Here we share our stained concrete driveway guide including what is, its various colors, composition, cost, ideal stain, its longevity, and how to apply it on old concrete.
Liven up your drab concrete driveway using concrete stain. In this article, we explain what concrete stain is, how much it costs, and how long you can expect it to last. Plus, learn the difference between acrylic and water concrete stain, and how to stain old concrete.
What Is Concrete Stain?
Concrete stain is a penetrating, chemically active liquid that is used to add color, tint, or pattern to concrete. Because concrete stains permeate and become part of the concrete slab itself, they will never peel.
Chips will not affect the stain, although large cracks may reveal areas of non-penetration. The color is resistant to fading.
Concrete stain can be used to tint an entire driveway with one color. Or, when applied by hand, it can be used to create beautiful and distinctive patterns. Concrete can be stained by amateurs, but more intricate designs may require the services of a decorative concrete specialist.
Concrete Driveway Stain Colors
Concrete stain, like wood stain, is translucent. For an opaque color, choose an acrylic concrete paint product instead. Be aware that paints do not penetrate the surface of the concrete, and so will need to be regularly touched up or replaced.
Acid stains are available in a limited range of colors, mostly grays, browns, and reds. Light greens and blues are available from some, but not all, manufacturers. Colors can be mixed to achieve a custom effect. The subtle, natural color will not fade, even with consistent exposure to UV light.
Water concrete stains feature a wider variety of color options, including red, green, yellow, or black. They are also translucent, but the opacity is affected by the number of coats applied, allowing you some control over the amount of coverage.
Water concrete stains are more susceptible to fading than their acid-based counterparts, so keep this in mind when choosing your color.
Sealers can also affect the color of stained concrete, giving it a wet look or darkening the color. Make sure to test an inconspicuous area before you commit to the whole driveway. Read more about our guide on the pros and cons of concrete stain vs paint here.
Acid Stain Concrete Driveway
Concrete contains hydrated lime, also known as calcium hydroxide. Acid stains contain water, hydrochoric acid, and metallic salts. The hydrochloric acid gently etches the surface of the concrete, allowing the metallic salts to fully penetrate the material.
Once inside, the metallic salts react with the calcium hydroxide, permanently changing the color of the concrete. This is why acid stains are sometimes referred to as ‘reacting stains’.
Cost to Stain Concrete Driveway
To calculate the cost of a stained concrete driveway, its size must be considered.
A one-car driveway is usually about 320 square feet, while a two-car driveway averages 640 square feet. Larger driveways, with room for RV or boat storage average around 800 square feet.
If you are installing a new concrete driveway that will be stained as part of the installation process, count on costs between $8 and $12 per square foot. The average one-car driveway would therefore cost between $2,560 and $3,840.
For a two-car garage, the cost would likely range between $5,120 and $7,680. A large driveway could cost as little as $6,400 or as much as $9,600.
These cost estimates are for a single stain color only. Multiple colors, hand-staining, etching, patterns, and custom designs are all available for an additional cost. The cost of these extras varies widely from one decorative concrete specialist to another.
If you have an existing concrete driveway and simply want to add stain to it, the costs are significantly lower. Plan to spend between $2 and $4 per square foot to stain an existing concrete driveway. Staining a one-car concrete driveway should cost between $640 and $1,280.
For an existing two-car concrete driveway, expect to pay between $1,280 and $2,560. Staining a large driveway is likely to cost at least $1,600, but probably not more than $3,200. Read more about our guide on pavers vs concrete driveways here.
Best Concrete Stain For Driveways
The best stained concrete driveway uses acid-based stain. If you have a specific color in mind and it’s not available in an acid-based formulation, water-based concrete stains are an acceptable alternative.
Like acid-based stains, they should last as long as your concrete does. However, water-based stains are susceptible to fading, while acid-based stains do not fade as easily.
There are also acrylic ‘stain’ products that adhere to the surface of the concrete. Although they are advertised as stains, they function more like paint and do not penetrate into the surface of the driveway.
How Long Does Concrete Stain Last?
Because concrete stain becomes part of the concrete itself and will never peel, fade, or chip, it is an incredibly long-lasting decorative choice.
Resealing the concrete every 2-5 years (or as soon as you notice that water isn’t beading on the surface) will help keep your stained concrete looking great.
The average concrete driveway is expected to last a minimum of 20 years. If you stain the driveway at the time of installation, seal it, and reseal every 2-5 years, concrete stain should last as long as your concrete does. Read more about our guide on the different types of driveways here.
Can You Stain Old Concrete?
Yes! You can stain any concrete that is clean and unsealed. Older concrete with cracks, blisters, or spalling may not accept stain as evenly as newer surfaces. But in general, the age of the concrete has no effect on the penetration of stain.
Older concrete tends to have accumulated grit and grime such as oil, grease, paint, or old sealant. Cleaning the concrete — or hiring someone to do it — is an essential step in preparing to stain old concrete.
Make sure the machine used has an output of at least ten gallons per minute and is fitted with a zero-degree rotating tip. You’re looking for a power washer, which heats the water for enhanced cleaning, not just a pressure washer, which can only use cold water.
Check whether your concrete is ready to accept stain by pouring some water on the surface. If the water soaks in, there is no sealant present. If it beads up, you will need to strip the old sealant from the surface of the driveway or patio before continuing with stain.
See more related content at our article about popular concrete driveway finishes on this page.