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I have a colorbond fence.

If you don't have colorbond in your area, it's painted steel panelling that can be used for fences or roofs. My fence looks like this:


But what you can't see is the back - there is an unpainted steel crossbeam.

I'm thinking about painting the crossbeam. Is there any particular preparation I should undertake with the steel?

I've heard I should sand it. And I should use a spray rather than brush... Does anyone have experience with this?

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Your title says stainless steel. Is it stainless? How do you know? – bib Oct 23 '12 at 21:03
@bib I assume it's stainless because it's outside. I don't know how to tell visually if it's stainless or not. Does it matter? – Coomie Oct 24 '12 at 1:47
If it is stainless, it will not corrode and does not need to be painted. If there is any rust, it is not stainless. – bib Oct 24 '12 at 1:48
@bib It's brand new so it has no rust right now, but I would rather paint it now than risk rust later on. Also, from what I've read, stainless doesn't mean it won't rust, but it will be less prone to rust. – Coomie Oct 24 '12 at 1:52
It depends on the grade of stainless, and yes, many do rust slowly. – bib Oct 24 '12 at 2:37
up vote 2 down vote accepted
  1. As suggested, use sand paper or steel brush to clear any rusty bit
  2. Apply some(not too much) rust remover / preventer - let it dry naturally (30minutes - 2hours?)
  3. Paint with steel primer (usually grey)
  4. Following the drying time guidelines of the primer apply your top coat of enamel or whatever you want.

Do not flood the steel with rust preventer. Let it dry and wash your hands properly. If the rust remover makes white bulges just remove it with a another tool. Do not touch with your hands to avoid a) acid burn, b) oil residue on steel

We use to do that in South Africa on all gate installations because summers were extremly dry and some winters could be torrential with flash flooding. This method lasts years and years. (It is a method borrowed from the automotive industry - in its simplistic form)

Good luck

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If it's not rusted can I skip the rust remover/sanding? – Coomie Oct 24 '12 at 1:49
Yea sure. Just clean it with some spirits to remove any oily bits and do it. (But even if its not rusted - the rust remover (which is a diluted acid) acts as an inhibitor even after you painted over it because it bonds with the steel - So it prevents/helps stop rust bubbles form appearing for the years to come) – ppumkin Oct 24 '12 at 8:29

I'll also recommend the same things that you have already indicated. Do sand the steel before painting it. If it has any rust or scale on it this must be removed by vigorous wire brushing till all the rust is gone. Spray painting is really the best way to paint steel so you must consider appropriate masking of adjacent areas so over spray does not get on other parts of the fence or driveway.

The best paint for this job will be an enamel paint specifically designed for the job of painting on metal. For a relatively small job, like this one seems to be, I would simply recommend that you use the spray can type that you can purchase at the home store or hardware store. Do use multiple light coats of paint to get a nice finish without problems with the paint running or dripping. The only drawback with spray cans is the limited range of colors available.

One last thing you may want to consider is the possibility to temporarily remove the steel cross beam from the gate and paint it separately so that you can get it painted from all sides. Then re-install it and go back and touch up the fasteners with a spritz of the spray paint.

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If I use spray paint, do I need to use a primer? – Coomie Oct 24 '12 at 1:50
Primer is always advised- as it helps lock/seal the steal and the final coat sticks to the primer better.You can get primer in spray pain- try and use the same companies spray paints – ppumkin Oct 24 '12 at 8:32
I agree. Use a good quality primer for a long lasting outdoor paint job. – Michael Karas Oct 29 '12 at 8:22

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