What to know before painting a radiator

Want to give a new lease of life to an old radiator? Here’s what you need to know before you start painting it.

We all have one at home. It could be in your kitchen beside a bin. It could be in the hallway where mucky shoes are flung at it. It could even be in your bathroom where it’s starting to chip away from years of moisture making its way under the surface.

I am of course talking about radiators which have seen better days or have at least received some wear and tear to the paint over the years. Painting a radiator is an easy enough task. But if you go about it the wrong way, you can end up with a radiator you’d want to keep a sheet over to hide your embarrassment.

So what can you do to make sure you don’t make a mess of things? Here are some helpful tips on what you should know before painting a radiator.

Never paint while hung

If you think you can pop some paper behind a radiator and paint it while it is on the wall, you’ll be making a hash of your work. You need to take any radiators you’re painting off the wall and treat it like you’re painting furniture, i.e. take it outside and have sheets on the ground.

If you have no choice and can’t take the radiator off the wall, at least make sure it is turned off and isolated. You don’t want to spend time carefully painting a radiator, only for the heating to come on and ruin your hard work as the paint fails to dry correctly. 

You might need to do some sanding

Radiators need to have a smooth finish to look fantastic, but that doesn’t always mean you start with a smooth undercoat. In cases where you’re painting over existing layers, and need to put an undercoat down, you would be best to get some very fine sandpaper and gently work on the radiator to create a surface undercoat will adhere to.

If you have a radiator which has seen some bubbling or rust spots, sanding is a must to get any imperfections out before working on.

Don’t go using leftover paint

You might have some good quality emulsion paint from decorating around the house, but never assume it will work on your radiators, even if you’ve cleaned everything perfectly.

Radiators need their own paint (aptly named radiator paint) which can deal with fluctuations in temperature. Applying a coat of regular emulsion may seem like a good idea, but you’ll be kicking yourself after a few months when you start noticing bubbling and splits at the top of the radiator.

You’ll need an overcoat to look smooth

If you do end up using regur emulsion paint that you know can take the heat, you might not want to have a duller looking finish on the radiator. To avoid such, get a clear overcoat to apply after the radiator is dry. It will help give a shiner finish.

You could always get it done professionally

If you’re painting a radiator simply because you have an old one that, let’s be honest, is past it’s prime, it would be more worthwhile getting a new radiator in any colour you wanted.

It’s easier than you think to do so. Just visit sites like the Trade Radiators website here, and choose from hundreds of professionally painted radiators you can get delivered to your front door in a few days. It’s a win-win solution to painting radiators in any room.