December 2, 2023

For a bathroom that gives nod to the Art Deco era, East painted the radiator and the vintage tub to match a reclaimed blush sink. She used a gloss finish on the cast-iron radiator. The extra luster highlighted the detail in the design. “Even though there are many different patterns, textures, and eras in what is a very small space, the colors—and specifically, painting the bath and radiator—work together to create a room that has a really restful vibe, as any well-designed bathroom should.”

Make it a cheery focal point

When in doubt, choose yellow radiator paint, much like designer Heather Craig .

Photo: Heather Craig

“Depending on the room, I either like to paint the radiator the same color as the wall to create a calm feel, or I like to paint it a contrasting color,” says Heather Craig, designer and @heatherscolourfulhome creator, who used metal paint from Little Greene. “Yellow is my favorite to use. I find it uplifting and fun. Yet goes with so many other colors.” Craig, who is based in Dunfermline, Scotland, painted this radiator by hand but has since bought a paint spray gun for other radiators in the house. “It is definitely worth investing in one,” she adds.

According to Tolchin, the best rule of thumb to keep in mind when decorating a child’s room is to create an environment that they will enjoy spending time in. “This space features a lively, colorful rug and whimsically painted walls,” she says. “Pulling the buttery yellow color from the rug and using it on the radiator adds character to the unit and makes the room that much brighter and livelier.”

How to paint a radiator?

Step 1: Prepare the radiator space 

First and foremost, turn off the radiator and let it cool down. You can disconnect it from the pipe with a wrench, but this could be difficult if the radiator hasn’t been touched in decades. If you decide to keep it in place, it’s not enough to put down a drop cloth before your reach for radiator paint. “Protect the area around the radiator,” says David Steckel, director of strategic partnerships at the home services site Thumbtack. Use craft paper and slide it underneath, then use painter’s tape to secure it in place. Put something behind the radiator and the wall, like a piece of cardboard. 

Step 2: Remove chipped paint

For smooth application, chip away all peeling paint with a paint scraper, a wire brush, and a multi-tool.  You can also sand stubborn spots with fine-grit sandpaper, Steckel advices. Don’t rush through this step, as it will affect the outcome of the radiator makeover. Will Glaser, who renovated his 140-year-old Brooklyn brownstone, learned this the hard way. “We didn’t scrape nearly enough of the old paint off before painting, which led to them looking and feeling uneven and chippy,” says the co-founder of @glamstudio_bk, who repainted 11 radiators. “It would have taken us at least half a week of mind-numbing work, and we figured we could live with them having a little ‘character.’ But yeah, they would look and feel way better if we could have put the time and effort into scraping and prepping them properly.” Once the metal is smooth, clean the radiator with dish soap and water to remove any remaining debris and dust. Wipe down thoroughly with a microfiber cloth. “If you find any cracks, call a pro immediately,” Steckel adds. 

Step 3: Prime the radiator 

Treat the radiator with an all-surface primer, like BIN Zinsser spray—or an enamel-based primer, such as Rust-Oleum Rusty Metal primer, if you’re worried about rust. 

Step 4: Paint

 “It’s best to avoid oil-based paint, which can become tacky when the radiator heats up,” East says.  An aerosol spray like Rust-Oleum High Heat enamel will make the radiator paint application easy. “Trying to brush or roll paint into the nooks and crannies of these things is basically impossible,” says Glaser, who used Rust-Oleum Satin Protective enamel spray.  “Maybe for touch-up it’s okay, but some of the spaces are too tight.” If you want to use a roller, Steckel recommends a foam roller as opposed to a regular paint roller, which can leave streaks. Once the first coat dries, apply a second coat of paint. Wait 24 hours for the radiator paint to dry completely before turning it back on. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *