While I am by no means in love with metal baseboard heat covers, they are after all rather ugly, changing out heating systems is very costly. Painting baseboard heat covers can spruce them up though, and help them to blend in with your design scheme. They were not in particularly bad condition in my house when we bought it, a few specks of rust here & there, some scratches and splotches, but they certainly needed a makeover. I thought I would share the refinishing process with you, in case you also have metal baseboard heating covers that need to be repainted.
Painting Baseboard Heat Covers
Prepping the Surface for Painting
Step one is to completely disassemble the covers. If there are a lot of pieces you may wish to label each piece on a non visible while assembled spot, so you will know where they go when it is time to but everything back together.
Sand the pieces lightly with 100 grit sandpaper. No need to be fussy in the sanding, you are just trying to sand off and rust, and give the finish a little tooth. If you have more rust, you may want to use a heavier grit in those areas, to get it off.
If the covers are really grungy you may want to wash them down before sanding, but this shouldn't be necessary in most cases.
Washing the baseboards down with a teaspoon solution (follow package directions) after sanding. This will wash off any residue, as well as the dust from sanding.
Wipe the teaspoon solution off with paper towels, to ensure all the sanding dust is off. A clean surface is essential.
Painting the Covers
I use a semi-gloss oil paint without primer. The paint is thinned down a little with paint thinner to glide on smoothly (10-20% thinner). This is the same technique we have used on other baseboard heat covers in the house, and the finish has withstood the test of time without issue. Make sure to use a good oil or all purpose paint brush.
To get a nice consistent finish, two coats of paint should be done. Allow ample time between coats, to allow for drying. After second coat make sure to let the pieces dry well before reassembly. If they are still tacky at all, you risk ruining the nice paint finish you have worked for.
Janice B. says
Thanks. Mine look awful.
I spray painted mine. They didn't come out too bad.
Shop with Me Mama (Kim) says
GREAT tutorial, thank you!!!
Tom D. says
What is the brand of paint did you use ? I am having a hard time finding the right kind for paint for heat.
If you are just painting the covers a good oil base enamel should do fine. I bought it a couple years ago so the specific name of the paint may have changed but mine was Glidden Ultra Hide Semi-Gloss.
I plan to paint mine but I really don't want to take apart the sections for I find I may not get them back into the same position. In my living room, the baseboard heaters run a 30ft area on my side of my house and about another 15 feet in other areas. Most sections of metal is 7 ft long. We have had the heaters for 40 years. Probably time for a new system but who has the money and the heaters still heat well. Any suggestions on how to paint them installed?
Merry, I recently ran into a similar issue with my bathroom baseboard heat. The way the were installed, I could not remove w/o destroying them, and they were starting to show a little rust, so I spray painted.
Clean them down as good as you can 1st (and get off any rust, if you have it). Use newspaper & painters tape to block off all sounding area... make sure to leave yourself plenty of room, to account for overspray. Apply in several thin coats of good quality regular spray paint.
I did this about a month and 1/2 ago, so far so good. I did not prime either.