How to stain concrete: Great DIY video global premier + My ideas on Jane’s driveway

tinting concrete

We received lots of reader comments — 84 so far — when Jane asked how to improve her driveway covered with pinky-gray concrete pavers. I promised I’d be back with my thoughts on the issue. Summing them up: It would be a cold, cold day in Don Mills before I could ever imagine tearing out a fully functional — heck, a more functional — $30,000 driveway to replace it with a $15,000 driveway for aesthetic reasons. Yes, I think that pavers likely make for a better driveway because, as numerous commenters pointed out, they are permeable (allow for water to seep through rather than contribute to wash out) and they also are resistant to freeze-thaw cycles. Okay, so the pink pavers are not aesthetically to Jane’s liking. What would I do? The big answer: Stain the concrete pavers — and I was able to get a great video posted onto YouTube so we could all learn how to stain concrete. Continue on for four ideas, in all, for Jane’s driveway, along with the video and links to Rust-Oleum’s concrete stain products.

Readers had great ideas, and I read through them all several times. Which ones would I consider, if the driveway were mine?

(1) First, I loved Jacy’s comment suggesting to take out the big concrete “railroad tie” edging pieces, they are calling too much attention to the driveway. She said:

Okay, here’s a twist to what everyone has been saying. Yes, I understand you don’t like the pavers, but honestly, I don’t think it is the pavers that are the problem. The brickwork is fantastic, but it’s the edging of the driveway I have a BIG issue with. The EDGING of your driveway is demanding all the attention away from the house.

WIth it being a RAISED, STRAIGT edging, the driveway is requiring everyone’s attention.

Solution: Before removing the entire driveway, please remove the edging first. Then take step back and take a look. Just that little bit of work will completely change the look of the driveway as well as the house. The geometric pattern of the driveway fits with the “Geometric 50?s”. So, start small before you spend all that money on something you might hate in the end.

I think Jacy’s suggestion is a great one. Yes, those “railroad ties” are very functional and lordy, it looks like they will never ever move. But I am betting you could find something much lower profile to achieve the same function, and the expense may be worth the aesthetic benefit.

(2) Second, I agreed with commenters who suggested staining the concrete. Jane seemed to like the idea, too. So, I reached out to my friends at Rustoleum. Yes, they said, in both the U.S. and Canada, they have a product available specifically to stain concrete driveways and walkways — Rust-Oleum Semi-Transparent Concrete Stain — and it should be able to change the color of Jane’s pavers as well. You can even do this DIY, if you are brave and patient.


Rustoleum pointed me to a 20-minute video about how to stain concrete on their Canadian website. It was just in a media player, kind of hard to get at. So, I asked if they could upload it to YouTube so that I could show it here. They pronto did it. So today: We get to host the global blogging world online premier of that thriller, “Rust-Oleum Concrete Stain. Woot! O00000h, how riveting can it get, watching the step-by-step process to prep, stain and seal concrete? Pretty riveting. In fact, it made my day, I feel like a total DIY geek without ever lifting a paint brush. Note, and this seems important: I think I heard them say that you can’t use this if your concrete has previously been sealed; might be a job-stopper for a lot of folks, since I think driveway sealing is pretty common these days.

Here are additional details from Rust-Oleum’s Brand and Communications teams — covering both the U.S. and Canada, since Jane is in Ontario:

Hi Pam,

I see our Canadian brand manager responded to you directly, so here’s the information from the U.S. too. Rust-Oleum Semi-Transparent Concrete Stain is also available in the US in kits, gallons and an aerosol spray for smaller projects. Its available in a multitude of natural colors and is a good solution for transforming pavers with rich color. And it’s water-based, so its DIY friendly.
It’s important to note that a stained or sealed surface can become slippery when wet. Here is the link to the US website and to the Canadian website.

[I (Pam) had also asked about a product that Rust-Oleum has to cover garage floors with “chips.” The team responsed:] Also, regarding your question about the coating with chips. I believe you’re referring to Rust-Oleum EpoxyShield Garage Floor Coating, which is a great product. However, it is not intended for exterior concrete application.  Hope we’ve answered your questions – for both your U.S. and Canadian readers.

Susan, Rust-Oleum

(3) I also agree that landscaping should be and important part of the aesthetic fix-it solution. You want to use landscaping to pull your eye away from the driveway up toward the house. For example, you could extend your front walkway to meander and connect further up the driveway to pull some visual interest forward. Add a pole light where the longer walkway meets the driveway! Add a planter box! Landscape along the walk! Put a matching pendant chandelier in front of that window hanging down to the front door! Boom! Those eyes will pull right up from the driveway straight to the house. You have a lot of space in front of the house, you could even have a larger patio in front. And, I thought the idea from the reader who suggest pulling up a paver here and there and planting it with grass or moss had potential; I might hold this for last, though, after any new hardscape (patio, walkways, statuary, lighting) and any softscape (plants) are in. Oh, this will be so much fun!

(4) Relately, paint your door a bold color. Cobalt or Royal Blue, perhaps. Pull those eyes — away from the whatever driveway — and up to the pretty house!

Thanks very much to Rust-Oleum for the help with this story and video. And thanks to everyone who took the time to make comments to help Jane with her driveway puzzle. Hey, there are at least three more stories for me to write from your comments. “Tar and Chip or macadam driveways.” “Hollywood driveways.” And, “Aggregate driveways” although somewhere in the comments is a better name for them, I believe. It’ll be, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Midcentury Driveways But Were Afraid to Ask.” Life is nuts. Just nuts.



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  1. Robin says

    I would definitely invest in a landscape architect to enhance the look of the house before touching the driveway. I think it will make all the difference in the world.

    • Tami says

      Yes! Not finished with my MLA yet, but let me know if you need some design ideas.

      (BTW, not to be pedantic about it, but that driveway is only ‘permeable’ if it’s been designed to be permeable. There could very well be concrete underneath it.)

  2. says

    Pam I agree; stain them. Why replace something (so expensive to replace) just because it is not to our liking. My 1951 brick ranch had ALL of the original casement windows replaced (by the previous owners) with double hung cottage style windows with mullions. Yes they are great to clean (they tilt in) and I am sure more energy efficient. They just are not my choice for this home but we cannot afford to take them out just because they are not period appropriate 🙂

    • says

      Hi Sherree! I saw photos of your home on your awesome blog. If you’re concerned about your curb appeal, here are some thrifty solutions…

      Replace ONLY the windows that face the street with period authentic… then maybe the other windows as your budget permits.

      Paint the trim around the windows (and doors) a strong period-authentic accent color, thus DE-emphasizing the mullions (grids), which are left white. You’d be amazed how effective this is. And you could paint your garage door to match!

      Hope this helps…

      Aloha, Kai

      • says

        Thanks Kai! I am not sure if you can tell by the photos on my blog but the house is brick and stone in a beige/blond color and a little gold/mustard in the stones. We painted the front door and accented the garage door in New Colonial Yellow (medium gold/mustard) from the Sherwin Williams Mid Century Modern Collection. What color would you trim the windows and front door? Would you also paint the trim around the garage door and patio doors the same color?

        • says

          Hi Sherree!

          Well, not to hijack Pam’s post, but…

          I’d seriously consider replacing the front window to the left of the glass block window, and the double window and slider near the front door. Then leave the rest, for now. This will greatly increase your curb appeal. Every time you walk up, you’ll love the retro look! At least get quotes so you’d know the cost.

          If the room is large enough, instead of another slider I’d suggest single-light (one piece of glass) double “french” doors.

          Now, as for trim color… it all depends on how dramatic you like things to be!

          You could go with a very dark charcoal grey to contrast with the brick. It would look great with the white trim on the rest of the house, and it would coordinate with your new light fixtures.

          You could also go with a mustard color, which would be the opposite direction… blending in with the brick. Or, you could also go with barn-red or brownish-red color (what we here in Cali call “redwood”).

          You’d want the trim around the garage door to be the same color.

          If you’d like to chat more about it, go to my blog and send me an email 🙂
          Glad to help!

  3. Erin B says

    The edge pieces are probably helping to keep the brickwork in place – I’d suggest taking them out, digging down a bit and resetting them so they’re lower and staining them with the driveway.

    • pam kueber says

      Great idea — yes, dig them down! Then restain them to match the ‘new’ paver color. On the digging-down detail, though — i’d recommend consulting with a professional to ensure it all works as engineered

    • says

      I was thinking the same thing. Only I would plant a row of small plants/bushes along the line, so it will overgrow the edging. It’ll look softer and cheerful. Plants like lavender, euonymus, lonicera, sedum spectabile, daylilies. Or I’d make a small wall, made of rocks, just to ease down the straight lines and again draw the attention away from the driveway. And something needs to make a line towards the house, because now the attention goes toward the carport.

  4. says

    The pavers seem to be the least of your concerns…0 curb appeal! In my best realtor voice!!! Personally I like the texture and the old world feel they give. I don’t even mind the, what appears to be, concrete edging. The house looks really cool but very boring and the yard needs some serious revitalization!! How bout paint the brick. I’d consider painting brick and trim the same color and then give that door some eye popping color! Then start on the yard. I really want to see what the outcome is too!!

    • pam kueber says

      Hey, I’m sure you didn’t mean it but your comment reads on the harsh-side, Angela. Jane acknowledges (1) it’s blah winter and (2) she’s been focusing on the inside, now to the outside!

    • pam kueber says

      Also: Be very very careful before painting exterior brick, peoples. Brick “breathes” – and may be an important part of how the house is constructed. Consult with a licensed professional before doing this to understand fully the consequences and issues.

  5. Lynne says

    I agree with Pam. I would paint the entire front door area a brighter color to bring the eye to the entrance. I would try a butterscotch-y color to compliment the brick. I think I would also paint all of the window trim to match whatever color you choose. My eye kind of goes to that one bright white little window.

  6. JKaye says

    I think the ideas of staining, and lowering the edging, are good ones. But, before I did that, I would focus on the house, a la the suggestion of painting the door. I would also change the color of that grayish-looking trim near the door. Maybe paint that trim cream and the door cobalt blue. Then get some bright pink flowers in that flower pot near the door, or a bright pink flower pot filled with greenery. Then get some fushia or purple Wave petunias for that bed near the front entrance that borders the driveway, and in front of the house foundation too. Some pink and purple and blue will help tie the pinkish driveway in with the house, and maybe it won’t seem like such a problem anymore. And, these colors will go great with the yellow-orange brick.

    • pam kueber says

      JKaye, Jane just painted the trim — it’s an Eichler color she really likes. But I think your ideas about adding flower colors that coordinate and pop are right on!

  7. Brad says

    I’m in the minority, but I kind of like the driveway edging pieces. In fact, I would not change anything. So, maybe they are just sick of the house and need to move….:) However, I know they want a solution, and it is staring at them. That driveway ALREADY HAS edging adjacent to the raised pieces. Those are the bricks laid horizontally along the edges. Just remove the offending raised pieces, as previously suggested, and voila! You may have to have someone come in and cement that inside edge along its outer line to hold those bricks in place, as is commonly done with paver driveways.
    Also, I must point out that there are many many concrete staining solutions besides the DIY Rustoleum products. Consult your local directories for concrete staining. This process has evolved eons in recent years, and what can be done with color and texture staining these days is amazing. Those pavers could be any color under the rainbow.

    • pam kueber says

      Just to be clear, we are all talking about the big concrete pieces as “edging” that maybe can go. Not the pavers.

      Yes, there are other concrete stains, I’m sure. I just emailed Rust-Oleum for help cuz I know them. You must admit: That video is rockin’

      • Brad says

        correct. i refer to the line of horizontally laid pavers, along the edge of the herringbone field and adjacent to the those big raised pieces. usually that line is the edging on these driveways. someone went a step beyond and installed the raised edging. as a matter of fact, is that raised edging concrete? it looks like it could be marble, which is common in Canada exterior use.

  8. Keith says

    I think altering the concrete curb has sufficient potential to cause future problems with the pavers that it’s just not worth the expense for a typical homeowner. When budgets are an issue, I think simple. First, maximize the landscaping to draw attention to that great entry. Random thought: what about one of those round white globe “lollipop” post lights that look so great with clean lines? Next, I like the idea of accenting the front door with complementary color. Finally, if you’re so inclined, consider staining the bricks. I’d look at staining the curbs, too, to fade them away a bit. You’ve got a great house to work with.

  9. Gracie Manasco says

    Keep the edging, it look crucial in keeping the sloped front yard from washing down across the driveway. Monkey Grass was big in the old days… plant monkey grass along the edging… it will flop over and soften it, plus you won’t have to spend extra time edging the yard! It doesn’t have to be monkey grass… any other plant will do.

  10. Kate H says

    IMO, if you don’t want someone to notice the zit on your chin, you need to wear more eye makeup. Or, make people notice what you want them to, and they won’t see the rest.

    Possible options:
    1. Relocate the plants (which seem somewhat scattered about) and put a weird sculpture in the yard. There are some that are like stabiles/mobiles that move when the wind blows. Go big or go home — don’t get a lot of little things, get one big fabulous one that everyone will look at. I guess you could get a tree instead, but they take forever to grow then fall on your house.
    2. Paint the door orange, chrome yellow or purple.
    3. I think I’d leave that brick alone, it looks great and if you paint it, you’ll always have to and that’s a pain and also expensive.

    • pam kueber says

      haha, yes: If you don’t want someone to notice the zit on your chin, you need to wear more eye makeup.

  11. SusanD says

    I think that the pavers are fine, but the edging is too visually pronounced. I like the idea of softening the edging with low plants. I also would stain the edging a darker color before I stained the pavers to see if that caused it to visually recede into the background.

  12. Sandi says


    Yes, more, more, more on mid-century driveways, PLEASE! We love our 1954 West Coast Modern ranch, but we have a similar problem to Jane: our frontage is dominated by a huge expanse of driveway. It really detracts from the house. I think our driveway problem is even worse, though, as it is tarmac (black asphalt). Plus, we have the added issue of an open carport and a recessed front door hidden behind a planter and partition (people have knocked on our carport storage doors thinking that one of them must be the front door!). Our entire yard needs to be redesigned and re-landscaped ($$$$…not that we have it!), but unfortunately, after living in the house now for two years, we realize that the parking lot was here for a reason and we won’t be able to downsize it significantly. We live on a busy street and the horseshoe driveway is the safest entry and exit design, and (have any of your other readers ever had this problem????), for a house built in the era of the tank-car, our carport isn’t even big enough for a Le Car! We have two kids with car seats and cannot open all four doors of our sub-compact Mazda in our narrow carport. We need the additional driveway for parking our one family car. Any ideas on a more complementary mid-century driveway and landscaping materials or designs you can come up with would be so much appreciated!

    Oh, and thanks so much for the concrete staining idea. We have one of those indestructible but not so attractive prefab concrete plank fences (pink-grey) installed by previous owners. We can’t afford to get rid of it (yet!), but we’d dearly like to camouflage it.

  13. lynda davis says

    Has she told us that the edging is made of landscape timbers? I think railroad ties would be darker. The edging might be out of stone or concrete. I do think a lot of the issue is landscaping. A larger, patio looking entry would help with a welcoming seating area. It looks like there are windows behind the bushes on the lower level. If the garden feel of the entry were extended just beyond the house, it would look much nicer. I think the plantings hugging the house are just not attractive. The driveway stain should compliment the material chosen for the entry patio. Maybe the edging was put down to stop grass from encroaching on the driveway. Pam has postings on mid century landscaping, maybe reading the postings will provide inspiration. Although Eichler homes are in California, so the plantings will not work, some of the hardscape ideas may work. A quick search provided quite a bit of information. I think the door might be nice in a burnt orange. Yellow outside seems to attract bugs. I would not stain the brick.

    • pam kueber says

      lynda, I just call them railroad ties to describe the look — yes, they are concrete or marble or something like that.

  14. Melanie says

    I for one, love that driveway, concrete edging and all. Just plant something along the edge that will grow over it a bit.

    The landscaping could use a bit of work to draw the eye away from the driveway and toward the house no matter what the driveway looks like.

  15. Jane says

    Lots more great ideas here! Thanks! Just to respond to some comments, I had actually already planned to paint the front door a bright reddish colour to make it pop.

    And yes, the landscaping is definitely tired. I’m working on it! The old lady who lived here before loooooved bushes. Lots of bushes. I have spent much time in the past few weeks ripping them out, but more have to go. Then I’ll put in something more to my taste. And the Pyracantha running up the house is going too – it has Pyracantha rot and I don’t like it enough to try and save it.

    Several of you make a good point – the driveway is too much the focal point. The eye needs to be drawn away from it to something more interesting.

    Pam’s idea of a hanging globe lamp is one I’ve had in mind since I moved in, but haven’t done. I agree it would look great above the door.

    Now, to go pop some popcorn and watch the world premiere staining video!

  16. says

    I thought I left a comment on this post, but somehow it didn’t show up. Recap: I think the problem is the landscaping (or lack thereof) and not the driveway. Don’t just pull up the edging pieces, because they might be what’s holding the pavers in place. A new driveway costs big bucks. Taking care of the shrubbery situation can be done on an as-you-can basis, saving money and ending up with much better curb appeal.

    I personally don’t like the end results of the concrete staining video – I think it looks awful. The fact that the person doing the demo keeps reminding people not to let the spray nozzle drip tells me that the spray nozzle is going to drip, no matter what you do. With Jane’s project, my concern would be that she’s got pavers that already have a color, not flat white concrete. Who knows what the stain would do on pavers… I wouldn’t chance it.

  17. tom says

    Really would not want to do large areas with a pump sprayer. A battery powered backpack type sprayer would give much more control and cover more area between refills. If you are trying to emulate stone on your concrete surface avoid soft cloudy color blends. Think in terms of veins and drifts or layers. For accents apply with a brush instead of a sprayer. Also try spatters on top of a pre-wetted (with h20) area). Test on a small area that wont show or better yet on some other similar concrete surface to perfect your technique.

  18. says

    Thanks for a great article.

    I love this house, BTW. Do we get to find out what Jane ends up doing?

    I came across this article because I recently poured concrete countertops for my kitchen. The color ended up being “Barbie Flesh” as described by a friend. I was hoping for something more neutral.

    I just got a gallon of the Rust-Oleum pewter stain.

    Thanks for the tips and the video.

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