I have exposed piping throughout my condo that is used for the sprinkler system. It has been painted white. I would like to remove the paint and leave the pipes in their natural color.

The building is 100 years old but was converted to condos in 2007. By the way the sprinkler pipes are coordinated with the unit's walls (which were put up during the conversion), it's a safe bet that they were installed and painted at the time of the conversion and that lead paint was not used.

What is the best way to do this?

I am considering a heat gun as it is the least messy, least toxic option. However, from what I've seen, this method requires a putty knife to scrape up the paint after it has been heated. I don't imagine that would work well with a round pipe.

Would a heat gun still work or am I better off getting a paint remover?

  • 1
    Will a heat gun work on a metal pipe full of water?
    – DJohnM
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 0:20
  • 2
    And perhaps more importantly: is applying a heat gun to a metal pipe full of water with a heat sensitive sprinkler trigger at the end a great idea? ;-)
    – Mels
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 16:23
  • For that matter: applying a heat gun or torch to any sort of closed/pressurized system is a really bad idea, especially if you're not monitoring the pressure inside in any way and are not absolutely sure there's a safety release valve. If the water inside the pipe starts to boil, assume that the pressure will make the weakest point of the system fail quite catastrophically.
    – Mels
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 16:28
  • Use of sprinkler systems in condos was almost unheard of in the age of lead paint. Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 18:19

4 Answers 4


If the paint is in good condition, with no chips, peeling unsightly blemishes I would repaint. It would be a lot of work to get the pipes really clean. Any exposed thread at the fittings will be tough to strip You will need to scuff the old finish to promote adhesion. Pick a metal color. Rustoleum has colors like Bare cast iron, nickel, brass etc. You could accent the fittings with a contrasting color. Just be careful when working around the sprinkler heads.

  • 1
    Unless the OP sand blasts the pipes I don't think it's going to look as good as a coat of flat black paint. Even then I'd expect the decor scheme to include exposed brick and ceilings if it's going to have 'natural' pipe about.
    – Mazura
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 22:28

The "original" color doesn't exist

Actual pipe color is not what you think. Naked pipe is very dingy gray that quickly turns rust red. The pipe you see in buildings is Sched 40 water pipe and it is silver/gray.

Your sprinkler pipe is Sched 80, which comes from the factory painted black. Looks like gas pipe. Larger fittings are typically red. Example. The blemishes on the pipe are not an illusion. That is wear and tear.

So just over paint it black and done. If you're thinking "galvanized silver" you can get that as paint, but your inspector won't like seeing what looks like schedule 40 in a sprinkler system.

Many places I see, sprinkler pipes are intentionally painted red. This designates that it is a completely separate water system, not to be treated lightly, and keeps some idiot handyman from tapping it for a refrigerator's icemaker.

  • The red may also be a code requirement, which is something that should be checked before undertaking to paint something like a sprinkler system. NYC, for instance, now requires (since 2010) that all exposed risers and cross-connects for sprinkler systems be painted red, with green valve handles. There are no requirements for horizontal branch pipe, but we've just been painting everything red. We have plenty of exposed risers, and a two-tone system would look silly.
    – FeRD
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 22:22

You say condo, so I assume it is not much older than 1978, so lead paint is not a worry. If this is an older condo building then that comment is null.

Like I said, I think a heat gun is likely your cleanest bet. Stripper or sanding will be very messy and/or create a ton of dust. With a heat gun all you will have is chips and dry clumps falling pretty much straight down.

Definitely wear a respirator, NOT just a mask.

  • Thanks. Even though it's likely not lead paint, you would still recommend a respirator?
    – drs
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 18:21
  • @drs Titanium dioxide, the filler in latex paint, is a possible carcinogen when inhaled, besides whatever else might be accumulated on the pipes; better safe than sorry.
    – Mazura
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 20:09

Tap with hammer. Breaks up all the dry paint to the core. Gently tap and use a putty knife with hammering technique to remove where it gets hats to tech. The tapping breaks up the paint.

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