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Can you paint radiators?

A radiator can have a dramatic effect on the overall aesthetic of a room in your home. If you're redecorating your home, you might be wondering if painting your radiator is a good idea or not. This article will help clear up some of the questions you may be having around painting your radiator. It will cover topics of what type of paint is best for your radiator, how to paint your radiator and whether paint effects the efficiency of a radiator.

Can you paint radiators in place?

To ensure the best paint coverage on your radiator, removing the radiator from the wall allows you to easily paint the entire radiator, while not having to worry about catching the wall with your brush. However, if you're not wanting to remove the radiator from the wall, it is still possible to paint this in situ, so long as the correct measures are put in place before painting.

If you're wanting to paint your radiator without removing it from the wall, it is important to cover the surrounding floors and walls and to use specialist rollers and brushes to reach to awkward places.

Do you need to remove paint before repainting a radiator?

In terms of radiator efficiency, an additional layer of paint will not affect this a noticeable amount, depending on how many times the radiator has already been painted. However, if you're wanting to prolong the visual appearance of your radiator, it is recommended to remove the existing paint before applying the new layer. This reduces the risk of paint flaking and pulling away from the surface. This is done by lightly sanding the radiator paint away; a fairly time consuming activity, but help towards providing the best finished product.

Can you paint over rust on a radiator?

Yes, you can paint over rust on a radiator, although it is best to remove the rust first to provide a better quality finish. By not removing the rust, it is lightly this will show through in places on the radiator. One of the best ways to remove rust from your radiator is to use some ordinary kitchen foil with a small amount of water. This creates a small chemical reaction between the rust and the aluminium that breaks down the rust. Once the rust is removed, ensure that the surface is cleaned and dried before painting the radiator.

When should you paint a radiator?

Due to the need of having the radiator turned off to ensure a safe painting process of the radiator, it is recommended that you do this during the summer months when you're less likely to need the radiator turned on. The warmer weather helps with the drying period too, whether you’re painting inside or outside.

Does painting a radiator affect the heat output?

The addition of another layer of paint, increases the distance the heat has to travel between the heat source and air, therefore increases the time taken to heat the room. However, this additional distance is so small, it will not noticeably affect the radiator's efficiency.

An important factor to bear in mind when reviewing the efficiency of a radiator is the finish, as shiny surfaces radiate less heat. Particular finishes such as chrome and stainless steel, provide up to 15% less heat than the same model with a painted finish. By painting your radiator, you can actually improve the efficiency of the radiator.

Can you paint radiator pipes?

Radiator pipes can cause an eye sore once you've given your radiator a fresh lick of paint due to their copper colouring or begin to blemish and oxidise. A lot of people tend to think that radiator pipes should be left untouched, but a very similar approach can be taken when painting your radiator pipes as to the radiator itself.

First ensure the radiator system is turned off. Then clean the pipes with a degreasing solution before going over the pipes with some wire wool. This provides a good textured surface for the paint to bond to. Before you paint the radiator pipes with a paint brush or spray paint, make sure you give the pipes a wipe with some warm water to remove and dust or metal filings produce during the texturing stage.

If you’re wanting to paint the radiator pipes, make sure you follow to above stages before applying the paint. The best method when using a brush, is to ensure you use brush stroke along the length of pipes, as opposed to across the width of the pipe to avoid paint flicking onto other surfaces and leaving thick edges of paint on the pipe. Once you've finished painting, allow the paint to dry fully before turning the system back on.

What paint is best for painting a radiator?

You may think that you can slap any old paint on a radiator, but there are some specialist paints that will provide a better quality and more durable finish. As radiators are constantly being heated and cooled, this continuous change in temperature causes some paints to crack and flake off the surface of the radiator over time; throwing all you hard work out the window. To keep your radiator looking better for longer, its best to use specialist radiator paint. These paints have the ability to expand and contract with the heat produced by the radiator and are also formulated to minimise the yellowing found on radiators using standard paints.

There are a lot of different options to choose from when painting your radiator, each providing a different finish and aesthetic. The following highlight some of the benefits and potential downsides to using different paints.

How do you paint radiators?

The below details a step-by-step guide on how to paint a radiator.

The first thing you need to do is turn off the radiator and wait until it has completely cooled before starting. Make sure to turn off your thermostat for your central heating so the radiator does not come back on while you’re working.

As well as stopping you from burning yourself on the hot metal, this will prevent the paint from getting warm, which can make it drip more easily and ruin the finish of the surface.

If you’re painting the radiator in place, cover the wall and floor with paper or a dust sheet to prevent splashes, and open a window to ventilate the room. If you’re removing the radiator from the wall, you might choose to take it outside. Remember to protect the surface you place it on with paper or a dust sheet.

Make sure to remove any dust or grime from the radiator before you start, otherwise they will get mixed into the paint. Pay particular attention to the insides of grilles and any gaps behind the radiator where cobwebs may have accumulated. You might need to use a feather duster, vacuum cleaner attachment or can of compressed air to get into all the nooks and crannies.

For the surface of the radiator, sugar soap helps to quickly break down grease and dirt. To remove patches of rust, use a piece of aluminium foil dampened with a little water. Once your radiator is clean, it needs to be thoroughly dried so it can be prepared for sanding.

Use a combination of coarse and fine sandpaper to remove any debris and leave an even surface. As well as removing any debris, sanding the radiator helps to create a rougher texture for the paint to stick to, helping it to last longer.

Any lumps, bumps and imperfections will be highlighted by the paint, so getting rid of them first will help to ensure a smooth, beautiful finish. This may be a quick or complex job, depending on your radiator. If there is a lot of old peeling paint, spend extra time on sanding to make the surface as even as possible.

Once you’ve finished sanding, use a vacuum cleaner and a damp cloth to remove any dust and give everything a final dry.

Radiator primer helps the paint to adhere to the surface and serves as an additional protective barrier against rust. Particularly if your radiator has already become rusty, a good coat of anti-corrosive primer is essential to prevent it from worsening over time.

You can use a regular paint brush to apply the primer or pick up an angled radiator brush for hard-to-reach areas. Radiator primer is also available as a spray, which is quick and easy to apply. Whichever option you choose, make sure the primer is totally dry before you start painting.

Finally, you’re ready to apply your first coat of paint but remember to ensure adequate ventilation and wear protective clothing before you start.

For spray cans, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and avoid spraying too close to the radiator to avoid drips. Work section by section until the entire radiator has been coated. If you’re using a brush, start with the top and sides of the radiator before applying paint to the front. To avoid drips and visible brush strokes, be careful not to overload your brush, and always follow the direction of the mouldings when you paint.

If you’ve taken the radiator off the wall, paint one side first and leave it to dry completely before turning it over to paint the back. For radiators that are being painted in place, you can either leave the back unpainted or use an angled radiator brush to carefully apply paint to the other side.

Depending on the paint you use, you may need to apply a second or third coat. Make sure the first coat is completely dry to ensure a smooth finish. Allow the final layer of paint to completely dry before putting the radiator back on the wall and turning your heating on.