The best way to paint metal railings. Full preperation, including oxide primer

The Best way to Paint Metal Railings

By Mike Gregory


I have been a professional decorator for a lot of years and in that time, I’ve painted a hell of a lot of railings. I have used several products and methods, but always come back to the same system, not just because it looks brilliant, but also because I know it will last for years. I thought I’d put pen to paper so I can share what I think is the best way to paint metal railings. Maybe it will help you too.


The Preparation of Metal Railings


First things first, you’ve got to prep the railings. Assuming your railings are previously painted and looking very tired. The first thing you need to do is clean any heavy dirt off the surface using hot water, a cloth and a cleaning agent such as sugar soap. Any paint you apply over the top of dirt or mold will still look good for a period, but may not adhere very well to the metal and fail over time.


You also need to remove any flakey paint with a scraper or grinder, and then abrade the whole surface using sandpaper (aluminum oxide). This will give you a nice smooth surface to start with and also help with adhesion and longevity.


The next step is to prime any rust patches with oxi (or oxide) primer. This is more of a precaution more than anything because my chosen metal paint has a rust inhibitor within the product itself. That said, oxi primer definitely helps keep your metal railings rust free and looking fresh for a lot longer.


The Best Paint to use


In my honest opinion, the very best paint to use on metal railings is good old fashioned Hammerite and I’ll tell you why. You can apply Hammerite to bare metal without the need of a separate primer. On top of this, as mentioned above, Hammerite contains rust inhibitors, meaning rust will not reoccur for a long period after your railings have been painted.


The other reason I like Hammerite is its thick, creamy and rich. Everything you need to apply thick coats of paint. Opacity is bang on and the finish is brilliant too. You do get a few brush marks, but you can with any metal paint. Drying time is quick for an oil-based paint too and you can normally apply a second coat of the product in the same day.


Best way to Apply the Paint to the Railings


I have tried several methods over the years, but the best one I have found is by using a medium pile mini (emulsion roller) and a brush. Hammerite is thick and gloopy, as are most other metal paints, so applying it all by brush is difficult. The way to do it is simply touch blobs of paint anywhere you can’t get to with the mini roller. So normally inside any decorative swirls, top and bottom of each rail, underneath the handrail etc. This is called “cutting in”. Work on a section at a time, cut in the section, then go back and get all the larger areas with a mini roller full of paint. Be generous with the paint too!! The more you get on, the better it will look and the longer it will last. Have plenty of dustsheets out to catch any stray drips from your roller.


mini roller and paintbrush for restoring railings
finished metal railings after being painted with hammerite

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The Best way to Paint Metal Railings