How To Paint A Radiator In Place? (Without Removing It)

paint radiator

Is your radiator looking past its prime? Then it may be time to paint it.

Painting radiators is a common practice that dates back several decades.

In this guide, we’ll go over the basics of painting radiators, including safety, output, and how-to measures that you’ll want to know before starting the job.

Keep reading to find out how you can get your radiator painted safely so that it looks great and stays efficient!

Can You Paint Radiators?

Let’s start by getting rid of the elephant in the room.

Is it even safe to paint your radiator? No worries—the answer is YES.

There will be no paint-fueled explosions if you follow the right protocol.

Painting your old radiator can be a safe and fun way to update the vibe of your room and improve your home’s décor and color scheme.

Adding to this, painting your radiator is surprisingly easy.

Though it may not be the most thrilling thing you’ll do all week, it can be an enjoyable and rewarding process when done correctly.

Before you start, there are some things you should keep in mind. Namely, never paint your radiator when it is on. Instead.

It’s best to wait until the warmer months so that you don’t need the radiator for heat.

Be sure to open a window as well so that you aren’t absorbing all the paint fumes to suffocate without ventilation.

Will Paint Affect its Output?

This is a fair question, and you might even be able to guess the answer.

While applying paint to your radiator will give it an added aesthetic, there is the possibility that it will reduce heat output.

This result was verified in a 1935 study by the US government, which found that painting radiators were effective at preventing overheating in more well-insulated rooms.

What this means is that before painting your radiator, you should ask yourself whether or not you can afford to lose your heat.

Depending on the level of insulation in your house (or hotel or any other location), you may be able to get away with it without sacrificing any vital heat.

In fact, doing so could even improve conditions in the room, as the paint will work against overheating.

How to Spray Paint a Radiator?

One of the most popular ways to paint a radiator is by spray painting it.

Spray painting allows you to cover larger distances in quicker amounts of time so that you can get the job done more efficiently.

What’s more, spray painting also allows you to get to those hard-to-reach places easier, meaning the overall quality of your paint job will likely be better.

In this section, we’ll go over how to spray paint a radiator, including the things you’ll need for the job and the steps you should follow to get the work done smoothly.

Things You’ll Need

In order to spray paint your radiator, you will need:

  • High-enamel metal spray primer
  • High-enamel spray paint
  • A sprayer gun
  • Dust mask
  • Disposable gloves
  • Fan (optional but generally recommended)

Importantly, be sure that the type of paint you purchase matches the state of your radiator.

If your radiator still works and is used frequently, you must buy high-enamel paint and primer in order for your paint job to withstand the heat.

If not, you can get the job done with any standard paint and primer of your choosing.

Steps for Painting

Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at how to spray paint your radiator step by step without removing it:

Step 1- Ventilate Your Room

The first step of the process also happens to be one of the most important.

Before you begin painting, you’ll want to make sure that the windows in the room you are working in are open.

This will allow the paint fumes to leave the room so that you aren’t ingesting too many chemicals.

For best results, place a fan in one of the windows to help draw the air out.

At this time, you’ll also want to make sure that the walls and floor around your radiator are protected from overspray.

You can do this by applying another surface on top of exposed layers so that you don’t end up painting more than you intend.

Step 2- Prep Yourself and Primer

Once your room is well ventilated and your area is ready, it’s time to take care of yourself.

Don your dust mask and gloves, and grab your can of primer.

You’ll want to shake the primer for around a minute before using it to make sure the product is ready to use.

When ready, remove the lid.

Step 3- Spray the Radiator with Primer

If you wish to avoid a haphazard look, you’ll want to be careful about the way you spray your radiator.

For best results, hold your spray can between ten and fourteen inches away from the radiator’s surface.

Spraying too close can lead to excess paint and uneven application, and spraying too far away will waste paint and make it hard to cover the target area.

Starting just beyond the end of your radiator, spray the primer in a horizontal motion, stopping just past the opposite end of the device.

You’ll likely need to do this several times to make sure the entire surface is evenly covered.

Step 4- Spray Paint the Radiator

Allowing the primer time to dry (which can take up to 24 hours, depending on volume and primer type), you’ll next want to spray paint your radiator.

Remember to wear your same protective gear and shake your can as directed on the outside label.

Spray paint your radiator with the same motions that you used to prime it, being sure not to remain in one place too long, as this could cause the paint to thicken more in some areas.

You’ll likely need to apply several rounds of paint to get the finish you want.

It’s good to allow the paint to dry for about 24 hours before you apply the final coat.

Top Tip: Radiators are susceptible to corrosion and can go rusty even at the bottom due to the condensed drops running down. So, make sure that you prep, primer, and paint the radiator from the bottom as well.

How to Paint a Radiator with a Brush?

Painting a radiator with a brush requires a bit more work but offers you more control over the final look of your project.

Unlike spray painting, painting with a brush means you’ll have zero oversprays, so you don’t have to worry as much about messing up the surrounding area.

As a sacrifice, you’ll find it harder to reach certain spots on the inside of your radiator, though painting your radiator completely with a brush is possible.

Knowing this, let’s take a look at what you’ll need and the steps you should take to paint your radiator with a brush.

Things You’ll Need

  • Paint tray
  • Paint-brushes (one or two inches in width)
  • High-heat primer (to brush on)
  • High-heat paint (to brush on)
  • Paint stir

Steps for Painting

Painting your radiator with a brush can be easy if you follow these four simple steps:

Step 1- Stir the Primer

Start by opening your can of primer and stirring it with your paint stir.

Keep doing so until the primer has reached a consistent color and consistency (this could take a few minutes).

Step 2- Prep the Room

Once you have done this, it’s time to set up the room. Do so by pouring primer into a nearby paint try.

Be sure to put the lid back onto the primer so that it isn’t knocked onto the floor by mistake.

Later, when painting the radiator heater, you’ll follow these same two steps in stirring the paint and prepping it for use.

Step 3- Brush the Primer

Next, you’ll want to brush the primer onto the radiator. Starting from the top, move down the radiator.

You may find it easier to go from the backside to the center to the opposite edge. You’ll likely want to use more than one brush to do so.

A simple one-inch brush is good for those smaller areas and grooves, while a two-inch brush is perfect for painting the broader areas of the radiator.

Step 4- Paint the Radiator

Once the primer has completely dried (you can check drying times on the outside label), it will be time to paint the radiator from behind as well as the front.

Use the same motions as before, applying as many coats as necessary until you are satisfied with the look.

Remember not to turn on the heat until the paint has dried completely.

Also, it’s good to keep a ‘wet edge’ so that you can avoid unsightly brush marks if needed.

How long after painting a radiator can you turn it on?
When you have completed painting the radiator, leave it off for a day or two before you turn it back on. This will provide enough time for paint to dry.

What is the Best Paint for Your Radiator?

With all the above things in mind, what is the best type of paint you should choose for your radiator?

The answer to this question, too, depends on whether your radiator is operational.

Assuming it is, you can’t go wrong with an oil-based alkyd for your brush-on primer and an alkyd enamel for your topcoat.

You may also choose to use a cheaper one, like latex paint or emulsion if your radiator is not operational.

Applying water-based emulsion paints on radiators, which are in working condition, is a big NO because they can disperse a lot of heat which can eventually dry, crack and peel the paint fast.

You will therefore require repainting them a lot sooner.

If you choose to spray paint your radiator, go with a high-heat metal or high-heat enamel primer that can withstand the heat.

Then apply a topcoat of high-heat paint that won’t flake off or cause issues when the heat has been turned on.

Rust-Oleum High Heat Enamel Spray is what I found very efficient for this.

You can use it for spraying your old radiators, towel rails, barbeque grills, wood-burning stoves, engines, or any other metal items that are exposed to heat.

Rust-Oleum 7751830 High Heat Spray Paint, 12 Ounce...
  • Ideal for updating the exterior of barbeque grills, wood-burning...
  • Oil-based formula designed to renew and protect metal surfaces subject...
  • Covers up to 7-8 sq. ft. and dries to the touch in 30 minutes

*Last update on 2022-09-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

For finishes, you can choose between gloss, satin, or eggshell as per your liking; there isn’t an issue.

Just be sure that glossy paint finishes will not be as good for hiding imperfections if you have some.

To fix the problem, you can use an alternative, like satinwood paint, that gives a softer finish with a slight sheen.

Tips and Warnings

When you are just getting started with painting your old radiators, make sure that you turn off the unit and allow it to cool down.

Also, before you paint around radiators, always get them washed and dry properly.

Keep in mind that, in some cases, you’ll likely need to clean the rust off your radiator before painting.

It’s good to rub down the rust or flakes of old paint with sandpaper. Then consider removing the dust and debris using a soft brush.

Then use a high-quality anti-rust primer and paint to finish the rusty radiator.

Depending on your preference, you can either remove the radiator from the wall (to paint behind it) or can spray it at a place without removing it.

This will help ensure a clean coat and smooth application.

Can I Paint Over My Radiator Pipes and Hoses?

Absolutely you can paint them.

And I recommend painting the pipes as well when you are painting your radiator as this will give you a nice overall look.

The method and steps you use to paint the pipes are much similar to the radiator. The only difference is in using a sprayer or brush.

Since the pipes are thin and need proper care, when painting them, it’s best to use a paintbrush rather than a sprayer or a roller.

Even if you are using a sprayer for painting radiators, getting a quality brush for painting the radiator pipes is recommended.

Steps for painting radiator pipes

So, without further delay, let’s have a look at quick steps on how to paint radiator pipes.

  • Allow the pipes on your radiator to completely cool down
  • Use masking tape or an old newspaper to cover the base of the pipes. This will protect your floors from drips.
  • Also, add a protective layer on the wall behind the radiator pipe by placing a piece of cardboard or a large sheet of paper.
  • Start by cleaning the pipes using a dry paintbrush to remove any dirt or dust particles.
  • After a quick cleaning, sand down the pipes (using sandpaper) to remove any rust or old paint that needs to be removed.
  • Using a damp cloth (in warm soapy water solution), clean the pipes once again to remove any grease or heavy dirt accumulated.
  • After cleaning your radiator pipes, it’s time to prime and paint them. Make sure you apply two coats of primer and paint to get an excellent finish.

While applying the primer and topcoat on the radiator pipes, you will need to wait for at least 1-2 hours between the coats.

Also, be careful that you do not paint over the radiator valves. If painted, the paint can get sealed.

Related FAQs

Can You Paint a Heated Towel Rail?

Since most heated towel rails or towel radiators are designed for bathrooms, these are usually covered with a chrome finish which is difficult for paint to stick to.

However, if you want to paint them, it’s good to pick a high-quality spray metal primer and paint that’s designed to provide an even finish on metals.

Make sure you clean your heated towel rails and prep them before painting to get a perfect finish.

Can Chalk Paint Be Used on Radiator?

Chalk Paint™ is a decorative paint that isn’t just for wooden furniture; you can use it on metal too.

Since there’s just a little preparation required, it’s the ideal option for rejuvenating your metal radiators.

If you’re considering using chalk paint on your metal radiator, there are a few Annie-approved tips and instructions.

Check them out before you do that because if you do it wrong, you could be stuck with a sticky, chippy mess.

How to Get Rid of Radiator Paint Smell?

Radiator paint smell for a few days after painting it fresh is normal in most cases. The best you can do is to keep your room well-ventilated.

If the smell doesn’t go away after a few days, you can consider placing a bowl of vinegar (a natural odor neutralizer) in your room, which will help absorb the paint odors.

Final Thoughts

Painting your radiator or an old storage heater can be safe, fun, and highly effective at bringing up the ambiance of your room.

Especially when using a sprayer, it’s not a problem but super easy!

And that’s why spraying is the best way to paint a radiator rather than a brush or a roller.

By following the steps in this guide, you’ll be able to paint your radiator safely in no time!

So, make sure to use this as your ultimate reference for getting your radiators painted and looking better than ever!

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