Refinishing A Radiator

by Josh on March 4, 2010 · 10 comments

in Bedroom,Projects

In the two months since I finished stripping the paint from the radiator for my bedroom project, I have had some time to work and reflect.

First the reflection: chemical stripping a radiator was tedious, laborious, odious, noxious;  in short, a massive pain.  I chose chemical stripping after determining off-site paint removal wasn’t feasible in this case, and because– if the stripping was happening indoors– I wanted a low-dust solution.  That is still sound reasoning, but for my next radiator I will look much harder at using some form of abrasive paint removal, whether indoors or, ideally, off-site.

Priming and Painting

My work since completing the stripping has been fast and easy.  Before refinishing  began, I washed the bare metal with water, wiped it dry and brushed out any remaining debris or dust.  A flexible, wand-shaped short-bristled radiator brush is essential equipment that I had no trouble finding at a local hardware store.

Radiator PrimedTo prepare the radiator for repainting, I covered the floor and walls of the surrounding area with overlapping cardboard or plastic sheeting.  Then, after masking the bleed valve and connecting pipes, I applied an even cover of Rustoleum Professional primer.  It took two spray cans of primer applied lightly in three sessions to fully prime the radiator.

Finished Radiator FrontI followed the primer with a finish paint in a dark bronze metallic color.  This is a close match to the finish of the original door hardware throughout the house, though probably darker than the original radiator finish.  This color is actually pretty close the color of the unpainted cast iron before priming and painting. Like with the primer, I tried to use several light coats to achieve full coverage.  The finish took three cans of spray paint– and that was with light coverage on the wall-facing side of the radiator.

Will this paint job last?

Because I was able to prime and paint over bare metal, and because the paint is applied in thin spray coats instead of brushed, I expect the finish on this radiator to last a long time.  Although I have read of others using high-heat paint intended for ovens, grills and engines on their radiators, the hot water in my heating system won’t get nearly hot enough to give this finish a problem.  Finally, my choice of color is deliberately intended to extend the longevity of the finish.  Beyond my personal preference for metal to look like metal, the bronze color which deliberately doesn’t match the walls or trim shouldn’t require future repainting in order to maintain the match when wall or trim paint is freshened.

Finished Radiator Top Angle

Now the radiator will have to wait until the rest of the room is finished before it can be returned to its place and be reconnected.  In the meantime, I will wrap it in plastic to keep away the drywall dust and try to find an out-of-the-way spot for it to sit until then.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Holyoke Home March 5, 2010 at 7:58 am

You. Are. Amazing. The bronze is perfect.


Heidi March 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm

I had my radiator sandblasted and then powder coated (off-site of course) and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Your radiator looks lovely.


Allison March 11, 2010 at 9:59 pm

I have worked on a few with the chemical stripper route and it is a royal pain. Very difficult to get all the little pieces of paint off from the inside sections. Didn’t price out the off-site sandblasting, but with 12 or so to do, I doubt it would be economical.


b*schus March 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Thanks for this follow-up! I’ve been waiting to see the final product. This is a project I’m planning to tackle this summer, but I have to say that your review has made me re-think my initial DIY plans, and I now plan to hire this out to a contractor (at least the stripping). Lovely final result, you should be proud!


Sam Heating August 15, 2011 at 4:56 am

The bronze is beautiful. My husband and I are thinking about stripping our radiators to fit in with our newly decorated living room. After seeing your beautiful results I think we will now have to go ahead.


westphilly August 18, 2011 at 8:27 am

great job josh. did you use rustoleum hammered dark bronze?


Josh August 18, 2011 at 10:25 am

Close, Westphilly. It was Rustoleum metallic oil rubbed bronze, not the hammered finish.


Mona July 14, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Just had 4 cast iron radiators removed from our 2nd story So. Mpls house for sandblasting and painting at A1A Sandblasting. Bought a Living Social certificate for Bellhops. They are a moving service that provides moving for small moves; i.e. apartments and dorms. The guys are college students. I call to inquiry before purchasing that the guys would be able to move the 200 lb radiators. Was told yes, so went ahead and booked 1 hr of service ($40 Less 20% discount code =$32 total for 2 guys). The move from upstairs to our trailer took exactly 30 minutes and no mishaps. We rented an appliance dolly, as these guys are strictly the brawn…no equipment or trailer.
But if what you need is strength, give these guys a try.


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