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.
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.
- 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?
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.
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
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.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
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 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.
- 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.
- 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 more?
- Dry well. This might be a few days to dry in the cracks.
- 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.
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.
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.
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 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.