Painting your metal balcony railings needs a proper plan for success

by Jamie Dowhayko

Painting metal surfaces can be challenging. Homeowners and property managers regularly encounter a variety of metal surfaces in both commercial and residential settings, including balcony railings, pipes, metal fences and garage doors, which require preventative maintenance in order for these surfaces to maintain their aesthetic appearance and prevent deterioration.

Like any project, from renovating to re-coating a metal surface, achieving a successful end result is often as much about proper planning as execution. When it comes to recoating metal surfaces, this can include knowing which type of metal you are applying the coating to, preparing the surface properly, and selecting appropriate products for the job.

As with any other surface, properly preparing the metal is the key to a long lasting finish. Generally, if you are considering refinishing a metal surface, it is beginning to show signs of weathering such as rust, loose or flaking paint, or discolouration. Removing the existing coating entirely and re-coating the bare metal is often impractical once these surfaces are installed, so proper prep work becomes a key factor in determining longevity. This prep work may require a combination of methods to address difficult to access areas, and to remove any loose paint or rust. Loose paint must be removed or it will fail and take any subsequent top coating with it, and rust if not treated will continue to expand and bleed through a top coating to the surface.

Generally, best practices to properly prepare a weathered metal railing or surface can include scraping, sanding, or wire brushing any affected areas. Often power tools such as drills and angle grinders with wire brush wheels are highly effective in removing rust that cannot be properly scraped by hand. If rust occurs in a difficult to access area and can otherwise not be removed, it can be treated with a rust converter.

Once proper preparation of the metal surface has been achieved, selection of an appropriate coating is the final step to achieve a long lasting finish. Today, new products are continually coming to the market, each with their own benefits. Some products require an anti-corrosive primer followed by multiple coats of a rust inhibitive paint; others may be applied directly to metal. One should be proactive in contacting their local area suppliers, as they can be a tremendous resource in providing the latest information on what products are available and they can provide assistance in selecting which product is best for your particular application.

Finally, you should also clearly discuss with your contractor how to best to perform the work required for your project. You want to make sure that you are comfortable with their approach, and that the product will be applied correctly and function as intended.

— Canadian Condo Institute