed
- Brush: a homeowner should buy one for life and keep it well maintained. This one will last you for life. But for epoxy, I say buy a decent one, not too expensive, and toss it when done. They become very hard to clean at the end of the ‘pot-life’ of the epoxy. This is the same kind of brush, but a bit wider.
- Roller handle: avoid the budget ones because when you push them they bend and break. Buy one for life. The cost of this one is really low and it works with any broom/paint pole or with the ‘sher-lock’ type pole.
- Roller cover: almost all floor paints recommend a 3/8 inch nap. Check if your product wants a different one, but this will do. Using epoxy coatings, I use this same roller cover. If you plan to do 2 coats, buy 2 rollers because the one from the first coat will be as hard as a rock when it cures!
- Crack filler (explained below) if you need it.
- De-greasing cleaner (explained below).
- Not much else is needed. Some rags and any paint removal tools like scrapers or wire brush. Gloves are very helpful once you get going.
See my complete tools page for every pro tool I use. They really don’t cost that much. Poor tools cost more in the end.
3. Old sealed/painted vs. new concrete
Generally for untreated concrete (aged at least one month), thorough cleaning and drying are usually all it takes. Lucky you.
Clean. This is for all concrete driveway paint jobs. This is yet another reason to buy a pressure washer. They remove paint, clean decks, and wash cars too. I plan to buy the Sun Joe medium-powered unit, but they make bigger ones. I have an old one for now. It. Just. Won’t. Die.
Definitely use a rotating tip on your pressure washer. You’ll want that for all you wash to protect from damage.
The majority of failed coatings are the result of the surface being dirty or too wet: poor prep!
Expansion joints in the concrete should be replaced or repaired before you paint or seal. It’s not so hard to do. Here is a quick list of how-to change your driveway’s expansion joints.
- Oil stains? TSP works fine, but remember it’s a lot nastier than some very good pre-mixed cleaners. Wash TSP off very well. I use Oil Eater which you dilute for a very inexpensive, biodegradable, and effective cleaner. Excellent for kitchens when properly diluted too.
- Don’t use baking soda as it leaves a residue. Whatever you use to clean old concrete, bad oil spots that have years of drips may take a few treatments.
- Final wash. This is done best with a pressure washer (shown above). I use mine to prep any surface for outdoor staining or painting. It’s like a miracle. You can rent them too for almost a hundred per day! Why not buy one for just 20 clams more?
- Dry well. This might be a few days ( so deep in the cracks can dry).
- Last prep: Now that it’s clean, look for any holes or cracks. Fill them with a good driveway concrete crack filler, a gravity-fed choice and thin enough to penetrate. Paintable: just sand and clean with rubbing alcohol to allow a good bond to paint.
Do I need to prime concrete before painting? No, generally, driveway paints made for concrete you do not need a primer. My recommendations above do not need primers if the slab is prepped correctly. But a primer never hurts. The key is good prep!
Actual painting: the easy part
- Cut. Whether you start with primer or paint, begin with the cut along the edges and any expansion joints with a good paintbrush. See the ‘materials’ section above for my recommendations.
- Roll. Work in squares with your roller. Most paints call for a 3/8 inch nap. All the ones I use are on my tools page.
- Recoat? Depending on the paint, you may need a 2nd coat, but probably not a 3rd. If you bought more paint than you need, it keeps for many, many years. Read about old paint here.
Make it reflective
Glass beads, but don’t mix the beads in your pan or bucket! You must “broadcast” or toss them onto the wet paint on the floor as evenly as you can. Paint a section with your roller/sprayer etc, then toss.
How much? You would use 6 pounds of beads per gallon of paint, or 4.5 lbs. for the 3-quart mix in the recommended traffic paint above. No need to be too precise.
The beads that don’t find your paint can be vacuumed and used again (if you use a shop vac that you can open easily).
Graphic above courtesy St. Louis public radio. Reflection beads in paint is one of the best painting concrete driveway ideas I’ve ever seen.
Make it slip-proof
Slippery when wet? You bet paint is. Ever watch the Indy 500 on a wet day? They hit the paint and wreck. Some driveway paint is non-slip, but you can always add texture.
Use silica: not beach sand! You will read some big-name ‘handyman’ websites (Bob) telling you to add sand. Don’t do it. The grains are uneven and are generally too large. They’ll easily catch and rip, and start your peeling.
Don’t mix the silica in your paint! After you roll/brush/spray each section, ‘broadcast’ or uniformly toss the silica and let it dry. Presto.
I’ve seen websites telling you to dump into your bucket. Jeez. It sinks to the bottom. Duh Bob. Wow. Hmm, ole Bob.
You can toss these color flakes, but this is something usually done only indoors.
I’ve never seen flakes on an outdoor driveway. You could be first if you’re brave. Nah.
It’s an endless cycle of hurt. Don’t do it.
The Washington Post agrees: don’t do it!
Ever wonder what the roadway painters use?
Thermoplastic striping consists of pigments and glass beads to be highly visible at night. Heated up, it melts and then forms very thick lines and symbols. Its use means there’s no need to shut down your driveway just to paint it.
Plus the video at the bottom: wow.
All you could ever want to know is in this government document on pavement marking.
Any comments, please feel free. I’ll see your comment within a day, usually. Thanks.