Can you paint radiators with gloss paint?

17 January 2023
Can you paint radiators with gloss paint?

Can you paint radiators with gloss paint?

Painting an old radiator with gloss paintPainting an old radiator with gloss paint

If you're looking for a simple way to freshen up a room, then painting your tired old radiators is one of the best ways of doing it. Giving an old convector radiator a fresh coat of white paint will definitely make a difference and could transform the feel of the room. However, one of the main questions you might have before embarking on this process is whether or not you can use gloss paint. This is a very common, and reasonable, question and is one we'll do our best to anwer in the article below.

Is gloss a suitable radiator paint?

When gloss paint dries, it has a high-shine finish that has typically made it popular for use on interior woodwork such as skirting boards, door frames and internal doors. Gloss is also suitable for painting on metal so, because of its very durable nature, it has traditionally been used to paint radiators. Therefore, it can indeed be considered a very suitable radiator paint.

That's not to say painting radiators with gloss paint down't have downsides though. If you've done some painting elsewhere in your home and got some gloss paint left over, then by all means use it to smarten up a scruffy radiator or two. But if you need to paint all of your radiators and will be buying paint specifically to do that job, keep in mind some of the downsides of gloss and the potential alternatives.

The downsides of gloss paint

Yellowing - Some cheap, solvent-based gloss paints have a habit of turning a creamy-yellow, in some cases quite quickly after being applied to a radiator. If the purpose of painting your rad was to have a crisp, white finish, then it can be a bit disheartening to see the effects of your hard work disappearing within a few months. Higher quality gloss paints will retain their white finish for longer.

Crack & peeling - Again, depending on the quality of the paint you choose, radiators painted with gloss can be susceptible to a cracked and peeling finish after a certain amount of time. This is primarily caused by radiators expanding and contracting slightly as they heat up and cool down which eventually has an impact on the finish of the paint. Giving the radiator a good clean before painting and applying the paint when the radiator is completely cold will help minimise this problem.

Strong smell - Solvent-based gloss paints are often accompanied by a strong, chemical smell. This often intensifies when the radiator heats up and initially can be quite unpleasant. The smell does fade over time but this can be quite an irritating side-effect of using gloss in the short term.

Highlights blemishes - The shiny nature of gloss means that it can draw the eye to any imperfections on the surface of your radiator. If there's any dents or scratches on your rad then you can be sure they will be visble when you coat it with gloss.

These downsides are more 'things to be aware of' rather than a stark warning against using gloss on your radiators. Choose a good quality paint and your rads will definitely look better thanks to a coat or two of gloss.

Alternatives to gloss paint

A hugely popular alternative to gloss is a satin-finish paint. Satin has a much less shiny finish to gloss and has become many interior designers 'go to' paint when a white finish is required. Some people really don't like the shiny finish of gloss (associating it with negative fashion trends of the 70s and 80s) and like the more subtle effect of a satin finish. Not only does satin paint avoid that miro-like finish of gloss, it's also much better at hiding or disguising imperfections. This makes it popular not only for radiators, but for skirting boards and door frames as well.

Some manufacturers, such as Hammerite, produce paints that are specifically formulated to be used on radiators. These paints are heat-resistent and so are immune to the effects of high temperatures and the expansions and contractions typical of convector radiators. The heat resistant paints tend to be available on a range of finishes, such as gloss, satin and enamel, so you really can choose exactly what you want, knowing they're perfect for smartening up your radiators.

How to paint a radiator with gloss

Painting your radiator with gloss is a very easy job and anyone can do it. However, do take your time and don't be in a hurry to rush the paint job. Gloss always looks better if applied slowly and you'll be more happy with the finish if you take a bit of care. Solvent-based gloss can be hard to get off once it's adherred to a surface so make sure you're wearing old clothes, have protected the floor and masked up any areas where you don't want paint splatter.

The following steps will help you to paint your radiator with gloss.

  • Give your radiator a light sanding with 120 - 150 grade sandpaper
  • Wipe off dust from the radiator with a damp cloth
  • Lay down some old sheets, blankets or towels under the radiator to protect the floor
  • Make sure the radiator is cold
  • Stir paint and apply first coat evenly to the radiator with vertical strokes of the brush
  • Allow first coat to dry according to manufacturer's instructions and apply second coat
  • Allow about 24 hours before switching the radiator back on