Admit it! You attempted to paint a wrought iron fence/railing, and you felt like this is the most challenging task you ever had to face.
And I know it is a difficult activity, which is why I’ve created the following step by step guide to help you paint a wrought iron fence with little to no hassle.
How to Paint a Wrought Iron Fence?
Follow these simple yet best ways to paint wrought iron railings and I am sure you will have your cast iron fence and railings painted within no time.
Step 1. Get the surface ready
As it is the case with almost anything, you need to start by preparing the wrought iron surface.
This means that you need to make sure there is no rust on your iron fence.
Our advice is to wear protective gear, including gloves and a mask, as the particles of rust can pose a health risk when removed from the railing fence.
Step 2. Remove the rust
So, you need to remove the rust, and you should start this process only after you put on the protective gear.
To remove the rust, you can use a steel brush or high grit sandpaper.
Keep in mind that it might take some time before you manage to clear the entire surface, as rust tends to be hard to remove.
Step 3. Clean the fence
Now that you removed rust, you need to clean the fence to make sure there is no debris left.
You can wash the fence with mineral spirits, as those will remove anything that might stick to your iron fence.
Step 4. Rinse with water
And, of course, after spraying mineral spirits and cleaning the face, it is best to rinse the fence with water.
Make sure you remove the substance entirely, as it can have a direct impact on how the paint adheres to your iron fence railing.
Step 5. Apply a primer
After the fence dries, you can start applying a primer.
Make sure you use only specially created priming material for metals like wrought iron, as it can make a lot of difference for your paint.
It can increase the lifespan of the paint as an excellent primer allows the paint to adhere adequately.
And, of course, will enable the primer to dry for at least 24 hours
Step 6. Apply paint for metal surfaces
Follow the primer with a specially designed paint blend.
Make sure you use the specific paint that is designed for metal surfaces, as not all varnishes are the same.
For the application, it’s recommended that you use a high-quality paint-brush and apply the paint in long even strokes very slowly.
Since you will be painting the thin metal railings, using a roller or a paint sprayer isn’t a good option.
If used it can create lots of oversprays and hence wasted paint material.
Step 7. Follow up with several coats of paint
After the initial coat of paint, you can follow up with several layers. This will ensure you will achieve a smooth and pleasant finish.
But at the same time, it can boost the lifespan of your paint job.
Applying several paint layers to your wrought iron railing and fence can increase its ability to withstand wear and tear in time.
And as a result, you won’t need to repaint it too often.
So, following these seven steps is the best way for you to paint a wrought iron fence. And we can tell you that it is rather simple.
All you have to do is be attentive to small details and make sure you apply the right paint to your fence.
What is the Best Paint for Wrought Iron Fence and Railings?
For me, Rust-Oleum Protective Enamel Paint that comes in the black satin finish has worked fabulously in most cases.
It offers excellent coverage and dries to the touch in about 2-4 hours.
Moreover, with its excellent rust prevention abilities, it can help keep the wrought iron fence just like new for very long.
For metal fencing, personally I prefer using satin rather than flat paint because it helps in keeping some natural shine of the metal intact.
But remember, like oil and water, paint and metal do not tend to mix. In other words, paint does not stick to metal the same way that it sticks to wood.
That is why professional painters will use a substance that is not paint if they need to cover the surface of metal.
Before we come to those best paints or substances that can be used for painting wrought iron railings, let us try to understand why metal resists paint in the first place?
The reason why paint tends to slide off most metal is pretty simple. The surface of metal consists of a crystalline structure.
This structure is what gives the metal its strength and why it is used for creating so many things such as skyscrapers. It’s also why metal is better than wood for use outdoors as it resists penetration by water.
However, this same crystalline structure that makes metal so strong also does not give paint the irregularities its needs to stick to the surface.
Paint sticks because at a microscopic level, many materials such as wood for example have imperfections that allow paint to take hold.
The rough surface, pits, and the like give the paint something to hold on to when it dries.
Metal has few such imperfections, so the paint tends to slide off fairly easily.
What imperfections metal does have tends to keep paint from sticking as well.
This is because the surface consists of small pits or dents along with long crevasses that provide little grab for the paint.
But will allow water and oils to become trapped underneath which over time will disrupt the paint on the surface.
However, while most metal may resist paint, it does not resist oxidation which leads to it rusting fairly quickly unless protected.
So, What Paint to Use and How to Prevent Wrought Iron Fence from Rusting?
Before you go and pick the best type of paint for wrought iron fence and railings, be sure that you choose the right primer.
Priming your cast iron fence using a correct base coat (a rust-inhibiting primer base) is very important, since this will decide how hard the top finish coat will adhere when you paint the railings.
For most of the bare wrought iron surfaces, acid-based metal-etching primer provides the lasting base that can help you provide better painted finish.
Make sure that you do not choose the latex or acrylic primers as it will not bond very well to the wrought iron surface due to its smooth and nonporous qualities.
Now when you have picked the right primer, it’s time to choose the best paint for the surface.
The two types of paints that are well-suited for outdoor wrought iron fencing are:
Being highly durable, exterior-grade enamel is best for exterior conditions.
Painting your wrought iron railings with enamel will help them keep off from rust, corrosion, and various other environmental conditions.
Plus, an exterior-grade enamel paint will provide an attractive finish to your railings as well.
2- Acrylic Based Latex Paint
Unlike ordinary latex paint that does not suit the exterior metal surfaces, acrylic latex paint provides better protection to the iron fencing because of its ability to expand and contract at high and low temperatures.
While paints might be an excellent rust-proofing material as it resists moisture, it does not stick to the bare wrought iron surface very well.
However, there are two other types of coatings that can help metal resist the oxidation process and stay sound.
You should definitely consider these options as well, if you want to keep your railings in good condition for long.
In this method, a thin coating of zinc is applied to the surface. It is the most effective coating that can be applied to metal which keeps it from oxidizing or rusting.
You can paint on a metal or wrought iron gate that is covered in zinc, but there are certain types of latex or oil-based paints that will not last very long.
This is because the zinc will react to the paint which causes a process known as saponification. In other words, it creates a soapy substance that will have the paint slide off the surface in a short time.
4- Mill or Grease
This is a layer of grease that is placed on the surface of the steel. This is used to prevent the metal from rusting when it is transported or stored before use.
The grease is well-suited to the task because it remains on top of the surface and does not seep inside. Plus, one the temperature changes the grease can easily be removed from the metal surface.
You can heat treat or simply burn away the grease from the metal without damaging the surface when the protection is no longer needed.
However, depending on the size of the metal, it may be difficult to find a facility that can heat treat such large pieces. That is why the pre-galvanizing process is more popular.
However, for small pieces that can easily be heat-treated in some manner, the mill coating tends to be better because it is easy to remove and is cheaper compared to pre-galvanization.
Welders for example can simply burn away the grease as they are doing their work. Conversely, trying to burn off the layer of zinc may cause fumes which are a threat to those nearby.
In either case, the protection provided by mill and pre-galvanization is now gone once the layer has been removed.
For welding, there may be other issues that need to be addressed.
How to Keep the Welds of Iron Railing from Rusting and Corroding?
For metal that has been welded, the use of grease or zinc as a coating does not tend to work very well.
This is because the grease tends to create holds in the welds themselves that can penetrate the metal.
The same is true of zinc, so neither substance is recommended to cover an area that has been welded.
In addition, while traditional paint now has a rougher surface to stick, it is usually too deep to be any good.
This is because moisture can now form underneath the paint which causes it to slide off and creates areas for the rusting process to begin.
There are two methods that can keep welded metal from rusting.
The first is dipping the welded area into a bath consisting of molten zinc.
While this can create a rust-proof coating for the metal, it often does not fill in all the rough areas. This means that there will be some spots where rust can form even if the metal itself has been fully coated.
Another way to protect the welded railings from rust and corrosion is by applying the powder coating.
Powder coating as the name implies is a powdery substance that can coat metal effectively without the downsides of grease or pre-galvanization.
It sticks to the surface thanks to an electrical charge which causes the powder to bond effectively.
Plus, it can be applied in an even coat and when baked into the metal it will become smooth and resilient to the weathering process.
Overall, there are several advantages that powder coating has over traditional paints thanks to its flexibility which resists cracking.
While it is difficult to touch up if imperfections appear, that does not happen with the high-quality applications of powder coating.
The Bottom Line
Choosing the right paint is a key to success when you want to paint your outdoor wrought iron fence, handrailings, palisade, or paling.
No matter you are painting them in your back yard garden or near your driveway, you should also know how to start the painting, what other products to use and what are the exact steps you will need to follow.
The above guide will hopefully help you out – the next time you want to refinish them to make them look like new.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls. He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.