How to Paint Metal

Learning how to paint metal is an important skill that can help you extend the life of metal objects. A continuous coat of paint is the best way to protect metal from the damaging effects of oxidation, the process that creates rust and weakens metal.

How To Paint Metal Correctly

The primary cause of paint failure is incorrect or insufficient preparation. The non-porous surface of most metal objects can make it difficult to apply paint, but following these tips will lead to a successful project:

  • A clean slate. Before you paint metal, make sure the surface is completely free of dirt, oils or chemicals. Clean the object with soap and water or trisodium phosphate (TSP) and rinse thoroughly. Avoid using solvents to clean metal to be painted-solvents can leave a residue or weaken the existing finish.
  • Loose impediments. You'll want to create a smooth surface before applying a surface coat to metal. Remove any loose rust or flaking paint with a wire brush and then smooth the surface with sandpaper. Be sure not to sand old paint that may contain lead.
  • Dry as a bone. After all cleaning and removal of loose debris rinse the metal surface and allow it to dry completely before proceeding. Cover metal objects or move them indoors to promote faster drying.
  • A prime number. Primer has a number of benefits when painting a metal surface. Primer helps paint adhere to metal better than paint alone. Primer also helps to create a thicker, more durable finish as well as adding to the rust inhibiting abilities of paint. Apply a primer recommended for the type of metal you'll be painting and allow it to dry completely before you begin painting.
  • Paint on. For smooth finish, consider using spray paint to coat your metal surface. There are metal spray paints for a variety of metal types-spray paints are available in a number of finish types including flat, glossy or textured. When using any aerosol paint, be sure to work in a well-ventilated area and wear eye and breathing protection. For larger surfaces such as doors and structures, use a brush or roller to apply paint.
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