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How to Paint a Radiator

Many of us have got panel type radiators in our houses nowadays and when they’re new they’ve got a nice white satin finish of them but over time they do tend to get dirty with people leaning against them and hanging clothes over them amongst other reasons.

And we don’t normally notice it until we’ve painted a room then suddenly we’re confronted by a radiator with all these dirty marks on it. But the good news is we can quickly make them look new again and also without too much expense.

What type of paint is best for radiators?

Satin vs Gloss

Fortunately, most of the major paint manufacturers make their own little tins of radiator paint nowadays which we can use to paint the radiators and they come in either a satin finish or a gloss finish.

I do prefer the satin finish because it does seem to cover better and makes the radiator look like the
original finish from when it was new.

Oil-based vs Water-based

You should also look out for whether they come in either a solvent-based paint or a water-based paint.

Many of the water-based paint ones have got ‘quick dry’ on the tin to give you a clue but just to be on the safe side we suggest you turn them around and look at the instructions for cleaning your brushes. If it says to use water, obviously it’s a water-based one but if it says use brush cleaner or white spirit then it will be the oil-based one.

The water-based one is what I prefer for many reasons, including that it’s better for the environment and that it dries quicker so you can get two or three coats on in a day and finish the job. Whereas, the oil-based one needs a day to dry between coats so you’re only looking at one coat per day.

But that’s the choices and I’d say most of the major major paint manufacturers do their interpretation of these little radiator paints for about £8 – £12 a tin.

Dealing With Rust

Another thing to be weary of is if you’ve got a radiator in a bathroom kitchen or downstairs toilet. Quite often along the bottom edge of the radiator you will get rust forming so you’ll want to rub it down as normal to get rid of the surface flaking paint and then treat it with a product like this rust remedy.

What that does is it stops the rust getting any worse and it turns into a hard surface which is brilliant for painting over. I’ve used the Hammerite rust remedy (or different manufacturer’s types) many many times. It does work very well and it’s not that expensive either.

So if you’ve got any rust, before you paint over it, treat it with the rust remedy and then hopefully
that will stop the rust from coming back again in the future.

How to Paint a Radiator

Step 1: Preparation

Okay, so we’re ready to start painting the radiator now. First of all – make sure that you’ve had the radiator turned off for a few hours because we don’t want to paint on a hot radiator!

Give the radiator a light rub down with 240 grade abrasive paper. You don’t want to use anything
too rough that leads to scratches all over the radiator so will do the trick. You’ll also want to put tape around the silver parts of the radiator to avoid getting paint on them.

Step 2: Get Your Equipment Ready

In regards to the type of brush to use, I would normally use a good quality synthetic brush and I would recommend either using a one inch or two inch. For specific brushes, go with these Hamilton brushes. They’re high quality and quite popular with painters and decorators at the moment.

You should also be using a round brush tip to get into awkward areas. You could just use a smaller
one-inch brush if you like but it does make the job a bit easier

Step 3: Painting Behind the Radiator

The first part to paint on radiators is around the back and side because on a longer wall people will be able to see right down there. All you need to do is paint in vertical strokes along the side and you’re good to go. You’ll also want to paint the bleed valves with the precision brushes with a round head.

The smaller precision brushes come in handy with this bit as the valves are quite awkward to get at and you would find it a bit difficult if you try to use the inch and a half brush.

Step 4: Painting Radiator Pipes

Painting radiator pipes is really a personal preference. You can either paint them whilst painting the radiator or you can choose to paint them when you’re painting the skirting boards. My preference is to paint them the same colour as the skirting boards.

Step 5: Painting the Front of the Radiator

Most radiators will have vertical patterns at the front along with two horizontal pieces on the top and bottom. I prefer to paint the vertical patterns first as this tends to a much better finish.

Before you start this stage, make sure you’ve got a piece of kitchen towel or a bit of cloth with you in case you’re getting any paint onto the horizontal pieces of the radiator.

Put about a centimetre of paint onto your brush at a time and tap it on the inside of the kettle. Then paint up and down with the brush and once you’re done, make sure you lay off very gently with the tips of the brush just to give it a really nice finish.

That’s the middle part of the radiator all painted now which leaves the two long pieces to finish it off. Make sure you paint horizontally and get a nice smooth run – you only need a little bit of paint on the brush at this stage.

Step 6: Paint the Ridges

Make sure to go around the back part of the radiator and carefully paint any visible ridges with your precision brush. Again, you don’t need to use too much paint for this.

Step 7: Apply Additional Coats

Depending on the paint you’ve chosen, you may need to apply a second coat. Simply repeat the process after the time specified on the tin and you’ll have a radiator that looks brand new!