A Guide to Painting Radiators - Best Practice

While painting a radiator isn't the most taxing of jobs, there are still some points worth remembering to make it a more pleasant experience, with better end results!

 

1. Open a Window and Turn the Radiator Off

Ensure that the radiator has been switched off for some time, and is now stone cold, prior to the beginning of the painting. Paint will struggle to adhere to a still-warm radiator and will begin to drip, ruining the finished look. 

Proper ventilation is also essential, as you will be working with fumes that shouldn’t be directly inhaled. To do this, simply open a window and ensure a smooth, consistent airflow into the room.

 

2. Prepare and Clear the Area

Begin to protect the walls and floors with sheets and tape, to ensure you only get paint where you want it. Cover all of the radiators valves and vents and move any nearby furniture out of the way. Remember, you don’t necessarily need to remove the radiator from the wall, as long as you don’t need to paint the back. Specialist tools can be used to paint the back without removal.

 

3. Clean Its Surface

Take some warm water, a mild detergent and a sponge and begin to remove all of the dirt, grime and grease that has built up on the radiator. Most radiators will be fairly easy to clean, but you can find inexpensive spray-on solutions designed for removing those tricky stains from radiators. 

Again, removing the radiator from the wall could make this process easier. It would enable a more thorough cleaning inside the radiator’s fins, but is not essential to the process.

 

4. Sanding

Take a coarse sandpaper, around 60-80 grit, and eliminate any signs of rust or other dents in the surface of the radiator. Then, take a finer sandpaper, anywhere between  120-240 grit, and smooth out the surface of the entire radiator. Then wipe the radiator down again.

Doing this will make it easier for the paint to adhere to the surface, giving the radiator a much smoother finish.

 

5. Add the Radiator Primer

A specialist radiator primer or metal primer will need to be applied before any fresh paint coat can be added to the radiator.

The primer will provide a good, solid base for the paint and protect any rusted or bare parts exposed in the sanding process. An anti-corrosive primer can be applied to any rust spots on the radiator to ensure the rust doesn’t worsen with time.

A standard brush should get the job done, but an angled radiator brush is an option for unusually shaped radiators. Allow the primer enough time to dry before moving on to painting.

 

6. Apply the Radiator Paint

Now it’s time to begin painting the radiator. The best way to ensure a good finish is to paint in stages. Start by painting the edges before moving on to the face of the radiator. Continue to paint in sections on the face. Start by painting the mouldings, then the top, before working on the bottom of the radiator and then meeting in the middle with long, sweeping vertical movements. The painting process should only require two coats.

 

What’s the Best Paint to Use on a Radiator?

As a professional, it’s advisable to ensure you only use the correct radiator paint when working on the appliance. However, nothing is stopping you from using normal satinwood or emulsion paint - as long as you ensure you apply a clear overcoat after.

Cheaper, lower quality paints will begin peeling and chipping over time, which is why it’s best to use quality, specialised radiator paints.

Available paint options include:

  1. Specialist radiator paint - less likely to yellow over time, and also has heat resistant properties
  2. Satinwood (solvent-based paints) - less likely to smell, a good range of colours, smooth finish.
  3. Clear (radiator overcoating) - heat resistant and protects the radiator from cosmetic damage.
  4. Spray paint - limited colour options exist for specialised radiator spray paints

 

Conclusion

It shouldn’t take you more than a few hours to complete the painting task as a professional painter. Be sure to observe all the safety protocols, including wearing protective gear before painting the radiator. Inform the homeowner that the paint smell may last for a few days and to try to keep the room adequately ventilated at all times.

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