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While I have come to love split-level homes, I have not come to love the metal handrails that tend to always accompany split-level entries.
You know what I’m talking about.
Those handrails that belong outside. Not inside.
Alas, it seems every builder in the 70’s just had to have these metal eyesores in the stairways. There are some things I will wholly embrace from that era – such as wood paneling. At this point in my life though, those metal handrails are not one of the things I wish to embrace.
However, my pocketbook doesn’t exactly have enough money in it for me to totally kick that handrail to the curb just yet.
For the time being, I chose to just paint the handrail and live with it. I wanted to make sure it took as little away from the overall feeling of the entryway though. I wanted the art, lighting, rug and lucite handrail going downstairs to be the stars. For that reason, I thought it best to paint the handrail black to kind of blend it in with the walls.
As you know, the handrail is metal. Painting metal in general is different than painting a wall or a piece of furniture. You can’t use latex paint unless you just want to have the paint peeling away in a matter of days. Here’s how I painted my metal handrail.
- Oil Based Paint – I used Behr’s oil based paint in a semi-gloss black.
- Small Good Paintbrush – I used a Wooster Pro 1.5” angled paintbrush. Notice I bolded the word “good.” Use a good, high quality paintbrush. When painting metal, having a good paintbrush is a necessity.
Tape off around any walls, trim, or floors as needed. Lay paper or dropcloths underneath your railing for paint splatter.
Working in small sections, brush the paint onto your railings. Do not try to roll the paint on with a roller. I tried this initially and it doesn’t work well at all. I ended up going back over all the rolled places with a paintbrush. This is one of those things where you have to suck it up and brush the whole damn thing. Oil based paint takes longer to fully set-up and dry, however you cannot easily go back over places you missed while the paint is drying as it will mess up the finish. This is why you want to work in those small sections.
Do the top of the railing all at once. Then go back and do entire spindles and in between them all at once and so on. Apply the paint in long even strokes – don’t go back and forth with the brush. As soon as you see you are starting to run out of paint, get more on your brush and overlap a little where you left off. If you apply the paint this way, then you should only have to apply one coat.
If you end up having to do an additional coat, wait at least a full 24 hours before reapplying the paint. Be sure that no one touches the paint while it is curing as it will smudge and mess up your finish. It may take 3-5 days for the paint to fully cure, so be as careful as you can around the railing during this time.
You should have little to no brush strokes if you bought the good paintbrush. Oil based paint is very good about self-leveling when used with a good brush.
Our metal handrail runs the length of the upper staircase, as well as a good bit around the top of the stairwell. It took me about 4 1/2 hours to paint the entire thing and I only needed one coat. I do think that if you wanted to, you could unscrew the handrail, take it outside, and spray the handrail with oil based paint in a paint sprayer. I wasn’t willing to go to all that trouble though. You could also spray paint it outside, but I find that over time spray paint will wear off of something when it’s constantly in use – like a handrail.
Do you have any tips to share for painting metal handrails or just painting metal in general?
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