Now that it’s summer, we’ve started working on improving our outdoor space and have just completed the first project of the year – we’ve painted our rusty metal fence.
First impressions count and, when it comes to the front of our house and entryway, things could be better. The painted wood is chipped in more places than I can count, part of the columns are rotten and the metal fence and gate were so rusty that I wasn’t sure they could be saved.
Luckily, painting our metal gate and fence completely transformed them and it now looks so much better than we’d expected.
If you’re thinking of painting your metal gate or fence, here’s our full guide with practical tips on how to paint a rusty metal fence to give it a new lease of life.
What you will need to paint a rusty metal fence:
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- Cordless drill with a wire brush attachment
- Wire brush (as an alternative to a cordless drill with attachments)
- Paint – this is the only paint we recommend when painting rusty metal
- Turpentine substitute & Cloth
- Gloves & safety glasses
How to paint a metal fence or gate:
Painting a rusty metal fence is easier than you probably expect. It requires a bit of prep work, especially if you have a very rusty fence or gate as we did, but a couple of coats of paint are enough to completely transform it and protect it to keep it looking good for longer.
Remove The Loose Rust
Although using the right type of paint will allow you to paint over rust, you will still have to do a bit of prep work, especially if your fence or gate is very rusty.
To achieve a long-lasting finish, you’ll have to completely cover the entire fence with an even coat of paint to protect it. To ensure the paint sticks to all of the metal, remove any loose bits of rust before you apply the paint as they will end up sticking to your paintbrush.
Having flaky bits of rust sticking to your paintbrush is going to be messy and won’t help when you’re trying to achieve a smooth finish.
To remove the rust, use a wire brush or a cordless drill with a wire brush attachment to scrub the entire surface of the gate or fence and remove any loose bits of rust.
Don’t forget to wear protective gear when doing this!
It’s really important to have a sound surface to paint so be meticulous with this step. You can easily do it by hand with a wire brush but it will require a lot more effort than using a cordless drill and wire brush attachment like we did.
The wire brushes that we used were cheap (and not the best quality ever) but did the job and made it very quick and easy to remove the rust without much effort.
If you have a large fence or rusty surface to prepare, they are a good investment.
Clean The Fence
Once you’ve removed as much rust as possible, wipe down the surface to remove any dust and dirt.
We just swept everything with a brush but ideally, you’ll wipe down the whole surface you want to paint with some white spirit to remove any traces of dust.
Our fence however is so rusty that it’s never going to be 100% smooth or look like new, so we took a bit of a shortcut with the prep work. Yes, it’s not the best way of going about things but when you’re renovating a whole house it’s just too tempting to occasionally skip corners where possible.
Paint The Fence Or Gate
After all of the prep work, you can start to paint the fence.
Painting the metal surfaces is the easiest part of the whole project. Just dip your paintbrush into the paint and brush it all over the surface.
When the first coat of paint has dried, you should ideally apply a second coat. We found that the paint covered so well that we didn’t bother.
That’s all there is to it, especially if you use the right paint. This is the only paint we recommend when painting rusty metal as it’s super sticky and adheres extremely well, even to the bits of rust that you can’t remove.
There’s also no need to use a primer or undercoat which saves you so much time as metal fences aren’t the quickest thing to paint. We used the same paint to paint the metal plant pots in our last house silver and they looked great, too.
As you can see, painting a rusty metal fence is an easy and beginner-friendly DIY job. The steps are always the same even if you’re painting a wrought iron fence or a chain link fence. Remove as much rust as possible, clean the surface and apply a new coat of paint to protect it.
Can you paint a metal fence with a spray gun?
Although spray painting is often quicker we don’t recommend it when painting a fence for a couple of reasons.
3 Top Tips For Painting A Metal Fence
What is the best paint to use on a metal fence?
As I mentioned above, this is the best paint for metal fences, especially when painting rusty metal or wrought iron ones. There’s no need to use a primer or undercoat and you can apply it directly onto rusty metal surfaces without having to spend time priming it first.
It’s also really sticky and thick which means that it adheres to the surface easily and provides great protection for up to 8 years. We’ve used it to paint plant pots, a garage door and even our shower curtain rail.
How To Paint A Rusty Metal Fence FAQ
Yes, you can paint over rusted metal. Remove as much rust as possible before painting, clean the surface and then use suitable metal fence paint that will cover the rust and protect the fence. Follow the steps we shared above for detailed instructions on how to paint a rusty metal fence or gate.
Remove as much of the loose rust as possible with a wire brush or cordless drill with a wire brush attachment. Then wipe down the surface with white spirit to remove any traces of dust and let it dry before painting it.
If you use the right kind of paint that offers protection, painting over rust will stop it from getting worse in most cases. It is important to be meticulous when preparing the surface and when painting it to ensure that the rust doesn’t develop further.
You have to thoroughly remove any loose rust, have a very clean surface to paint and cover the entire surface with paint. Any uncovered areas or scratched paint will get rusty.
We love all-purpose WD-40 because it’s so versatile and it’s great for cleaning tools and removing rust. Spay the rusty surface and let the WD-40 soak in for a few minutes before scrubbing it clean.
If you have a lot of rust to remove, we recommend using a specialist rust remover that dissolves rust and is even better than normal WD-40.
I’m so pleased with how the fence and gate look. They are obviously not perfect given that there were already bits that had completely rusted away, but it’s a huge improvement on what was there before especially if you consider that this just cost the price of a can of paint and a couple of hours of work.
The exterior of our house is already looking a bit better but there’s still lots to do. I’d like to paint the door, add a new doorbell, some lighting, and new house numbers. Oh, and the whole porch needs sanding and painting, too. Fingers crossed for some nice weather so that I’m in with a chance of getting everything done.