Prime Your Patio or Beautify Your Basement Floor With the Best Concrete Paints
Not all of our favorites are gray.
Published Oct 13, 2021 1:03 AM
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Did you know that drab gray concrete can be tinted any color of the rainbow before the application process begins? If you didn’t have the forethought to go that route—or you simply inherited a utilitarian garage that needs updating stat—there’s another way to breathe new life into this often misunderstood material, and that, my friends, is paint. Applying a fresh coat is one of the quickest and most cost-effective solutions for sprucing up your space, but making that coat a fun color is the DIYers go-to, no-fail method to instantly refresh pretty much anything: a dingy room, a wood deck, a raggedy piece of furniture, even vinyl kitchen cabinets.
Concrete is no exception. The best concrete paints come in a range of colors designed to protect the material’s surface while offering the best-looking finish. We even talked to two creatives who shook up the typical plain gray by stenciling groovy graphic patterns on their masonry surfaces. Even if you’re not thinking so far outside the box, these paints, primers, and epoxies can transform your driveway, basement, or plain patio with unexpected edge. Not sure where to start? Here are a few of the best concrete paints to bring any passion project to life.
- Best for patios: Behr Exterior Porch and Patio Floor Paint
- Best for garage floors: Kilz Concrete and Garage Floor Paint
- Best for cracks: Kilz Over Armor Textured Concrete Resurfacer
- Best for exterior walls: Farrow & Ball Exterior Masonry
- Best for decorative coatings: Rust-Oleum Epoxy Garage Floor Coating
Best for Patios: Behr Exterior Porch and Patio Floor Paint
If you consider one acrylic formula, make it this one. Not only does it protect concrete surfaces against the elements, it comes in custom colors and is backed by the company’s computer-matching technology to help you achieve aesthetic perfection. Annie Anderson of Zevy Joy applied a Cutting Edge stencil (based on traditional Portuguese Azulejo tile designs) using Behr’s exterior paint—without a sealer—on a patio off her previous home in the Pacific Northwest. Five years later it looks virtually unchanged. Granted, the space did become more of a covered porch situation, but it was never fully enclosed—a testament to the pattern’s staying power. There’s another benefit to adopting this artsy technique. “If your concrete has a lot of cracks or imperfections, you will end up filling these before stenciling, and they’ll be less noticeable with the pretty patterns painted on,” notes Anderson.
Best for Garage Floors: Kilz Concrete and Garage Floor Paint
Here’s the thing: Car tires can get hot and blister your floor or pull up big patches of paint as they cool, and cars themselves can sometimes, well, leak. This heavy-duty, water-based epoxy-and-acrylic blend has you covered, resisting staining from all sorts of stuff, including oil and gasoline, as well as scuffing from foot traffic and the daily grind of rubber tires. Just one gallon coats up to 400 square feet, and for less than $35, it’s a cheaper alternative to repaving your garage floor. But buyer beware: This product is best for concrete that hasn’t been previously coated. To prevent bubbles from ruining your work, you’ll need to sand down any former paint jobs (or simply smooth out an extra-rough surface) and apply a primer first.
Best for Cracks: Kilz Over Armor Textured Concrete Resurfacer
Designer Jesi Haack specializes in DIYs that are more like, as she puts it, “Instagrammable moments” for events of all kinds—including weddings, editorial shoots, and corporate functions (for companies such as LaCroix). So when it came to creating an eye-catching visual at the entrance of her home, she really went for it. Using a combination of both Kilz’s masonry primer and resurfacer—which bridges cracks and hides imperfections, protecting everything from porches to decks to boat docks—Haack created a concrete gray first layer before painting over a stencil she ordered on Etsy. “I love this product because of its great coverage,” she shares. “I use it for all my priming. It’s superthick.” The project took about six days (with weather delays) and looks the same 19 weeks later, albeit a bit dirtier.
Best for Exterior Walls: Farrow & Ball Exterior Masonry
All of the paints on this list are meant for horizontal surfaces (floors), not vertical (walls)—except this one, of course. Wish you could take Farrow & Ball’s velvety pigmented colors outside? You can. The British brand offers more than 100 lush color options with its special exterior finish, which has a 2 percent sheen level for a supermatte effect. Looks aren’t everything, though. Its breathable water-based formula protects walls from fungi and algae and resists peeling, flaking, and fading for up to 15 years. And don’t feel limited to concrete. The company notes its masonry paint has been used to cover brick and stone home exteriors, as well as garden walls—and the pots within them.
Best for Decorative Coatings: Rust-Oleum Epoxy Coating
The best concrete paints should not only protect your concrete but beautify it. If stencils aren’t really your thing, you can add some excitement with decorative chips for a terrazzo-like look that elevates any gray garage floor. (You can even mix and match the colored vinyl pieces for a personalized effect.) The glossy finish also adds a bit of luxurious shine, and its opaque quality covers up stubborn stains, making it a good option for studios, workshops, and basements, according to past purchasers.
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Types of concrete paint: The right concrete paint can help prevent your passion project from becoming a seasonal fling. If you need heavy-duty coverage for drivable surfaces, like driveways and garage floors, look for epoxy-based options. A cured resin epoxy is described by experts as the ultimate adhesive: It is impervious to water, won’t fade in the sun, and is less likely to stain; it also won’t peel like an acrylic latex or water-based paint can, especially in interior applications. That doesn’t mean you can’t use acrylics, which are fine indoors (like a basement) and covered areas, though it will require a new coat or refresher sooner than epoxy. Anderson’s top tip: Talk to your local paint professional to see which best suits your needs.
Application: “In order for concrete to accept any coating, it needs to be clean and dry,” stresses Brian Lavery, Rust-Oleum’s brand manager. “If an exterior surface was previously coated, it may need additional preparation steps or a recoat primer so it bonds correctly with the surface.” In some instances, you may have to etch your concrete, too. Typically done with hydrochloric or phosphoric acid, etching is a process that cleans the surface to help paint better adhere. After rinsing the concrete, fill in any cracks or divots to create a smooth surface—think of it as putting putty on your walls on moving day. Then paint and prime once dry.
Maintenance: Paint is often a cost-effective way to disguise blemishes or stains on your concrete floor or wall. Although designed to stand up to everything concrete would on its own, it doesn’t last forever: Moisture, dust, and debris can all cause unsightly wear and tear. To clean your painted floors, use a solution of one part vinegar to two parts water. If you’re really worried about the longevity of your paint job, it doesn’t hurt to add a sealer. Sealing your concrete will not only ensure the paint lasts, it will help protect the concrete by preventing water infiltration.
Q: Do I need to prime concrete before painting?
Most likely. Lavery always recommends checking the product instructions to confirm the best surface prep. Whether it’s bare or previously coated concrete (which may require a recoat primer), you’ll always want to properly clean and dry the surface before covering it in paint. A recoat primer such as Rust-Oleum’s Concrete and Garage option simplifies most projects: You can paint over sealed concrete without having to scuff, sand, or grind the surface.
Q: How long does concrete paint take to dry?
Not to sound like a broken record, but it really is best practice to check your product label directions to confirm drying times, as they can vary widely depending on use. According to Lavery, this time frame can be broken down into three categories, from shortest to longest drying time: light foot traffic, normal foot traffic, and drive-on ready. To be safe, just wait a few days for the top coat to cure. In the grand scheme of things, painting concrete will likely be a weeklong project, not just a weekend.
Q: Is concrete paint waterproof?
This depends on the type of paint you’re going for, but overall most paints designed for concrete applications outdoors are water-resistant. To really seal the deal, finish it off with a penetrating masonry waterproofer or epoxy top coat.
The Last Word
Yes, you can paint pretty much anything, including concrete, but it’s important to note that it’s a tricky canvas to cover. A porous material, concrete is always sucking up moisture, everything from water to oil. Make sure you’re taking all the right steps—no matter if your project is indoors or out—to clean, prime, paint, and seal to guarantee your DIY lasts.
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