Wrought iron brings classic elegance to home design. Wrought iron fences, doors, and furniture can provide a lifetime of beauty. But the material needs care to protect it. Let’s discuss how to maintain, paint and enjoy wrought iron.
The iron age returns
Iron has been used both decoratively and practically in home construction for centuries. Wrought iron banisters on exterior steps, or pillars supporting the roof over a front porch or entrance, have been common for years, as has wrought iron outdoor furniture. Now new, upscale neighborhood developments are beginning to install wrought iron fences rather than less expensive wooden privacy fences. These newer fences deny homeowners some privacy but give developments a cleaner, classic look. They force owners to keep their backyards tidier since the world — not to mention the homeowners’ association — can see everything behind the house.
To keep wrought iron looking its best, spray it occasionally with a mild vinegar-and-water solution and wipe it down.
Prep carefully for painting
Sometimes wrought iron needs more than cleaning. If an older piece needs repainting, the first step is proper cleaning and sanding to prepare its surface.
Begin by cleaning all metal surfaces thoroughly with a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and water. Hand-wash the surfaces completely, then rinse with equal diligence. Use a brush or rag if needed to remove all residual dirt and grime. If there is mold, use a bleach and water solution to remove it. Avoid mixing vinegar and bleach in the same solution; the combination releases toxic fumes.
After the surfaces have completely dried, remove flaking paint with sanding and a paint scraper. Sanding prepares the metal surface to receive the fresh paint.
Conditions and setting
Spraying rather than brushing on paint gives wrought iron the best finish. Before spray-painting, make sure the weather is appropriate. Temperatures should be above 50 degrees and humidity below 80 percent. Do not paint in direct sunlight. A windless day is best for spray painting so that paint doesn’t drift to nearby surfaces. Make liberal use of masking tape, paper, drop cloths and handheld shields to protect the areas surrounding the wrought iron from primer and paint.
Applying the paint to wrought iron
Prime the wrought iron with one or two coats of primer. Allow the primer to dry at least 24 hours after each coat. (Keep in mind that primer may feel dry to the touch much sooner than it is actually ready for further primer or paint.) Spray the paint in light, deft strokes. Multiple light coats of paint are preferable to one heavy coat. Follow the directions on the can regarding how many hours to wait between coats.
An alternative: powder coating
For a beautiful, durable finish, consider powder coating your wrought iron. This is a process for the pros, so find a skilled and experienced powder coating shop in your area. The prep process is largely the same for powder coating as for painting. The wrought iron is then sprayed with a special dry powder that wraps around the surface of the wrought iron and electrostatically attaches to it. The coating is then cured using heat.