Fix It: Rusty railings

Spring is a great time of year to inspect your metal window bars and railings. After the rainy season, bars tend to rust.

rusty railing 88 (photo credit: )
rusty railing 88
(photo credit: )
Spring is a great time of year to inspect your metal window bars and railings. After the rainy season, bars tend to rust. Painting your bars properly will preserve your bars and keep them looking great. Like all painting projects, the preparation is the most important step. A quality paint job requires properly preparing the surface prior to applying an appropriate paint that will prevent rust from reappearing. You should initially inspect your bars to determine that the rust has not completely corroded the metal. After years of neglect it is possible that sections of the metal bars need to be replaced. This usually is not a do-it-yourself project and requires a wrought iron worker to come and replace the sections of corroded metal. Most often, rust has not penetrated the metal and with proper preparation can be painted. To properly prepare the metal, it is necessary to remove all light rust and flaking paint. This is accomplished using a standard wire brush or a wire brush that attaches to a drill. With all the loose particles scraped off you must use paint thinner to wipe down the bars. This will remove the dust particles you scraped off and clean off anything else that is on the bars. With the preparation work completed, you are ready to paint. It is very important to use quality paint and use it to the manufacturer's instructions. I have used the metal paint from both Hammerite and Niralat with excellent results. Paints made for metal are formulated to prevent rust from forming and cannot be altered in any way. Therefore it is necessary to choose from one of the existing colors provided by the manufacturer. Applying the paint can be done by roller or brush. I usually find a combination of both to be most effective. It mostly depends on the design of the bars. If you have multiple twists or flower designs, using a brush may be your only option. It is always best to start painting the upper sections and then work your way down. The initial coat will dry in about one hour. A second coat can be applied as soon as the first coat is dry. When using this specially formulated metal paint, you can only reapply the paint as many times as necessary within an eight hour period. After that, you must wait two weeks prior to doing any touch-ups or applying an additional coat. It is important to completely cover all areas to prevent rust from reappearing. When painting over bars with the same color as in the past, it is very difficult to be sure that you covered all areas. If at all possible, I recommend changing colors; this will make it much easier to see any spots that you missed. Now that you know the process, it is best to try to plan your work accordingly. You should wire brush, clean and paint areas in sections according to what you can accomplish in a day. Rust can appear on bare metal shortly after the morning dew. Therefore, it would not be logical to wire brush more than what you can accomplish in the day. The painting must also be logically planned. Because of the limitation of only applying paint within an eight-hour period, you need to make sure you can get back to everything in that time. It is possible that two or more coats will need to be applied. Properly following the instructions of the manufacturer should give you about five years of your bars looking great and being rust free. It is always a good idea to inspect your bars each year to touch up. Alex F. asks: In your last article, you had useful information that I am using to decide on which lawnmower to purchase. Do you have any recommendations what style bag to get? Mowers generally come with a side mounted bag or a rear bag for collecting the grass. The rear bagger is a much better choice. It allows you more flexibility in avoiding shrubs, swing sets and all types of obstacles in your way. When using a mower with a side bag it is often necessary to turn the mower around because the bag prevents you from getting close. Although you did not ask, you should also consider not bagging your grass at all. Most mowers will work without a bag and will mulch the grass into finely shredded grass clippings. As long as your grass is mowed often, it actually acts as a lawn fertilizer. It also makes your job a lot easier, as you can mow your entire lawn without stopping. With a bag you need to constantly stop the mower when the bag fills up to empty it. Today's Do-It-Yourself Resource is:, which has all the information you need for painting metal. Readers' tips, questions and comments are always welcome! The authors can be reached at