Secret to painting galvanized steel

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Q: I have galvanized steel railings that were painted a few years ago with two coats of epoxy paint. Now it is peeling off in large chunks.

I can’t seem to get a definitive answer from the painters I’ve asked as to what paint to use and how to apply it. Recommendations have included everything from Rust-Oleum to oil-based paint to using epoxy again. I was hoping you could steer me in the right direction.

A: The secret to a long-lasting paint job on any surface is in the preparation. A good-quality paint should not fail after only a few years.

We’re sure the paint is not the problem. The cause of paint peeling from galvanized metal is failure to do sufficient preparation. Here’s how to redo the job right.

In his first career, Kevin painted thousands of feet of galvanized gutter. The first thing he always did was wash the surface of the metal with a mild acid. The galvanization process leaves a smooth, oily film on the finished metal that doesn’t hold paint very well. Treating with acid etches the metal and gives the surface a "tooth" for the paint to adhere to. Kevin’s acid of choice was plain white vinegar. He came out smelling like a salad, but he never got a call back for peeling paint.

To repaint your rails, start with a thorough prep job. First scrape off all the peeling paint and feather the edges with 150-grit sandpaper to blend the old paint into the new. Sand the rest of the rail to roughen the old paint.

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The final prep step should be a quick wipe of the bare metal with the vinegar. This added step takes little time, costs nothing and provides insurance against repeat peeling.

Paint the bare metal with primer designed for metal. Finally, paint the rails a color and paint of your choice. We’ve always had good luck with acrylic latex, but any good-quality paint should do the trick given the superior preparation we know you’ll do. …CONTINUED