Painting Tips by a Professional

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Driveway Paint: The Best One & How To Apply It

All you need to know about driveway paint: not just for curbs and lines… and “how-to” paint driveways and more. Most importantly, my shortlist of driveway paints you can trust. Both are types of epoxy but don’t worry, it’s easy.

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.

The driveway design that you see below was done with a concrete stain. If that is what you have in mind, read about staining concrete.
Driveway paint well applied
Driveway paint well applied can look just as good as this stain.
Just for fun: The US Dept. of Transportation website gives specific requirements for their concrete paints. It’s interesting.

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.

Quiz: what’s wrong with this picture? Answ: bottom.

And if you are selling: how do you feel about doing a bad job for your fellow citizen?

How many coats of driveway paint are typical?
For 2-part epoxy, just one coat. For paints, two is typical, but more than 2 is somewhat a waste of paint.
CostHelper reports: $2-$5 per square ft. for asphalt, $3-$10 for concrete, and $6-$20 for pavers. Ouch.
How cost to paint my driveway?
My driveway is about (40 x 15)  or 600 sq. ft. So checking the coverage I need to buy:
  • 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?

At least 5 years* in normal climates if applied properly.
* Annual maintenance: Every year some degrading will take place, so pick a nice day, find any cracks and scrape the loose stuff off, sand where you will paint, and then clean and let dry, and touch up paint the driveway. You’ll go more much than 5 years if you do this annually, depending on where you live.
Re-coat the whole thing before it gets too bad. This makes your life much easier in the long run. That just means a pressure washing, maybe a little sanding, and re-painting.
Hint: salt is bad for paint’s long life.
Does paint stick to concrete?

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?

Two-part epoxy

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
Here is the full technical data sheet with detailed instructions on mixing etc.
Again, if you do a search online for ‘best paint for concrete driveway’, you won’t find this company, but I trust them. Often contractor paints just don’t advertise like the ones you find easily.
So this is my top recommendation: hands down the best paint for concrete driveway.

Concrete only: One-part “epoxy”. Wha?

There is no such thing as a good ‘true paint’ for driveways: only epoxies will make you happy.

Enter a newer type of product is one-part (“1-K”) epoxy coatings: paint with added epoxy resins in the solution and they are very tough.

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.

Primer?

  • 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
  • Interior/exterior
  • 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

Very tough.

Oil-based, black (matte finish) and only available in 5-gallon pale and it’s gonna cost you.

But you do get great paint. Also, Watco has a great product and how-to video, but it’s very expensive. Still, it’s worth it.

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.

Painted asphalt

 

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

Whether you are just painting some lines or painting the whole thing…
Timing is everything. You want a cool day, but not cold. Too warm and the product will dry too quickly. This causes the edges to dry and that shows in the final look. Here is a short article about painting in weather that’s too hot.
  • 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

Driveway that need painting
Driveway that needs painting
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. Crack filler (explained below) if you need it.
  5. De-greasing cleaner (explained below).
  6. 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

Concrete: Was your concrete ever waterproofed or sealed? I have written a paragraph in another post in middle of that page: “How to remove concrete sealer”), and if it fails the test, follow the steps there to remove the sealer before you paint.
Asphalt: re-coating asphalt that has been sealed before, you only have one option: more asphalt sealer. Thinking of painting a driveway with a black tar sealant is a big mistake.
Old Paint. The surface must be de-glossed (sand it or use this toxic solution), and get it clean and dry before application. Any of the products that I recommend above can be applied over old paint or even epoxy if prepped like this.
Be sure to remove any peeling and chipping paint. You can use an angle grinder with a disk for paint removal (you may need the adapter kit for your particular grinder-I did).
The surface must then be cleaned and completely dry before painting. The surface must be dull, clean and dry before application.
New concrete should wait at least a month before you do anything. More if it was a damp month. If your concrete is new, it may still be giving off moisture. All concrete of any age is always somewhat wet, so you have to test it. I’ve written a short article just on how to do concrete moisture tests (and for pH for new slabs should be done).

4. Key Step: prep

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.

The hard work:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. Dry well. This might be a few days ( so deep in the cracks can dry).Need a good concrete driveway painting
  5. 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).

So if you are doing a few lines, you won’t need more than about 4 pounds. This is the glass bead product that the Department of Transporation uses, and it’s less expensive than competitors. Nice.

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.

What to do? For a big area, you can buy garden sand and strain it with a basic kitchen strainer. Watch me do that here. For small areas, just buy a jar of silica: all uniform grains.

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.


Flakes?

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.


Traffic Paint: curbs, crosswalks, fire zones, etc.

For driveway paint colors and basketball courts and so on. I also recommend this latex paint by RAE, a well-known contractor paint brand.
It comes in yellow,  blue, red, white, and black. Also in 5-gallon pales.
Apply with brush and/or roller. See the materials section above. Here is the tech datasheet with all you need.
  • Coverage for one gallon in a 4-inch wide stripe is about400 linear ft.
  • Dry time 10-20 min, let cure overnight before driving in summer
  • Interior/exterior
  • Apply on asphalt, concrete, brick
  • Low VOC
  • Brush/roll or spray
Add numbers and letters: stiff plastic, so reusable. Also by RAE.

 


Sealing asphalt?

It’s an endless cycle of hurt. Don’t do it.

But do fill cracks to keep the water out.
This column explains why it’s best to not add a sealer, and I summarize it here:
Ok, you insist on sealant? Use the best, any sealer boasting high polymers and at least a two-year warranty would be a safe bet. Some offer warranties of 5 or 6 years, but that’s bunk. Read why here.
From my research, I would have to recommend FDC’s asphalt sealer. Five gallons only covers 400 sq. ft., like most, but at least this one is quality.

Opinion: Don’t do it

However, do keep on top of the cracks using a specially designed driveway crack filler that comes in a caulk tube. I trust Red Devil. (I wrote about caulk guns and how to use them here.)

The Washington Post agrees: don’t do it!

Sealing blacktop has little value other than looks. It is the start of an endless cycle that you don’t need: you must keep re-coating as the years go by. Think of all the roads that are never sealed. They are used by large trucks and last many years. Plus, when the sealant starts to fail, it adheres to your shoes and gets into your house.

Ever wonder what the roadway painters use?

Thermoplastic StripingWorker spplying drivaway lines

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.


Beautiful painted driveway
Quiz answer: The Beatles are walking the opposite way from the original album cover. This is just a photo that did not get used!

11 thoughts on “Driveway Paint: The Best One & How To Apply It”

  1. Hi Brad
    I have a 400 sq. ft driveway.
    It’s a bare clean concrete surface.
    I want someone to stain the driveway for me. I have been told Behr is the best product.

    Reply
  2. I have a driveway of 4000 square feets this driveway has acid water dye and we want to protect it with a clear can you advise me?

    Reply
    • I will give you my advice, but you may not like it!! Don’t do it.
      When you put a clear coat on, in time it needs to come off or be recoated and when that time comes, you’ll be so sorry. You’ll have layers of different stuff to deal with… what a mess.
      Just leave your new acid stain and when the time comes, re-do it.
      I guess if you made a fancy design, yes, you should clear coat, but just let it go if not.
      YOu asked!! Good luck!
      Brad

      Reply
  3. Hey Brad I live at 1 connelly court mudgeeraba and need the driveway repainted as well as the cracks in the concrete fixed. Can you give me a quote please

    Reply
    • Based on the photo, to me it looks like it got wet before it dried or cured. I think you’ll be ok to re-coat. Check the can to see if you need to prep it after the curing period. Perhaps you might tape off an area, de-gloss it with this and then give it a light coat, and obviously keep it dry. If it happens again, it must be underneath. Then I would have no advice but to grind it all off. I’d live with it if that were the case.
      Good luck,
      B
      Driveway paint with white discoloration

      Reply
  4. We have had new concrete we got coloured concrete but it’s gone blotchy and a dog walked on it and we have dog paws on it so our concreter a few days later used a block to try and get the marks out and in the process it left lots of white scratch areas on a charcoal coloured concrete….our concreter now wants to paint the concrete is this a good idea? We live in Australia so what brand would you recommend for us
    Your info on this site is great even I can understand it haha

    Reply

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