How to stain a concrete driveway

How to stain a concrete driveway

Most people take it for granted that they must live with a boring, ugly, gray concrete driveway. However, a popular technique called concrete staining can be used to give your grey slab the look of exotic stone or marble.

No matter what the motif of your home is, there is a concrete stain that will complement it perfectly. With a beautiful stained concrete driveway, all your neighbors will be envious when they are forced to park in their dull, gray, driveway every evening.

Most of the information in this step-by-step guide on how to stain concrete patio holds true for staining concrete driveways. This guide about staining goes also into detail on the whole process and techniques as well, so make sure you read that in addition to this article.

Here I will cover any changes and additional tips specifically on how to stain a concrete driveway.

Start by choosing stain for your concrete driveway

The first thing you will need to do is choose your stain. There are two choices; an acid concrete stain or a water-based concrete stain. An acid stain will give you a richer and fuller color, while a water-based stain will give you a more one-dimensional look.

The trade-off is that the water-based stain is easier and safer to work with. There are also water-based concrete stains that are nontoxic and biodegradable, so there is less of a chance you do any damage to your lawn.

Supplies needed

The only additional materials you will need that are not listed in the indoors guide are:

Begin with cleaning the concrete driveway

Unless your driveway is brand new then chances are there will be some tough stains. Serious stains will show through, and worsen the effect you are trying to get.

The hardest part of staining a concrete driveway will be preparing it to accept the stain. This is where the power washer and driveway degreaser come in.

Use the driveway degreaser to remove any oil stains. After that, you will want to power wash the area two or three times to remove all possible dirt, mildew, or rust stains.

Don’t use any acid based cleaners. This will prevent the stain from reacting with the concrete later and we don’t want that.

You will also want to repair any large cracks, and smooth out any bumpy areas or other imperfections. Here is one of the guides on this site to fix concrete driveway.

If your driveway has a problem with efflorescence (a white powdery substance caused by salts from the ground leaching through your driveway), then you need to protect your stain by spraying on an efflorescence blocker first.

Once the driveway is completely dry sweep off any remaining dirt.

Next add protection to surroundings

The better you prepare your concrete driveway the better the final product will be, so it is wise to take this part very seriously.

Before you apply the concrete stain you should seal off the edges with plastic. This will protect your lawn from any of the stain that might seep over.

You also want to cover metal parts that are near if you’re working with acid so it won’t react with them.

Homemade concrete stain is easy way to have more curb appeal

It’s time to spray the concrete stain

After the edges are completely sealed off it is time to spray the concrete stain onto your driveway.

Each manufacturer will have different directions for applying their product, so make sure to read those before getting started.

Begin in one corner and spray the concrete stain onto your driveway in a “typewriter” fashion. This simply means you start from the left and move to the right.

Once you have finished that area you continue by starting from the right and moving to the left. This will ensure the edges of your stain do not dry.

If you are using a water-based concrete stain you will need to apply multiple coats to get the desired look. If this is the case, let the first layer dry for about an hour before you apply additional coats.

You will now give the concrete stain the recommended reaction time, based on the manufacturer’s instructions. This can be anywhere between a few hours all the way to a full 24 hours.

Avoid traffic on your stained concrete when it is drying

While the solution is reacting with the concrete make sure that nothing touches your driveway. Any footprint left will most likely be there for good.

Neutralize the acid

If you are using an acid concrete stain you will need to neutralize the solution and wash off any residue.

This can easily be done with a solution of water and baking soda or ammonia. With a mop and bucket go over your newly stained concrete driveway, making sure to never step on an area before you have gone over it with your neutralizing solution.

You will want someone to follow behind with a wet vac to suck up all the dirty water quickly. It is best to repeat this process a few times to ensure that all the access residue has been removed.

You will now need to let the concrete dry for 24 hours. After you are sure it is completely dry it is time to apply a few coats of sealer.

Add sealer to the surface

Make sure you use the correct sealer for your brand of concrete stain. If your driveway is steep you may also want to get a slip-resistant additive.

The sealer can easily be applied with a paint tray and roller. This should be done in a same way as the staining, in “typewriter” fashion.

Once the first coat is done, let it dry and repeat the processes until you have at least 3 coats on. This will add in extra layers to ensure your driveway keeps looking good forever.

Once the sealer dries you can start to park and walk on your beautiful stained concrete driveway.


Staining concrete is the same indoors and outdoors. One thing you need to remember is that take the weather into calculation.

If it’s going to rain, don’t stain. If it’s too windy, maybe don’t stain, etc. Best is calm clear weather so you can bring out the best in your concrete.

Other than that, I recommend reviewing the process before starting so that you’re clear on what you’re doing. Preparation is most of the time half of the success in these jobs.