How-to Prepare and Paint Iron Railings

How-to Prepare and Paint Iron Railings

For many, wrought iron railings speak of quality, strength and safety. They make wonderful additions to any porch, deck, stairway or yard. And when it comes time to paint iron railings, if done properly, they will last beyond a lifetime.

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This is the next installment of our free video tutorial sponsored by  In this seven part series you will learn all the information needed to prepare, weld, paint and install beautiful iron railings for personal enjoyment or for friends and family.

If this is your first time here be sure you sign up for our Newsletter now so we are better able to keep you informed about our latest articles and future tutorials. Then click this link, Part 1 — How-to Install Log Newel Posts for Custom Iron Railings, and get started from the beginning of this informative video series.

Preparing Decorative Iron Railings for Paint

No matter if you are welding new handrails or redoing old ones, when preparing to paint iron railings, the most important thing to remember is rust never sleeps…

Preparing Iron Railings for Paint

Corrosion starts to work immediately on bare metal.  For this reason it is important to paint iron railings immediately after surface preparations have been completed. Avoid painting when:

  • surfaces are damp
  • when humidity is above 80%
  • when the temperature may fall below 50 degrees
  • or in direct sunlight

Prepare the area and yourself.

Take every precaution to protect the environment and your personal health when preparing and painting iron railings. If you are redoing old railings, be certain to cover the area under the railings with drop cloths to catch paint chips and dust. Remember to wear a tight-fitting dust mast, goggles, a painter’s hat and clothing that covers your skin.

Scrape, scuff, or sand the railings.

Use a metal scraper and a wire brush to remove any grime, loose paint or flaking rust. When repainting old railings, lightly sand all surfaces that you intend to paint. The purpose of this step is to remove all gloss and slightly roughen the surface for improved paint bonding. There may be cases that require more aggressive sanding/grinding to smooth a rough or rusty surface.

Clean the metal.

This is perhaps the most important step in the process to paint iron railings. Use a product like TSP surface preparation, Lacquer Thinner, or even a 50/50 vinegar/water solution, and a scrub brush to remove all dirt and grime from the metal railings. For new iron railings plan on completing this step at least two times.

When repainting old railings, there are two basic ways to deal with rust:

  1. Manually remove rust
  2. Chemically neutralize rust

Keep in mind, manually removing rust generally takes more time and yields a smoother surface. Chemically neutralizing rust tends to last longer and is considerably easier to do.

To remove rust manually, sand or grind away rust using an electric drill or angle grinder equipped with a wire brush and/or a sanding pad and abrasive disks; or for light rust hand-sand using Emory clothe.

To neutralize rust chemically, first use a scraper, wire brush, or coarse emery cloth to remove any bubbled paint and loose rust. Then simply brush on a quality rust neutralizer according the directions on the label.

Watch Preparing Decorative Iron Railings for Paint

Safety Tips to Paint Iron Railings

Unfortunately, spraying paint produces hazardous vapors. No matter if you are using an oil base or acrylic based paint, when you paint iron railings it is important to take safety precautions and minimize your exposure to those vapors.

Wearing a face respirator while spraying paint is perhaps the best way to reduce exposure to vapors. A face respirator can be full-face or half-face. Always fit-test your respirator prior to use.

Full Face Respirator

Spraying Paint

A spray booth is an enclosure used specifically to apply or spray paint. All spray booths have controlled air flow and occasionally temperature control or baking capacity. In a spray booth fresh air moves from the worker past the paint gun and painted product toward the exhaust outlet or door. It is this air movement that moves harmful vapors out of the booth, reducing unwanted exposure. In a spray booth an exhaust outlet and fans are used to produce the required air movement.

Spraying paint in a booth cuts down on exposure to harmful vapors and reduces the chance of a fire or explosion. For many however, because of cost and space limitations, setting up a spray booth is not an option.

Spraying Paint Outdoors

If a paint booth is not available, it is possible to spray paint outdoors. Spraying paint outdoors is an alternative option that will dramatically reduce exposure to solvent vapors.

When spaying paint outdoors, arrange the work so that the wind is blowing on your back. This way, the wind will blow past the spray gun and painted product, blowing the harmful vapors away from your position. Be certain to set-up in a shaded or covered area. Do not spray paint in direct sunlight.

Spraying Paint Indoors

Sometimes the only option is to spray paint inside of an inclosed structure. If this is the case, remember to set-up your work area so that air flows past the painter, past the spray gun and painted product, and out an open window or door. Usually, a fan positioned to blow outward at an open window or door works best for this scenario.

Now watch this video and learn How-to Paint Iron Railings

Time to Prime

Now that you have properly prepared the iron railings, yourself, and the area in which you intend to work, it is time to paint your iron railings.

Start by brushing, rolling, or spraying on a rust-inhibiting, direct-to-metal primer.  Use a primer that closely matches the color of your top coat. Another option is to use a direct-to-metal (DTM) paint which doubles as an all-in-one primer and topcoat.

Note: When painting metal, the better you seal the surface from moisture and air, the longer it  will take before oxidation takes hold. Make no mistake, rust will eventually appear.

How-to Paint Iron Railings

And the Paint Goes On!

When painting iron railings start at the top and work down focusing extra attention to intricate scroll work and ornate details. Make sure to paint all the different angled surface areas.

Simply apply a good quality exterior DTM topcoat using a High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) or gravity feed spray gun,  aerosol cans, a roller, or even a simple brush. Keep in mind, aerosol cans are expensive and waste paint, but they will get the job done fast. Rolling or brushing on the paint is also an option but will take much more time and the finish will appear rough and lumpy.

Hurry up and wait…

Once you have completed the painting process be certain to allow the iron railings plenty of time to dry. Keep the railings in a well ventilated but dust free area for at least 24 hours before final installation.

Spray painting tips:

  • Avoid spraying when there is any wind
  • Hang a drop cloth or large piece of cardboard behind the railing to catch the overspray
  • Hold the can or spray gun about 8 to 12 inches from your railings
  • Keep the can or spray gun moving and apply several light coats to minimize dripping.

That’s all there is to it. With this information it should now be easy to paint iron railings. So while you give that paint time to dry, click this link and learn How-to Install Iron Railings on Log Homes.

As always, leave any and all questions or comments in the space provided below or feel free to drop me an email.

Mitchell Dillman

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