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How To Paint Outdoor Railings

Why Is It Important To Paint Your Outdoor Railings?

Do your metal railings look crap? Why not give them a COAT? Go on. It’ll give them a new lease of life. Painting them will also hide years of wear and is really easy to do. Not to mention a cost-effective fix. Despite metal railings being strong and long-lasting, it doesn’t mean they’ll never corrode. Mainly because they are outside. In fact, painting outdoor railings is needed every six to ten years to keep them looking in good shape.

These outdoor railings painting tips will improve the appeal of your home. Especially if yours are starting to peel or chip.

Up for the challenge? This step by step guide provides all the ideas for painting railings too.

What Are Your Outdoor Railings Made From?

So how to paint metal railings, you ask? Before we divulge, try to identify the type of metal that has been used in yours.

The most common include traditional cast and wrought iron, modern stainless steel and aluminium too. Wrought iron is often the material of choice for its durable strength. If regularly maintained, it will last you for years. Where paint has worn away, however, the exposure to water and air can result in deterioration and rust. Whichever metal you have, our exterior paint will achieve a nice, flawless finish. This also goes for other outdoor metalwork too, like pipes and tables. Whatsmore, it’s low-VOC and water-based.

When Should You Paint Your Outdoor Railings?

As with all types of painting outside, it needs to be done before the previous coating has begun to fail. If your metal railings are too far gone, it’ll make them a nightmare to paint. This job is bad enough as it is. Types of damage include corrosion and rust. These will make it a pain in the arse to get that new COAT on smooth. Your best bet is to do an annual check where you assess the paintwork. If it looks thin and worn, it’s time to paint. Obviously, there may come a time when metal railings need to be changed. For example, have they got any serious vehicle damage? Sometimes they can even deteriorate to the point that paint and primer won’t do. Especially after years of being exposed to British weather conditions. Nice.

How To Prepare Your Outdoor Railings For Painting

Gather Your Equipment 

First things first, take the time to prepare. There’s a few supplies you’ll need to paint your metal railings. You’ll get these from most DIY stores and obvs your metal paint from us guys. This is the best paint for outdoor railings for sure.

You’ll need:

  • Protection for the floor - dust sheets or some old sheets of some sort
  • Dirty clothes - it’s not the time or the place for fancy
  • Safety goggles, gloves and a mask - wear these at all times
  • Steel brush and a scraper - to get rid of that old paint
  • Sandpaper - 120 to 150 grit is fine
  • Sugar soap and a bunch of cloths - or soap and water will work
  • Painter’s tape - this one will keep it all nice and tidy
  • Newspapers and large sheets of cardboard - to protect plants and bricks
  • Metal primer - to create the perfect surface for that new COAT
  • Paintbrushes - these beauties are a dream to paint with
  • COAT’s exterior paint - the best paint for exterior metal and every other outdoor surface too

Brush Off Old, Flaking Paint

Next, we’re gonna grab that steel brush. Or a scraper. This is important for removing flaking layers of old paint. You also don’t need chemicals or power tools to do this bit right. We’re all about keeping things as simple as poss. Use your paint scraper to work on the flat railing sections. Where the scraper can’t reach, your stiff-bristled wire brush will be just the ticket. Skip this step, and the new paint won’t adhere or protect the metal. Pretty pointless since you’ve come this far.

Clear Moss And Weeds 

If your railings have also become the victim of moss, scraping will help, but it won’t prevent this and algae from returning. Grab yourself a safe and effective algae cleaner. The web is full of chemical-free wonders. Check the bottom of railings and also clear away weeds. Often there’s a gap at the bottom of railings where debris can collect. This moisture trap can encourage corrosion as essentially the metal never dries out. Get in there with your scraper and give it a good old clean.

For this next part, you’ll need to grab your sandpaper and slightly wet it. Wet sanding is a great way to remove deep scratches without creating loads of dust. As the water acts as a lubricant, it’s less abrasive than dry sanding and will result in a much smoother finish.

Clean Away Grease And Grime

In this step, you’ll need to get your marigolds on and clean the surface. New paint won’t stick to a lifetime of grime. Sugar soap will cut through this great if you have the stuff in. Or you can use a mild mixture of soap and water instead. Using a cloth, wash the railings to get rid of dirt and any greasy deposits. For hard to reach places, an old toothbrush will work. Simply dip in soapy water and work into crevices. Once you’ve had a good clean, rinse your railings. The hose will make it nice and quick.

Prune Nearby Plants And Test Paint

Now that your railings are clean, it’s time to have a prune of those plants. The last thing you want is vegetation getting in the way. This will make them stronger next year and keep your shrubs in great shape. Make sure your clippers are rust free and nice and sharp. If you’re also painting over existing old paint, you’ll want to make sure that it takes. Paint a small trial section and leave to dry overnight.

Protect Plants From Paint Splashes

Got any funky planters outside? Don’t trim these. Protect them instead with cardboard. This will do a great job of protecting their leaves from splashes of paint. Otherwise, you’ll have A LOT of cleaning up to do when you’re done. A good masking tape will help you hold it in place, while you get that paint on. Any pro painter will tell you a bit of planning is all that’s needed with this. As long as the cardboard has drainage and/or air holes, your plants should be fine to sit tight until the paint has dried out.

Make Final Preparations

Next, it’s time to put that old newspaper to use to protect bricks, pillars and paths. Like plants, you don’t want them covered in paint. Hold it in place with a good masking tape to keep things tidy. Our quality decorator's tape is an absolute must-have for painting metal railings. You’re also best painting on a warm, slightly overcast day. Never paint in the rain or wind, for that matter too. In fact, avoid Nov to Feb. This is not the right time. Winter is too cold and damp for paint to cure properly anyway.

How To Prime & Paint Your Outdoor Railings 

Get That Primer On

Ideally, if you can, prime right away. You don’t wanna leave iron railings exposed for too long. Unprotected from paint, they can quickly become damaged. So lay down those dust sheets, and let’s get priming. When painting metals, especially ferrous types, primer is an absolute must. This is because they're more prone to rusting than others thanks to their iron content and so priming will help the paint adhere to the metal. Although COAT paints are generally self-priming, this additional layer will give the paint an extra boost of grit. It’ll also increase the metal's resistance to rust and protect the surface. We recommend our multi-surface primer for painting metal railings.

Brush On Two Coats Of Paint

Once the primer has dried, get that paint on! This is where you’ll really see your railings come to life. Begin by applying two coats with a small paintbrush. Starting from the top and working your way down the railings. Be careful to keep your coats nice and light rather than thick. This will dry unevenly and can look gloopy. It’s also really easy to miss certain spots when painting railings. Be sure to check your work from different angles as you go along. Also, keep an eye on underneath the railings. Your biggest enemy here is drips. These can occur when you load your paintbrush too much. To maintain your new paint job, wipe your railings once a year with a little white vinegar and a clean cloth. This will stop any rust in its tracks and keep them gleaming until you come to paint them again.


Looking for that perfect new shade for metal railings? Take your pick from our collection of designer paint colours. Whether you’re after a classic dark shade or something completely off-beat, COAT exterior paint has you covered.


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