December 24

How to Paint Metal Railings: 6 Important Steps to Follow

painting metal railings

Railings and other exterior metal work are vulnerable to the elements. Regular maintenance and repainting of railings is the best protection against rust and deterioration. A fresh coat of paint every few years will prolong the life of your metal railings and avoid costly repairs or replacements. 

Tips to Ensure a High-Quality Finish

1. Get Ready for the Job

Check your local weather conditions and choose a couple of days in a row that are suitable for outdoor painting. Ideally, between 50-80 degrees Fahrenheit with low humidity and no wind. Gather all of the necessary supplies and tools to complete the job. 

Use drop cloths, tarps, large sheets of cardboard, tarps, or newspapers along with exterior painter’s tape to protect nearby surfaces.You’ll also need a steel brush, paint scraper, sandpaper, clean rags, paint, primer, protective eyewear, dust masks, and work gloves. Painter mitts are another handy item to consider when painting railings.

2. Check for Lead Paint

Before you start sanding or scraping, it’s important to determine whether or not you are dealing with old lead-based paint. Even more modern metal railings may have lead-based paint, so err on the side of caution. Test the railing paint for lead with a kit such as 3M LeadCheck, which is sold at most hardware and paint stores. If you find a lead layer, read the EPA’s guide on lead safe renovation, repair and painting before continuing. It’s important to put protections in place to safeguard yourself and your home. 

3. Remove Rust and Peeling Paint

Paint will not adhere properly to rust, so any rust must be removed along with any old, flaking paint. You can use a stiff wire brush to remove both rust and flaking paint or an electric drill equipped with a sanding pad and abrasive disks. Emery cloths can be used when there is minimal rust. These cloth-backed adhesive sheets work well because they are sturdier and easier to use than sandpaper on items such as metal railings or fences.

painting metal railings

4. Clean the Surface

It’s important that the surface is as clean and dry as possible in order to ensure that the new paint properly adheres. You can clean your railings with mineral spirits which will help remove any old stubborn paint particles but make sure to follow all of the precautions on the container. 

You can also use a solution of liquid dish soap and warm water. No matter what you use to clean your railings, it’s important that all dust, oil, grease, and debris is removed. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and make sure all surfaces are thoroughly dry before moving on to the next step.

5. Use a Good Primer

It's important to apply a rust-inhibiting primer designed for exterior metal surfaces. Primer helps paint adhere properly so it’s important to select a high-quality product. Primer can be applied with a brush or roller although many DIYers prefer to use a spray since it's easier to get into every nook and cranny on a railing. 

If you will be using a sprayer, think carefully about overspray and take care to prevent it from damaging plants, vehicles and other surfaces. For railings and fences, set up a large piece of cardboard or drop cloth as a shield against overspray that might blow onto other objects. 

6. Apply the Paint

Select a high-quality, exterior paint that is designed for metal. After the primer has thoroughly dried, take a fine-grade sandpaper or emery cloth and give the entire surface a gentle rub. The goal isn’t to remove the primer but to just slightly roughen up the surface. After this, use a clean rag to remove the dust. 

Now it’s time to apply the paint. For best results, carefully follow the directions on the container and apply a second coat within about one hour of applying the first coat. The first coat can become pitted if the second one is applied too soon. Two thin coats are always better than one thicker coat. 

Update Your Home’s Curb Appeal

If your metal railings need an update, a new paint job may be all that’s required to restore them and improve your home’s curb appeal. Proper preparation, cleaning, and skillful application of primer and paint are important to achieve a high-quality finish. 

Metal surfaces can be tricky to paint, even when you do the right prep work. If you’d rather not handle the job on your own, hire a professional painting company. You won't just save yourself time and energy, you’ll ensure your project will be completed to the highest industry standards.

Hire Your Local Award-Winning Painter

Walla Painting is a locally owned business that specializes in residential painting services. Our fully insured, bonded, and skilled painters are equipped to handle any size project. We are proud to have received Angie’s List Super Service Award 10 years in a row for our customer service and detailed workmanship.

We are here to serve Carmel, Westfield, Zionsville, Nobelsville, Fishers and McCordville homeowners. We offer residential interior and exterior painting, as well as cabinet and trim painting. Contact us online or at (317) 505-0894 for a free estimate.


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