Painting a Radiator - How to Paint a Radiator Including Preparing and Priming and Applying a Top Coat

Summary: How to prepare for painting a radiator. What to use to paint a radiator. Advice on how to paint a radiator. For this project we show you how to paint a radiator including how to initially prepare it by cleaning it and removing any rust spots and then how to prime your radiator so that you get a great top coat finish. Also find out what paints are suitable to use as a radiator top coat finish and then how to apply them.

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If you want to brighten up a room by painting it a colour, but don’t want your radiator to stand out like a sore thumb, you can paint it to match your colour-scheme.

Preparation Before Painting Your Radiator

Before painting radiators you should make sure they are completely cold before you start. Make sure the radiator can’t come on and heat up until after all coats of paint are completely dry.

Ideally it is much easier to paint your radiator before it goes on the wall, or to remove it and paint it. You can see our article on removing a radiator for help with this.

Clean your radiator first to remove any dust and grease that have built up over the years, then dry it and rub down lightly with fine sandpaper or wet and dry paper – this is to give a slightly roughened surface for the paint to adhere to.

Pay special attention to any rust spots, ensuring you remove any rust and leave a smooth surface otherwise it will always look rough. Dust the radiator clean again after sanding and then vacuum if possible. Additionally wipe it over with a damp cloth to remove any fine dust particles but remember to dry it off with a cloth afterwards.

Put down dust sheets underneath the radiator to prevent any paint dripping onto the floor, and mask off any nearby areas that you don’t want the paint to get on.See our masking up project for tips. Old or protective clothing is handy, just in case you slip, drip or accidentally brush against the radiator while you are painting.

Dust Sheet Roll

Dust Sheet Roll

Priming Your Radiator Before Applying Top Coat

You will need to use either a metal primer or specialist radiator primer first to ensure that any bare or rusted areas are protected, and to give a good base for subsequent coats to adhere to.

Use an anti-corrosive primer if you have a few rust spots, as it will help to stop the rust from getting any worse.

You can use a standard paint brush, or it might be worth investing in an angled radiator brush to help you get into awkward gaps.

What Paint to use for Your Radiator Top Coat?

There are four options when it comes to the main coat for your radiator – you can purchase specialist radiator paint, however this usually only comes in a limited range of colours.

Radiator Paint

We advise you to use radiator paint if you are painting your radiator white, as other paint types can go yellow over time.

Solvent-Based Paints

You can use a solvent-based paint, such as a non-drip gloss or satinwood, which are available in a wide range of colours.

Radiator Enamel

Radiator Enamel

Clear Radiator Overcoat

The third option is a clear radiator overcoat sold by International, which allows you to paint ordinary emulsion paint onto the radiator, then paint the clear overcoat over the top which will give a protective coating.

Spray Paint

Your fourth option is spray paint. There are a few spray paints specially formulated for radiators available, with a limited selection of colours.

If you are planning to use spray paint, you will need to make sure you protect the surrounding area really well, as spray paint is difficult to direct and can drift.

You should wear a face mask and make sure the room is well-ventilated. Gloves are also advisable, as spray paint can drip from the nozzle onto your hands and is difficult to remove.

Painting Your Radiator With Top Coat

Good ventilation is necessary whichever type of paint you are using, as they can all give off unpleasant fumes.

If you have applied an under coat or primer coat make sure that this is completely dry before you add your top coat finish. With the primer or undercoat dry, wipe your radiator over.

If you are using tinned paint as opposed to spray paint, make sure that you shake the can well before opening it and once opened, give it a good mix with a suitable stick.

Using your chosen brush, apply your paint to the radiators surface, covering it fully but making sure the paint is not too thick as this will cause runs. As mentioned, an angled radiator brush can come in handy when trying to paint in hard to reach areas.

It is usually a good idea to apply at least two top coats so allow the first coat to dry (preferably for at least twenty four hours) and then apply another coat

Make sure that the paint is completely dry before you turn the radiator on again – it is a good idea to again, leave it for at least a day or so.

The first time you turn the radiator on, it is likely that you will smell a strong paint aroma, but this will fade and doesn’t mean that the paint is reacting in a bad way. Keep a window open until the smell goes away.

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