Stain and paint can work very differently on your driveway and should be chosen with care.
Because both stain and paint have their advantages, choosing the right one for your concrete driveway can be challenging.
After all, the stain can certainly bring out the best in a concrete driveway while paint can provide the color and texture that you find most appealing.
Choosing between the stain and paint also requires that you understand the differences so you can make the best-informed decision.
Stain vs. Paint for Concrete Driveways
What follows are the most important differences between choosing the stain or paint for a concrete driveway.
Based on your requirements this will help you choose the right one for your needs.
1- Durability You Want
How long stain and paint will last will depend on a few factors.
For example, the stain will fade fairly quickly unless a sealer is applied.
Once the sealer has dried, it will protect the stain underneath. This means that every so often if you re-apply more sealer, it will still protect the stain.
This is especially true if the sealer offers ultraviolet or UV protection from sunlight.
The longevity of paint will depend in large part on how it is applied to the surface. If not done correctly, it will start to chip or peel fairly quickly.
However, if the surface has been properly prepared and the right type of paint selected, it will last for a considerable amount of time.
Another option to consider is the type of traffic that either the paint or stain will experience that may wear away at the surface.
In other words, foot traffic will probably not be as wearing compared to the tires of your vehicle.
2- Coverage on Concrete
Arguably the biggest difference between stain and paint is how they cover the concrete itself.
The stain will soak into the concrete, penetrating the porous surface that creates a unique appearance.
Paint, on the other hand, will stay on the surface of the concrete driveway itself, providing a strong layer of protection to keep the elements from penetrating the surface.
Although stains can last longer, the major drawback is they are mostly semi-transparent.
This means it will not help in covering the imperfections if its present on your driveway surface.
3- Application on Driveways
While you have to clean the concrete regardless, you will need to apply the paint with a roller or brush.
Compare this to a stain that can be applied with a sprayer.
For paint, a degreaser will have to be applied to the concrete first which is not needed for the stain.
However, while the acidic stain will bring out the depth of color, you will need to add a sealer to waterproof the concrete.
That step is not necessary when you are applying paint to the surface.
So, Which One is Best for Your Concrete Driveways?
Choosing between stain or paint for the concrete driveway will start with whether you want to bring out the best in the concrete or have the color and texture that you want for your concrete surfaces.
If you choose to stain, you will need to use a sealer to lock the stain in place.
If you choose to paint, you will need to choose the right paint and prepare the surface properly.
Because both can last a similar amount of time, the best choice is the one that is the most appealing.
Just be sure that you do the work in researching what you want, including the type of stain or colors of paint that you find most appealing for your property.
How to Clean and Stain Your Driveway?
Let’s face it – staining your newly poured concrete driveway (or an existing old surface) is not an easy DIY job.
If you are not much confident, it’s better to hire a contractor and get the job done professionally and on time.
But if you are pretty much confident and can follow the process patiently you can easily turn your old driveway into a newer one in a cost-effective way.
To clean and stain your concrete driveway, you will need to follow the right instructions as given below.
Step 1- Choose a Stain
If you are looking to change the color of your driveway, then going with an acid wash or water-based stain may be the best answer.
Acid-based stains arguably produce the best colors for your driveway but are more difficult to apply.
These stains will react chemically with the concrete to create a permanent natural color that adds uniqueness to your driveway.
The colors available are however limited to earthy tones like brown, tan, terra cotta, soft blue, and green.
A water-based stain is easier to apply as you can easily mix them like other water-based paints.
The selection of hues is wide (black, gray, brown, etc) but it does not have a rich depth of colors compared to acid-based stains.
Step 2- Measure the Driveway
You’ll want to get the total square footage of the driveway.
You can do that by measuring the length and width. This will let you know how much stain to purchase.
Since you can return unopened cans of pre-mixed stain, you can purchase a little more than you need just in case.
This is important because the pre-mixed stain is rather pricey.
While a single gallon may cover up to 250 square feet, it also costs upwards of $100 on average.
Step 3- Clean & Prep the Surface
You’ll need to brush away all the debris from the driveway.
Once that is completed, use a concrete degreaser to get rid of the stains caused by the oil and dirt.
After that, use a pressure washer to clean the surface thoroughly.
Let the driveway fully dry and then brush off any debris before you apply the stain.
Step 4- Wear Protection & Apply the Stain
Before you apply the stain, you’ll need to wear the following.
- Goggles, gloves, and hat
- Long pants, long-sleeve shirt, and boots
Now you are ready to apply the stain.
Use a pump sprayer to cover the driveway with acid stain. Try to spread the stain as evenly as possible.
This means starting in one corner, applying enough to cover a two-foot section, and then moving to a new section.
Once the stain is fully applied, do not let anyone walk on it until it fully dries, or you will have footprints.
Remember that it may take up to eight hours before the stain changes the color of the driveway.
Afterward, you can use a sealer to give the concrete a well-polished appearance.
If you want you can apply a coat of epoxy garage paint over the stained driveway to get a better finish and shine.
Make sure that you prep the surface properly so that it receives the epoxy the way you want.
Also, ensure you read the instructions well on how to apply the stain and driveway sealer that you are using.
Staining your old driveway will cost anywhere from $2 – $4 per sq. ft. This means for an average driveway size in the US, the complete cost may range between $1,200 – $2,600.
This cost may however increase based on factors like the size of surface, number of coats, colors, decorative elements, etc.
Can You Stain Over Stained Concrete Driveway?
If you want to change the hue slightly you can do it by staining it over.
Since staining the concrete involves a chemical reaction, it’s not easy to change the color by staining over acid-stained concrete.
You can however add a fresh thin layer of concrete and stain it with a new color.
Can you stain a paved driveway?
Yes, you can stain a paved driveway as you do with a concrete walkway or brick paver patio.
Remember that you should only pick the right paving stains/paints or an acrylic concrete stain for coating if you desire to get long-lasting results.
Can you apply stain over painted concrete?
Although you can apply a concrete stain over your old painted concrete driveway surface, I do not recommend doing it.
Since the stain will not hold for long on the already painted surface, it’s good to strip the paint and clean the surface before staining your driveway.
What are the best concrete stains for driveways?
When choosing a concrete driveway stain there are a couple of different options available online.
Each one of them comes with its respective pros and cons.
Based on my personal experiences, I can say very few brands worked well for me.
Some of them that I have already worked with include:
- VIVID Acid Stain – 1 Gal – Walnut
- Kemiko Stone Tone Concrete Stain
- Rust-Oleum 247162 Concrete Stain Spray
- Acid Stain DIY Kit with 100% Acrylic Solvent Sealer
- TuffCrete Waterborne Acrylic Concrete Stain Paint
- Concrete Resurrection: Professional Grade Cement Stain
Depending on the decorative effects, and techniques you use (like faux finishing, stenciling, etc) it’s good to do your research and choose the product that matches your overall requirements.
The Bottom Line
Staining the old driveway is not a luxury.
Rather it should be considered as an investment that will not only improve the driveway finish and lower the maintenance cost but also enhances the overall value of your property.
Keep in mind that the concrete stain used on the driveways is meant to be permanent.
Unlike paint, these do not flake off easily.
However, as the stain penetrates only the top layer of the surface these may get worn away with time due to weather exposure and daily traffic.
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Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.