Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
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Radiators aren’t the prettiest to look at, but with a touch of paint, they can become a design element in their own right. There are a few paint options for radiators, including metal and emulsion wall paint.
You can use regular wall paint on a radiator, but it’s not the most recommended choice. While radiators aren’t tricky to paint, using the best paint for your desired outcome is essential. A better option is a high-heat enamel paint meant for metal that can withstand extreme temperatures.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, so if all you have is wall paint, you can still paint your radiator successfully. Let’s take a closer look at different paints’ effects on radiators and why some paints are better than others.
Is Wall Paint a Good Option for Painting Radiators?
DIY can be expensive, so sometimes it seems more convenient to apply your resources in as many ways as possible—this includes paint. You may be tempted to use wall paint to add color to your radiator, but you may want to think twice.
Radiators constantly heat and cool, putting paint at risk of shrinking and flaking. For this reason, regular wall paint isn’t an ideal choice for radiators unless the base coat is suited to the radiator. Specifically, it’s essential to have some form of heatproofing involved.
Acrylic latex water-based paint is the most frequently used on walls, providing some water resistance and protection. However, it doesn’t meet the requirements to keep a radiator protected and will likely end up peeling off.
In short, there are better options than wall paint for painting a radiator. You’re in luck, though, because there are a range of paints that are perfect for radiators.
What Kind of Paint Should You Use on a Radiator?
When painting a radiator, you’re doing it to last. The best way to achieve this is with paint that has the following attributes:
- Heat resistant: Ordinary wall paint exposed to heat will flake and even emit harmful chemicals when heated. A good option is heat-resistant silicone resin paint.
- Adheres to metal: Metal doesn’t absorb paint like wood and drywall, so applying a base coat or an incredibly strong metal-adhesive paint is necessary.
- Waterproof: Constant changes in temperature cause a build-up of moisture and eventually corrosion, so getting hold of waterproof paint is vital.
You can use either water or oil-based paint. Ensure it’s made explicitly for interior metal items to ensure it properly sticks to the radiator.
For the primer, you can get a paint tin or aerosol spray. The base coat is vital, as it helps the paint adhere to the surface and allows it to last longer without peeling away.
How To Paint a Radiator
Preparing the radiator for painting is a relatively simple process:
- Clean the radiator.
- Prime it with a base coat.
- Paint the radiator.
- Apply a second coat.
Take a look through each of these steps in more detail below. Remember that you should ideally remove the radiator before painting it, but it’s not a requirement.
Removing it makes it easier to paint the hard-to-get-to places, but it’s okay to leave these parts alone or cover the wall with masking tape to keep it paint-free.
Clean the Radiator
Using a mild detergent-water solution and a scrubbing brush, work your way around the radiator to remove any dust and grime that’s accumulated on it. Dust will make it harder for primer and paint to stick, and you’ll get a messy paint job.
Similarly, you need to remove any rust with a wire brush. This will help the paint adhere and improve the paint job’s overall look. You’ll need to use white vinegar to remove rust, as the acidity wears away at the rust more efficiently than soap.
When cleaning metal, especially if you need to use a grinder and remove rust, you must take the proper safety precautions.
- Wear safety goggles and a mask.
- Ensure the workspace is well-ventilated, open windows, and turn on a fan.
Prime It With a Base Coat
Priming metal for painting stops rust that could form over time from seeping through into the new paint job.
The two main kinds of priming paint your can use are:
- Spray paint: Spray-can, or aerosol, primer is a quick and convenient solution to priming. The disadvantage is that it can take multiple layers to achieve the same effect as brush-on paint.
- Brush-on: Brush-on paint takes longer and requires more attention to detail than spray paint, but the end product is a more uniform, smooth coat of primer.
Once you’ve applied the first coat, let it dry thoroughly before applying a second coat. Once the second coat is applied, wait for it to dry before painting on it.
Paint the Radiator
Once the primer has dried completely, choose either brush-on or spray-can paint to apply to the radiator. If the radiator is still attached to the wall, ensure the masking tape is securely placed to keep the area clean.
An excellent spray-can option is the Rust-Oleum High Heat Paint (available on Amazon.com). This oil-based formula is created to paint high-heat metal items like grills and radiators. It stops rust and provides a gorgeous satin sheen when dry.
The Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Paint (available on Amazon.com) is perfect if you prefer the brush-on route. This corrosion-resistant formula comes in 18 colors, including metallic shades. This oil-based formula leaves a gentle sheen when dry.
Apply a Second Coat
Apply multiple coats for the best effect. Like the primer, check that every layer has dried thoroughly before applying the next layer so it dries in a uniform coat without any lumps or feelings.
The average time you should wait between each layer is around one hour, but oil-based paint takes significantly longer to dry. You can expect to wait between two and eight hours between coats.
Check the paint every hour or so to see if it dries faster, though, as this may save a lot of time if the coat has dried quicker than expected.
Once again, keep the room well-ventilated with open windows and fans, as paint fumes contain harmful chemicals that can harm you, especially if inhaled for an extended period.
Finally, if you use a brush paint, thoroughly clean your brush after the paint job is done so it doesn’t become unusable. Seal up the paint tin for future use if there happens to be any left after the two to three layers are applied to the radiator.
In conclusion, using regular wall paint for a radiator is more of a last resort than the norm, and for a good reason. Regular wall paint doesn’t have the rust and heat-resistant qualities needed to protect a radiator adequately.
Painting with the correct type of paint is critical to ensuring the paint job last as long as possible and keeping the radiator working smoothly and looking good.
- TrueValue: How to Paint a Radiator
- Painters World: Painting Radiators – The Ultimate Guide
- Ronquillo Painting: Choosing the correct paint for those unsightly heat pipes and radiators
- Walla Painting: Major Paint Types and How You Can Use Them
- Montana Colors: Renewing Radiators with Heat Resistant Paint
- Homedit: How To Use Radiator Paint
- Elegant Radiators: What You Should Use To Clean Chrome Bathroom Radiators
- PaintRite Pros: Is Acrylic Base Coat Water-Based?
- OnlyRadiators: How To Paint A Radiator
- The Spruce: How to Paint Metal: Instructions & Types of Paint
- PaintRote Pros: How Long Should You Wait Between Coats of Paint?
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