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 really last.

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: the key is good surface preparation.

This post applies to all concrete, painted or not, including walls and steps as well.

Sealing an asphalt coating? I have an opinion: don’t seal it. Please read this below.

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?

Another option: Concrete stain penetrates the top layer (about 1/16 inch) and leaves no residue on top. Concrete paint bonds to the surface, and needs regular maintenance. Stains can (some must) be clear-coated to keep the water out.

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
Just for fun: The US Dept. of Transportation website gives specific requirements for their concrete paints. It’s interesting.

Driveway paint costs

My motto: there is never an occasion to buy low-cost paint, even if you are selling your home or if you are a landlady/lord. It is always more expensive in the long run.

Every coat multiplies the cost.

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.
How much does it cost to paint my driveway?
Walk off your area and fire up your calculator. My driveway is about (40 x 15) 600 sq. ft. So checking the coverage I need to buy:
  • the “2-K” epoxy shown below …. 3 gallons is about two hundred bucks (for one coat: some people like 2)
  • the “1-K” driveway paint below… just over 2 gallons (so I would buy 3) for under a hundred bucks. But it won’t last as long.

Please consider my view: 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. 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 avoid 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. You’ll see some cracks and peeling as it gets old, then it’s time to re-coat. That just means a pressure washing, maybe a little sanding, and re-painting.
CostHelper reports: $2-5 per square ft. for asphalt, $3-10 for concrete, and $6-20 for pavers. Ouch.
Does paint to 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.

Driveway paint: what are the best concrete driveway paint today?

These all resist “hot tire pick-up”. Even cars that come down a long gravel road in the winter have warm tires.

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 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. But it has a surprisingly long 6-hour pot life (before it’s unworkable).

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

One-part “epoxy”

There is no such thing as a good ‘true paint’ for driveways: only epoxies will make you happy. But there is another type of epoxy.

A newer 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 untreated concrete: use this primer, the best concrete primer available

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 coats
  • Satin finish
  • Covers 400-500 sq. ft. per gallon (smooth surfaces) and 300-400 on rough
  • Not for use on vertical walls
  • Spray or brush/roll

* Here is the full TDS (technical data sheet) that gives complete instructions.


For some interesting driveway paint ideas, check out this paint company down in the Big Easy.


How to Paint a Driveway

Personally, I love to paint driveways: 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.

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 need painting
  1. Brush: normally I say buy one for life. If you want to try to clean it, 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 the bend and break. Buy one for life. The cost of this one is really low and it works with any broom 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 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.

3. Old sealed/painted vs. new concrete

Was your concrete ever waterproofed or sealed? Do this test, (under “How to remove concrete sealer”), and if it fails, follow the steps there to remove the sealer before you paint.
Old Paint. The surface must be de-glossed (sand it or use this solution), 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).
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 like the Sun Joe medium-powered unit, but they make bigger ones. Definitely use a rotating tip. You’ll want that for all you wash to protect from damage.

The majority of failed coatings comes from the surface being dirty or too wet.

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. Vacuum up tiny bits.

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 prefer to 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 more?
  4. Dry well. This might be a few days to dry in the cracks.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. This one is gravity fed and thin enough to penetrate. Great for anchors for bolts etc. 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 for concrete you do not need a primer. My recommendations above do not need primers if the slab is prepped correctly.

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 into 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.

Photo courtesy St. Louis public radio. Reflection is one of the best painting concrete driveway ideas I’ve seen.


Make it slip-proof

Slippery when wet? You bet. 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 telling you to add sand. Don’t do it. The grains are uneven and are generally too large. They’ll easily catch a foot or a turning tire, 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. They sink to the bottom, Bob.


Flakes?

You can toss these color flakes, but this is something usually done indoors. Outdoors, you would need a sealer. 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.
Primer? No primer needed over clean concrete or wood.
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
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.

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!


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 traffic.

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
The Beatles are walking the opposite way from the original album cover. This is just a photo that did not get used!

3 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

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