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How to Paint Interior Wrought Iron Railings on the Cheap

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When we purchased this house, we had a lot of work to do and a limited budget.  There were many larger items that had to be addressed such as the furnace all the way to the bathroom fixtures.  When it came to decorating, we basically took off all the 80s wallpaper and borders (which took a long time!) and painted.

The staircase railing was an older outdated looking 70s wrought iron railing that had seen better days.  Although in physically good shape, it had been painted beige years ago and was dirty and dusty.  It had a lot of ornate sections which were never cleaned and taken much abuse. 

The railing followed the stairs to the second floor then all along the hallway, so there was a huge section.  We thought we would price a new one, and almost hit the floor when we found out just how much any replacement was going to be.  We had already budgeted for a stair runner and cleaned up the outer edges of the wooden treads, but this railing really took away from the updated and fresh look we were going for.  We decided we had to get creative.

I thought why fight it?  Make it a part of the décor, just update it.

It was hard to convince my hubby that this retro style beige/brown dirty railing could ever look good.  But for the price of the right can of paint, tools and a day, it ended up looking awesome as you can see in before and after pictures.  Also giving everything around it a fresh look didn’t hurt.

before painting wrought iron railing
After painting Wrought Iron Railing

 

What You Will Need:

Metal Paint or Paint that can be used on Metal.

We used black as the walls were a light colour and thought it would accent the area, and I think it did well.  You need to purchase a paint that is specifically designed for metal such as wrought iron or any metal.  You can also get this in a spray can, but with this project being inside the house, I didn’t want to risk overspray onto newly decorated walls.  

How to Paint Interior Wrought Iron Railings
Rust-Oleum 1979502 Painters Touch Quart Latex, Gloss Black
Amazon Price: $8.79 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 16, 2015)

Spray would be quicker but I think it would be hard to contain and would cost more, so we chose a good black glossy paint (I think glossy has the better look, but there are choices of finishes).

how to paint interior wrought iron railings
3M Wetordry Sandpaper, 9-Inch by 11-Inch, Assorted Grit, 5-Sheet
Amazon Price: $5.69 $2.90 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 16, 2015)

Metal Sandpaper

I tore these sheets of sandpaper into smaller pieces and basically gave each and every railing a quick sand to get rid of any loose paint and chunky bits of old paint.  This is designed specifically for metal projects, so this is the right choice.  This is where you might want to call in those favours, as this job is much quicker with more hands. 

You can use a drill and metal sanding disc but I didn’t want to run the risk of everything floating in the air.  I wanted to control the area, and in our case it did not need a lot of sanding, just a quick one to smooth out the surface and take old paint drips off.

update a interior wrought iron railing
3M Painter's Tape, Multi-Use, .94-Inch by 60-Yard
Amazon Price: $7.50 $3.79 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 16, 2015)

Painters Tape to Make Template

We had a lot of this around as we had been painting the house.  But I learned quickly the best way to use this is with a homemade template.  Our railing bottoms went right into the treads of the stairs, and I didn’t want to get this black paint on the wooden stairs, so I created a little square from paper with a hole in center and a slit so I could quickly slide it onto the base.  I used painters tape to secure it because it could be taken back up without damage to the wood.  Don’t use duct tape or other tapes as they will leave a residue, painters tape and some paper work the best. 

Make a few of these templates if you have some help painting and sanding.

update a wrought iron railing
FoamPRO 32 Wrought Iron, Spindle & Railing Painter
Amazon Price: $5.49 $3.71 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 16, 2015)

Railing Brushes

You can actually get specially designed railing painting brushes that make the job quicker with less spills.  I didn’t find this out until near the end, but don’t use a hair type brush, or you will leave streaks and drips.  It is best to use either this specialized brush with two sides or foam brushes.  

how to paint interior wrought iron railings
Loew Cornell 842 25-Piece Foam Brush Set, 1-Inch
Amazon Price: $6.49 $5.25 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 16, 2015)

Tip:  do not put too much paint on a foam brush or it will cause drips.  Just a small amount is all you need.  It is better to do two light coats than one thick one.  If you use foam brushes, make sure and have a bag of them, as you will go through them, especially if there are designs in your railing.

Method:

Take a vacuum with the tool extension and really clean the railing well, get into all the ornate crevices, as paint will not stick to dust. 

Take a damp cloth with some general house cleaner or something that will take off grease and dirt and take the time to clean it well.  Then rinse.  This may take some time, but preparation is everything if you want it to look its best.  Lots of hands make this job go faster.  Section it off and give a section to each person who is helping.

Cover the stairs as sometimes a brush will splatter and this type of paint is hard to get off.  So cover anything within a foot or two of your project.

Create a Template out of paper and painters tape.  Cut a square with a round hole in the center the size of the spindles you are going to paint.  Then add a slit so that you can slide it to the base and tape into place.  This will protect the stairs and base.

Now put on your painting clothes and start to paint.  I started up in the hallways and worked my way down.  Don’t forget all the little ornate crevices.  If you have help, section off areas so that you are not on top of each other.

The beauty of this paint is that it doesn’t need a top coat.  I loved the shiny black.  I did two coats.

I then shined up the banister (which was another material) and it looks great.  So less than a hundred dollars made this eye sore look like it belongs, compared to the thousands we were quoted for a new one.  Updating interior wrought iron railings can be a part of your style if you use the right materials and colours. 

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Comments

Jan 12, 2016 1:29am
LeighGoessl
Nice work and article!
My better half and I were just discussing a room we have with 80s wallpaper. Don't mind the painting, but boy do I hate tearing down wallpaper, so keep putting it off. Yet I'm so tired of looking at it as I work...(lol)
Jan 13, 2016 6:45am
Sookie
I know, wallpaper is a pain. I found if I told myself, tonight I will try and remove one foot wide of wallpaper that the job didn't seem so big breaking it up. This place was loaded with it too. Those wallpaper steamers are worthwhile I found. You can rent them.
Jan 13, 2016 1:29pm
LeighGoessl
I have three rooms left with it. Fortunately, even though dated, two of them I really like. The third has to go at some point though. Thanks for the tip about the steamer, will look into that. (We did it with the tools and sprays last time - not something I'd do again :)
Feb 3, 2016 9:31pm
wayne111
I have been in the construction and land development business since the 1960`s. Great article. What impress me is how clearly this author described the project from start and finish. Today if you have a project goal there is a product or method of getting it done. Be creative and research. Who know you may not even need a HAMMER.
Feb 3, 2016 9:31pm
wayne111
I have been in the construction and land development business since the 1960`s. Great article. What impress me is how clearly this author described the project from start and finish. Today if you have a project goal there is a product or method of getting it done. Be creative and research. Who know you may not even need a HAMMER.
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