the painted surface
Painting Decorative Ironwork
The ironwork pictured in the photo below has certainly been neglected. The home was built in the 1800's, however the age of the iron is unknown. The iron railing looks as if it has never been painted since it's installation, judging from the lack of any paint build up. It has oxidized and rusted a great deal, but not to the degree it can not be saved. The metal is strong, secure and too valuable to be lost. This iron railing has enough decorative detail and appeal that the effort spent restoring the surface will be rewarded. Hopefully your project has not been neglected for so long and the following ideas will help restore it to it's original beauty.
Before beginning to prep the surface or paint, clean the ironwork of any dirt, mold, moss or plant remnants. A clean surface is a requirement for the adhesion of the primer and paint. After cleaning, the first thing to deal with is the rust. Three common ways to address rust removal are:
- Not recommended for large expanses of railing. More appropriate for individual iron objects or random spots of rust on rails.
- Requires equipment and experience, better left to the professionals. It can be costly, but very effective for large areas or long lengths of railing. The iron pictured here would probably require sandblasting because of the amount of rust needed to remove.
- Wire brushing
- This is labor intensive, but for the average job is quite sufficient. Normally there are only spots in need of wire brushing to remove the loose and flaking rust. Rust stains can be primed and painted over, it is the loose, flaking and actively rusting spots that should be brushed down to stable metal.
Once the surface is free of dirt and loose rust, the bare and rusty spots are given a coat of primer paint. If the project is new ironwork, a coat coat of primer should be applied to all surfaces. A quality primer provides the barrier to prevent moisture and oxygen from reaching the surface which would cause more rusting.
TIP !!! The underside of the bottom rail is often a place rust starts to form. A coat of primer applied here will help prevent the initial formation of rust. If the rail is already installed and there is no room for brushing, use a "hot dog" roller. This is a small diameter roller, about the size of a wiener made to reach tight areas. Very handy. Allow the primer to dry the proper amount of time, usually overnight.
The surface should now be ready for the final coat or coats of finish paint. Whether interior or exterior, an oil-based paint is recommended. This paint is slightly more difficult to work with in some situations, but will out perform the water-based finishes. Oil-based paints on ironwork are more durable and washable. These enamels are available in different sheens and may vary by manufacturer. Choose a sheen that will match well with the other painted surfaces nearby and is proper for the structure. Black is by far the most common color for ironwork, but enamels are available in any color. Often gold mettalic paint is used as a accent color, but this type of paint usually does not endure well in exterior applications. The application of the finish coats as well as the primer can be performed by several methods:
- Various rollers
- Rolling ironwork may not be the first method that comes to mind, but it can be very effective and time-saving. Use rollers with thick naps which are able to reach into cracks and crevices so common in decorative ironwork and objects. Be cautious not to overload the roller to prevent drips and paint runs. Rollers are available in many sizes. The small "hot dog" type is very useful when attached to a one or two foot handle.
- This might be the the least effective method. Because of the many small and decorative parts it is difficult and time consuming to brush on an even coat of paint. However, a brush will be needed to touch-up or reach areas the other methods may have missed. Some enamels might be difficult to wash out of the paint brush and jabbing the brush into crevices may damage it, so consider using a throw-away brush if you will only need it for a few small touch-up areas.
- Painting glove
- This is a glove lined inside with plastic and the outside is covered with a thick nap of fibers. It is worn just like a regular glove, dipped into the paint and rubbed across, around and onto the ironwork. This method is very effective after a little practice and gives good results. The thick nap is able to reach into recessed decorative elements.
- Sometimes this is just not possible because of location, but when possible, spraying will result in a smooth and even finish. It will involve more prep work, masking and protecting adjacent areas. The amount of paint consumed is also increased. This method requires some experience using spray equipment. The paint may benefit from a slight thinning with the appropriate thinner to achieve the smoothest finish. Spraying is recommended for new ironwork because of the quality of finish possible when done properly. However, spraying will not hide the brushing or rolling texture left from older coats of paint.
Decorative ironwork is quite attractive and durable when properly painted. It's unique and elegant look can reward it's owner for many years, and given some periodic maintenance will last for many decades.
More helpful painting tips, techniques and how-to articles can be found by following these links.
How To Paint a Room ◊ How To Paint a Stairway ◊ How To Paint a Two-Story Room ◊ How To Choose Colors ◊ Six Step Color Choice ◊ Popular Color Ideas ◊ How To Choose Paint ◊ Tools ◊ How To Caulk ◊ How To Patch a Hole ◊ How To Patch a Crack ◊ How To Cut In a Wall or Ceiling ◊ How To Roll a Wall or Ceiling ◊ How To Paint Woodwork ◊ How To Paint a Window ◊ How To Paint Baseboard ◊ How To Paint a Door ◊ How To Paint Crown Moulding ◊ How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets ◊ How To Choose a Premium Paintbrush ◊ How To Paint a MDF Bookcase ◊ How To Paint Aluminum or Vinyl Siding ◊ How To Paint Over Faux Finishes ◊ How To Use Magnetic Paint ◊ How To Use FrogTape ◊ How To Paint Repair Water Damaged Drywall ◊ Hiring a Contractor ◊ Paint Stripper Safety ◊ Painting Louvered Shutters ◊ 2013 Color Trends ◊ Choosing Front Door Colors