The temptation for homeowners to create a uniform or at least a complementary look to their homes starts by painting the exterior.
However, the utility box in the backyard is often left out simply because most people do not want to get near it if at all possible.
But for those who do want to paint their utility boxes, I have enlisted seven rules you should follow to maximize both your personal safety and the results that you will receive.
1- Check What You Can Paint
Most utility boxes are made of metal or vinyl and installed in the garage or backyard.
Before you start, it’s essential to check what you can paint and what you shouldn’t.
According to utility companies, these boxes may comprise:
a) Gas Flow Meter:
It includes a meter to measure the volume of fuel consumed – it can be painted.
Some of these meters may have a plastic cover that should be masked and not painted.
b) Energy Meter Box:
Generally, an outside meter box includes a meter socket made of glass to measure the amount of consumed electricity in the house – it should NOT be painted.
c) Networking Device:
This vinyl-made box usually connects to the telephone network in your house – it can be painted with acrylic paint
d) Cable Boxes and Wires
This outdoor electrical box made of vinyl hides all your connecting wires and thick cables – it can also be painted using acrylic paints
2- Check Your Local Building Codes
Before you make any plans about painting your utility box, it is also important to first check to see if you can through the local building codes.
In most cities and counties, painting the utility box may not be a problem.
However, you also may find that certain restrictions apply or that you cannot paint them at all, especially if it’s a rental property.
It’s best to find out with your local utility companies before you spend any money on paint or, worse, have to remove the paint or pay a fine.
This is particularly true if you live in multifamily housing governed by a condo or coop board.
3- Check Box Enclosure
Another item to check is what materials are allowed to enclose the box.
An enclosure may be a better alternative to painting the box itself.
This is because if it can be enclosed, you can paint the enclosure first and attach it to the outside box.
Keep in mind that the enclosure must allow full access to the electrical box in your backyard.
Again, check with the building codes about the materials that may be used to enclose a utility box.
4- Select the Paint
If an enclosure is impossible, but you can paint the utility box, then you will need to choose a paint designed for outdoor use.
This means that when picking the paint to use on a gas or electric meter box, you must ensure that it’s durable and can withstand weather conditions.
You will also need to know the material the box is made from, which is usually metal or vinyl, and then select the proper type of paint.
IMO, a special variety of Stove paint can be safely used for fittings and accessories that are exposed to heat and electricity.
5- Mask Meters and Electrical Connections
Wipe the box clean using a dry cloth. Be sure that all dirt and debris are fully removed.
Then, mask the connections and meter with tape and plastic first.
This will help lower the risk of accidental fire if the paint comes into contact with the electricity.
Be sure to wipe the surface first, but do not use flammable liquids such as alcohol or mineral spirits.
6- Apply the Paint
Now you are ready to paint the utility box.
Start by applying a coat of primer designed for rust prevention.
You can add a second coat of primer or use latex or oil-based exterior grade paint that matches the trim or house.
Keep in mind that with oil-based paint, you should not have any paint solvents nearby.
These can be highly flammable and can cause a fire.
In addition, avoid painting the inside of the electrical panel or meter box apart from the lid itself.
This means avoiding fuses, circuit breaker switches, and housings.
7- Let Dry & Inspect
Let the paint dry, and then examine it afterward to see if you need to do any touch-ups.
Once completed, the painted utility box on the outside of your house should blend in perfectly with your home.
Can You Paint the Electrical Conduit?
Galvanized EMT conduits help protect and route electrical wiring, just like an electric piping system.
While you can paint over a galvanized EMT conduit, you will need to deal with two problems.
The first is that the pipes are galvanized to prevent rusting; you’ll need to wash off the oil coating before painting.
And second, since metal is nonporous, you should consider applying a specialty primer that can abrade the conduit and allow the paint adhesion.
So, before painting the PVC or metal conduits, make sure to shut the power running to the wires within the galvanized EMT conduit.
And degrease or etch the galvanized layer off your EMT conduit to make your paint job look good and last long.
What Color Can I Paint My Electrical Panel Box?
When deciding on the color code to paint electrical utility boxes and panelboards, light grey and white are the standards.
But you are free to paint the meters and boxes any color you choose as long as you don’t cover the label/glass or anything else that would obstruct someone from checking it.
You can paint them red to match your brick color wall exteriors, or you can choose to paint them green to match your landscaping. Or, you can even paint them both!
But in my opinion, gray, black, and white is always safe choice, especially if you are unsure about your local state laws.
What Are the Other Ways to Hide Utility Boxes in Yard?
While painting the utility boxes is an easy way to decorate them, you can try various other methods to hide, cover or disguise them for a better look in your yard.
Especially those breaker boxes and huge electrical transformer boxes, you can hide them with…
- Potted plants
- Corner fences
- Plant bushes and flowers
- Specially designed garden bed
The Bottom Line
Painting metal electrical boxes, gas meters, circuit breaker boxes, and pipes, along with other fittings and accessories, will prevent them from rusting and can provide longer life.
However, when you are repainting the meters yourself, care that it should be done without any legal issues.
Make sure you do not paint them black and over the glass, dials, or any other identification numbers.
Also, if you find that the utility box has deteriorated to a certain extent, it’s important to speak with customer service first.
Maybe they can help you get them replaced rather than repainting.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.