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How to Paint Galvanised Metal

Are you looking at your galvanised metal surfaces wondering “can you paint galvanized steel”, and where to start with your paint work? Let us help! Whether you spell it as “galbanised” or “galvanized”, it doesn’t have to be a difficult task to keep galvanised metal surfaces looking great for as long as possible.

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The problem with painting galvanised metal is that the surface when new is very shiny and smooth, making it difficult for paint to stick to the surface. It also has surface contaminants (oils, greases, residues, etc.) left on the surface from the manufacturing process that interfere with the adhesion of paints. You need to tackle this with the right products and preparation to make sure it stays put. You’ll notice on surfaces that haven’t been treated properly, that the paint will peel and blister very quickly.

Priming and Preparation

If you want to paint a galvanised surface, you need to prepare it properly with thorough cleaning and a good primer where required.

New Surfaces:

Thoroughly wash with an alkaline cleaning solution (something like Rust-Oleum Mathys ND14 Cleaner Degreaser) using a Scotch-Brite pad to scrub the surface. Once cleaned, thoroughly rinse down with fresh water and allow to dry. Now you’re ready to prime with something like Rust-Oleum 3202 Galvinoleum Primer. This primer is a one step solution that can stick to nearly any smooth surface including galvanised metal. Apply it with a brush and its ready to recoat within 30 minutes with a compatible topcoat.

Alternatively, many professionals will skip this time consuming process by treating with Mordant Solution, or T-Wash as it’s often called. This is an acidic solution of a copper salt for the pre-treatment of clean zinc surfaces to provide a good key for paints which would otherwise show poor adhesion. Once treated with Mordant Solution the surface can be painted as normal and no special adhesion primers are required.

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Weathered Galvanised Surfaces (12 months +)

If the galvanised metal you’re intending to paint has been left out in the elements for 12 months or more then the tricky cleaning process of removing all the manufacturing contaminants has been carried out for you. All you need to do is clean any dirt and grime that has built up on the surface and apply a direct to galvanised metal paint like 1805 High Build Vinyl Finish. This paint produces a high build, tough and weather resistant, flexible sheen finish that is often chosen by tradesmen due to it’s fast drying times.

Previously Painted Galvanised Surfaces

You’ll want to remove any old flaky paint with a non-metallic abrasive (sandpaper) and wash down as you would with new galvanised surfaces (see above). Once it’s ready, you should apply Rust-Oleum 3202 Galvinoleum Primer to any bare galvanised surfaces.

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Painting and Decoration

It is possible to paint galvanised metal in the full range of industry colours available, without flaky and peeling paint. Once you’ve prepared your surface and primed it if required, you can feel reassured that your paint will look great.

To make sure it really has staying power, you need to use a high quality topcoat designed for these kinds of surfaces such as Rust-Oleum 7500 Alkythane.

Rust-Oleum 7500 Alkythane comes in a wide variety of colours, including metallic and can be produced in a gloss finish or a satin finish. Apply this paint by brush, roller or spray and you’ll have a fantastic looking surface, that is protected and can last. If applying to galvanised surfaces that have been prepared with Mordant Solution then prime first with Rust-Oleum 1080 High Build Primer, this will ensure excellent corrosion protection and lasting flexibility.

We hope you’re ready to get painting – don’t forget we’re here to help if you have any questions!

60 comments

  1. Looked at many sites but nobody seems to cover the best way of preparing old galvanizing in this case a trailer that has been in salt water and is probably 20 years old. It has a sort of encrustation on the surface and a few areas of rust but not much.
    I have some Scotchkote epoxy 152LV paint to use only £124 a pot so I don’t want to make a mistake in prep.

    • Good afternoon John,

      The 3M Scotchkote Epoxy Coating 152LV is not suitable to be applied to galvanised substrates, none of the 3M heavy duty systems are. If the trailer is going to be put back into the water, the surface will need to be abrasive blasted as a minimum.

      Best regards.

      Mark

  2. I have two dorma windows in the front of my house. One has a copper roof, which is now green with age. The other has a more traditional lead roof. I would like to paint the edge of the copper roof to match the colour of the lead – just will look better. Could you please advise how to prepare the copper surface and which paint am I best that will give a long life. Thank you.

  3. Hi there, I have an old galvanised tin wash tub that I want to turn into a sink for a utility area. I would like to keep the external weathered finish but need to prep and paint the interior with a gloss finish for easy cleaning – what would you recommend? Thank you

  4. I’m roofing a small outhouse with new galvanised corrugated steel sheeting. I’d intended to wash off any grease with a mild caustic solution before installing. When dry and after installation I was intending to paint with a couple of thick coats of solvent-based bitumen. Anyone see any problems. please?

  5. I have an underside of a corrugated galvanized metal roof that is a large overhang on one side of our building. Thus the underside is open to the elements. It was painted many years ago with what seems to have been a latex paint. It is now peeling and chipping in some areas and we’d like to clean it up and repaint. We thought about wet blasting to remove the paint, but perhaps this will damage the galvanizing? What steps would you suggest to bring this back to life with a top coat of color? Thanks for your time!

    • Good morning Brian,

      Thanks for your question, and to answer it:

      Remove oil, grease and all other contamination by alkaline or high pressure (steam) cleaning in combination with appropriate detergents. Remove rust scale, loose mill scale, loose rust and loose coatings by scraping and wire brushing to St 2/3 (ISO 8501-1 : 1988), blast cleaning to Sa 2½ (ISO 8501-1 : 1988) or sanding, followed by priming bare areas of galvanising with Rust-Oleum 3202 Galvinoleum Primer. Sand previous coatings in good condition to provide a key for adhesion and check compatibility. The surface must be clean and dry during application. Then apply 2 coats of Rust-Oleum 7500 Alkythane in the chosen colour and finish to all prepared/primed areas.

      Please let us know if there is anything else we can help you with today. You can follow us on Facebook too, if you’d like to keep up to date with our posts and special offers in newsletters we send out.

      Best regards.

      Mark

  6. We are buying a boarding kennel and the current galvanised panels and mesh look dull with a few rust patches all still solid.
    What is the best way to make them look shiny and new?

    We also need to paint the concrete floors to seal them, dogs tend to wear the floors quite a lot and they also have to be hygienicly cleaned every day, what is the best hard wearing paint you would recommend for this?

    Many thanks Susie

  7. Wow thanks for so much useful info. Im hanging a vintage light fixture outdoors. The fixture has been refurbished using a gooseneck galvanized pipe and galvanized fitting. I would like to finish the galvanized bits with a satin black paint. Am i good to go using the rustoleum primer and paint you suggest above, would a brush on paint provide better presentation and durability?

    https://i.imgur.com/DfNSySz.jpg

    • Good morning Gil,

      An ideal system for smaller galvanised items requiring painting would be Rust-Oleum 3302 CombiPrimer Adhesion followed by Rust-Oleum CombiColor. These both come in aerosol and brush/roller applied versions.

      Let us know here, or on Facebook how the finished result looks!

      Best regards.

      Mark

      • Thanks very much Mark. it appears that the products recommended are not offered here in the states. Do you think this product*, a latex aerosol, would offer good performance?
        *https://www.zoro.com/krylon-spray-paint-satin-black-12-oz-k07913000/i/G3270495/

        Are you aware of analogous products made by rustoleum that are available

  8. Wow, lots of useful info. I would like to give a face lift to our galvanised metal pig ark. It is weathered but not rusty. I want to paint it in fun colours. I don’t need a perfect finish, but would like it to last a while. What should I use and is prep necessary?
    I can’t find the answer anywhere. What do you suggest? Thanks in advance for your help!

  9. The residents of our village are keen to repaint railings either side at both ends of a road bridge over a stream at the entrance to our village – the Council not having funds for this kind of work. The railings appear to be galvanised metal (steel?) and have been painted some years back, with half the white paint now peeled off. The cross section of the railing is round and about 70mm diameter. The two horizontal rails and about 10 vertical add up to around 100metres of railing.

    How should be tackle this? We have no handy water supply but do have a portable generator and have made arrangements for traffic control. Some idea of cost also useful.
    Anne

  10. Hello – I have an old galvanized tin/steel washing bath that I want to turn into a wildlife pond. There are areas of minor rust inside it, what is the best way to prime and paint it to hold water?

    Also I would like to paint the exterior, what would you recommend ?

    Thanks

    Steven

  11. I have a 30 year old large steel Cardale garage door which appears to have a white plastic coating over a galvanised surface. The plastic has almost completely peeled away leaving a very shiny surface. What is the best and most economic way to paint the exposed galvanised door with a white finish?
    Many thanks.

  12. Hi I have an old tin bath which I’d like to use as a bath in my tiny home and wondered what to use to paint inside and outside with thanks

  13. Can you please advise on treatment of a galvanised metal staircase.
    The fixing bolts and some balusters have surface corrosion, however the rest is ok, just dirty.
    Can I clean and treat the corrosion but not apply any decorative coating. Would prefer to leave with just the original galvanised finish as it’s in good condition.

    Thank you for your assistance.

  14. Hi Mark,
    We had a galvanized railing installed in January (about 5 months ago) and were told to hold off on painting it for 6 months. Ostensibly this was to allow some weathering which would then let the paint adhere to the metal but the advice above says it should be out for 12 months. With only 6 months of exposure should we still use the alkaline cleaner?
    Best,
    Joe

    • Good afternoon Joe,

      Yes, you should still use the alkaline cleaner.

      Please let us know if there is anything else we can help you with.

      Best regards.

      Mark

  15. I’m looking to refurbish an existing galvanised steel gate, I will be adding new steel to it also. What would be the best way to prep and paint, and which products should I use. We want it to be black by the way.

  16. Hi,
    I have an old galvanized grain bin that I want to paint. It has some rust and corrosion. What prep work and paint do you recommend?
    Thanks

    • Good afternoon Lori,

      Were there any specific products discussed in this post about surface preparation and painting galvanised steel that you require further information on? Each products’ datasheet will include additional technical information, too.

      If there is anything discussed in this post about prep work and paint you are specifically requesting more information on, we will be happy to assist – but your question is rather broad, as the whole post is about this subject.

      Best regards,

      Mark

  17. Hi,

    I have a galvanised nissen hut which needs a coat of paint. It has previously be painted in grey but this is flaking and needs to be re-done. Please can you advise me of the best paint to use.

    Many thanks

    • Good morning Charlotte,

      We would recommend Pegarust (here) for this.

      Please let us know if there is anything else we can help you with today.

      Best regards.

      Mark

  18. I am wanting to paint old (10 years+) galvanized posts that make up the framework of our tennis court fencing. What prep would you recommend and then what primer/paint would you recommend? Thanks!

  19. Hi,
    I have a shed roof covered with 20 year old corrugated steel sheeting. There is a lot of surface rust throughout but its not flaking. What would you recommend for preparation prior to applying a compatible top coat?

    Many Thanks

  20. Hello.
    I am painting a very weathered galvanized steel flagpole and luckily came across your wonderful advice thread! I have gotten lots of bad info.

    I scraped the entire thing with a wire brush, then applied a coat of Rustoleum rust dissolved jelly for several hours. Rinsed and applied vinegar. Rinsed and primed with a thin coat of Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3. It’s directly in the sun an wind and was drying quickly.

    I plan to finish with an acrylic latex gloss white.
    Should I sand and prime again? I’d like this to last. It’s exposed to some heavy weather. Thanks!

  21. Hi
    I have new galvanised gates to paint which were installed last week. They have to be painted in a solvent based undercoat and gloss finish. Could you advise the best primer to use and any prep work which maybe required.

    Many thanks

  22. I have a pair of painted galvanised gates. After 3 years white spots are breaking through the black satin paint.I wish to clean, prepare and repaint the gates in satin black. What method and products should I use.

    • Good morning David,

      Thank-you for your question.

      The white spots referred to are probably just zinc oxidation of the exposed galvanised (zinc) surface. Basically the zinc layer is sacrificing itself to protect the steel resulting in zinc oxidation which presents itself as a white powder.

      This is a cause of concern as usually if the zinc/ galvanised layer is protected with paint then generally you would not expect this problem to occur.

      In our experience it could be that the existing coating is no longer providing adequate protection i.e. is in need of maintenance due to age or perhaps more commonly is not well adhered to the galvanising in the first place due to incorrect specification. Either way the basic principle here is the same;

      The surfaces will need to adequately cleaned (with a proprietary alkaline cleaner) and prepared as needed to remove all defective coatings. Obviously if the coatings are poorly adhering particular attention needs to be given to ensure these are identified and completely stripped off back to a sound surface.

      Once cleaned and prepared the exposed galvanised layer must then be thoroughly abraded with non-metallic abrasive to remove all oxidation and to create a key. It would also be sensible to abrade the entire surface to be painted as well to also provide a key for adhesion.

      Once suitably prepared and the surfaces are clean, sound and dry you can use the following system;

      2 x coats of Tikkurila Temaprime EE in colour to match topcoat

      1 x coat of Tikkurila Temalac FD 20, 50 or 80 in the colour /finish of choice.

      The success of the work will essentially rely on how well the surfaces can be prepared and ultimately on the condition of the surfaces at the time of painting.

      Please let us know if there is anything else we can help you with today.

      Best regards.

      Mark

  23. I have an oval galvanized stock water tank.
    I want to paint it aqua inside like a swimming pool and fill it with water.
    Are there products that will let me do that?

    • Hi Wayne,

      Assuming the water is normal (i.e. no aggressive or high levels of chemicals, additives, etc.) and is not for human/animal consumption and/or doesn’t require any DWI, WRAS or other approvals we could recommend Sikagard 62 as something to consider.

  24. I have a pair of galvanised steel gates which were painted without a primer or any special preparation just after being made and galvanised a few years ago. The paint has been peeling from many areas, soon after installation, which have now weathered to dullish zinc. I plan to strip the rest of the paint, possibly using a pressure washer before painting. I would welcome your advice on what would be the best treatment once the paint has been removed or all of the paint that will come off has been removed. Will any paint that will not come off at this stage cause a problem with flaking at a future time?
    I would welcome your advice on how to proceed and what the most suitable products to use would be.

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for your query – this blog post answers your question and has links to our recommended products.

  25. Thanks Kyle,
    I had read through the blog post but no posting seemed to match my question and a great variety of products were mentioned. So is the answer to my query
    Rust-Oleum 3302 CombiPrimer Adhesion followed by Rust-Oleum CombiColor
    or
    1 coat of Rust-Oleum 3202 Galvinoleum Primer, then coat all surfaces with 2 coats of Rust-Oleum 7500 Alkythane.
    I did not think the answer was obvious or would not have posted my question.
    Thanks,
    John

    • Hi John,

      I’ve checked with our technical support team and they advise that both systems will do the job but the Rust-Oleum 3302 CombiPrimer Adhesion followed by Rust-Oleum CombiColor Original is available in smaller pack sizes and is predominantly used for small, domestic DIY projects.

      Rust-Oleum 3202 Galvinoleum Primer followed by Rust-Oleum 7500 Alkythane comes in larger pack sizes and is mostly used by the professional contractor for more industrial/larger scale projects.

      I’ve put links below to the mentioned products on our store; each has data sheets you can download from the “attachments” tab on their relevant page with application details and more.

      Certainly feel free to come back to us through here if you require more information, or contact our technical team on 0113 2455450 (option 2) or send a message to [email protected]

  26. Thank you Kyle,

    Your reply is extremely helpful and much appreciated, especially information about pack size availability for small domestic projects such as mine. I hadn’t yet considered that aspect.
    Thanks also for the links – very helpful.

    Kind regards,

    John

  27. My garden gates were galvanised 20+ years ago and the paint is worn with a few small areas flaking and very small patches back to the bare metal so I’m planning to wire brush/wire wool to key the old paint surface and then use Rust-Oleum CombiColor Original to re-paint. Reading the other posts I think I need to prime the bare galvanised areas but they are tiny areas so is there any alternative to buying a 750ml tin of Rust-Oleum 3302 CombiPrimer Adhesion which seems a waste for such minimal use?

    many thanks

    • Hi Barry,

      Thanks for your question – we also supply Rust-Oleum 3302 CombiPrimer Adhesion in a 400ml aerosol which is ideal for smaller areas. Hope that helps – let us know if you need any further help, would love a few photos of the project when completed!

      • Thanks Kyle, for some reason I have an aversion to aerosols (probably goes back to some particularly poor results in the past) but I guess in this instance as it’s just a primer it should be ok – does it apply the same thickness as by brush? Guess I’ll give it a go anyway and keep my fingers crossed

  28. I have a 30×50 ft pole barn in need of paint. It’s galvavanized and never been painted. Some areas have no rust and some parts have alot of rust. Alot of different ways online to prep and paint it. I want to make sure l only have to do it once. At least for a long time. Can l just powerwash the whole barn and prime and paint with a primer with a rust inhibitor in it ? If so, what paint and primer would work best ? Being a big job the least steps the better.But also want it done right.Will be using an airless paint sprayer for the job.Thanks in advance

    • Hi Phil,

      Thanks for your question; our preferred system would be the following:

      • 1 x patch coat all prepared rusted areas (after suitable prep) with 1 x Temacoat GPL S Primer
      • 1 x full coat Temacoat GPL S Primer
      • 1 or 2 x coats Temadur 50 as required

      Some observations to be made:

      Complies with ISO 12944 for coating zinc surfaces with High life expectancy.

      Temadur 50 is a semi-gloss polyurethane finish – If a lower gloss is preferred you can substitute with Temadur 20 which dries to a semi-matt finish.

      All products can be sprayed by airless spray but would probably recommend brushing the primer for patch priming. Appropriate PPE must of course be worn at all times and air fed masks are recommended for spraying – Products must be used in accordance with their respective technical data sheets (TDS) and safety data sheets (MSDS).

      By way of preparation this must include thorough washing to remove all contamination, dirt, grease, oil etc.

      You will need to remove corrosion back to bright metal before patch priming.

      Oxidation/zinc salts must also be removed by dry abrading.

      Surfaces must be essentially clean sound and of course dry at the time of painting.

      If we can be of any further help then please do get in touch, either through here on the blog or directly with our technical support team on 0113 2455450 (option 2) or send a message to [email protected].

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