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Clean and Paint Cast Iron Radiators

Hi, we just bought our first home.  Originally we wanted to replace the cast iron radiators, to baseboard ones, but soon realized it really isn't worth it for us economically right now, so we wanted to clean and repaint the steam radiators.  What is the best way to do this and is it easy to do yourself or should we hire someone.  If we hire someone who do we look for?  We are in Morris County, New Jersey.  All of the radiators are off right now b/c we refinished the floors, so we need to get them on soon since the weather is starting to change!

I appreciate any help we can get!



  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,544
    Retired and loving it.
  • Alliesxa
    Alliesxa Member Posts: 3

    I tried to look by searching, but to no avail.  Thanks so much for the link.  Another question.  I read the link and it was helpful but now I'm curious, would I just go to the paint store to get the powder coating or do you get that elsewhere and can a homeowner do something like that?

    If you can't tell already, I am new to posts and these types of questions!

  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,544
    It's not something you can do at home.

    This does a nice job of explaining the process:

    Retired and loving it.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,428

    You don't have to powder coat, although stripping and doing that does do a lovely job.  You can just give them a good wire brushing -- enthusiastic -- and then paint them with pretty much any good modern interior paint.  Works just fine.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • tim smith
    tim smith Member Posts: 2,765
    Re: powder coating etc

    Dan & others, we have had customers have there radiators sandblasted and powdered for years, but we alway let them know that there is a chance of the newly painted radiator leaking. Should alway pressure test radiator after before reinstall. That said, I knew of a large mansion here that did have a couple leakers after blast and powder appx 8 yrs ago so always would make sure client knew the possibility, never happened on one of our jobs although. Well, just happened to one of our clients. Customer hired sandblaster/powder coater who we know and have used many times. We removed and took to them, picked up and reinstalled. 2 or 3 of the 5 radiators started leaking from section joints. Old rococco style. I think the paper gaskets flexed a little during the bake time for paint. Any way, just a fore warning. Not the Painters fault, just happens once in a long while. Real drag although for customer.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,889
    edited September 2010
    And speaking of baseboard radiation

    Unless you have a 2-pipe steam system, baseboard generally doesn't work well. But when stripped and painted properly your cast-iron rads will look great. No need to replace them.

    You should use a paint that will handle heat. Some wall paint will peel if it gets hot.

    If you're not familiar with steam heat, try the Find a Professional page of this site and have someone come out to go over the system with you. It'll be money well spent.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • Radiator Ranger
    Radiator Ranger Member Posts: 81
    Prepping Radiators

    Hi -

    If you have a way to move radiators safely and a flat space with water to work & paint, refurbishing your radiators is very doable. Powder coating is an option, but not necessary.

    Following are the steps I follow when prepping radiators:

    1) Remove / replace necessary fittings.

    2) Pressure test to 30 psi. for 10 minutes.

    If you know the radiators are good (because you removed them carefully), etc. step #2 can be omitted.

    3) Use a soft, dry brush to get the dust out of the crevices then wash the surface with mild soap & water.

    4) Remove loose paint with a wire brush. Be aware that lead paint may be present and wear protective clothing.

    5) Paint exterior (from the bottom to top and all sides) with flat, black primer (let dry).

    6) Spray paint surfaces with chosen color(s).

    The hammered spray paints perform well and can look great. High temperature paints aren't necessary.

    7) Off-gas (when / where possible).

    Some people are sensitive to volatile organic compounds (VOC) found in spray paint. I haven't used non VOC paints but I understand they are available.

    8) Re-Install.

    I've prepped several dozen radiators following these steps and in most cases this year each radiator takes less than 1.5 hours from fitting removal to freshly painted.

    I hope this helps.


    Gwen Healy - Radiator Ranger

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  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    edited September 2010
    Did she mention....

    on REALLY tough radiators, she uses a Case 580 back hoe, uses one stabilizer to hold the radiator down, and manipulates the pipe wrench with a back hoe?

    Minor details...

    This is the only woman I've met that LOVES wrestling with these cast iron beauties. She see's their true beauty instead of the ugly weight.

    I hereby dub thee Gwen Healy, Radiator Savior and Goddess of Cast Iron Beauty and Comfort ;-)

    Stay warm my friend.

    PS, That's Gwen on the left in the mist of her "Heat Source" that we were using a Fire Truck to flush out the heat exchanger on.


    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,544

    Gwen, thanks for being you. ;-)
    Retired and loving it.
  • Alliesxa
    Alliesxa Member Posts: 3

    Thanks so much for all the feedback!  I'll give the scrubbing and painting a go!
This discussion has been closed.