Painting Metal With Latex Paint (Can You Do it & How to)

You can paint a metal surface to beautify it. But, can you use latex paint on metal?

You can use latex paint on metal. However, latex paint isn’t durable, so you must seal the paint for outdoor metal surfaces. Also, you must apply a primer before applying latex paint. 

Latex paint isn’t water-resistant, so the paint won’t protect the metal surfaces from moisture or water. However, if you seal the latex paint, the metal (and the paint) will be resistant to water and moisture. 

Priming is Necessary

You shouldn’t apply latex paint on metal without a primer. That’s because metal is a non-porous surface, and latex won’t stick to it without a primer.

For latex paint to stick, the paint must penetrate the surface. But, since metal is non-porous, the latex paint won’t be able to penetrate the metal and won’t stick. 

Compared to paint, a primer is formulated with extra additives to increase its bonding qualities. So, a primer will stick to the metal without penetrating the surface.

The primer will provide a smooth and even layer (base coat) for paints to stick to. So, latex paint will penetrate the primer coating and stick to the primer and the metal surface. 

If you apply latex on metal without a primer, the paint will start peeling off after a while.

How To Apply Latex Paint On Metal?

Applying latex paint on metal isn’t hard, but it requires a lot of prep work.

Here are the tools you need:

  • Water
  • A metal scraper or wire brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Latex Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Primer (optional)

Now let’s get to work.

1. Wash And Clean The Metal Surface

Wash And Clean The Metal Surface

First, wash and clean the metal surface. Cleaning will remove the filth and dust from the metal and allow the latex paint to stick properly. 

To wash a metal surface: 

  1. Mix soap with warm water. 
  2. Pour the soapy water over the metal and use a soft brush to scrub the surface. 
  3. Once you clean the metal, use clean water to rinse the surface. 
  4. Remove soapy water residue from metal. 
  5. Allow the metal surface to dry. 

Don’t use detergent because you can ruin the metal surface. 

2. Prep Your Workspace

Prep Your Workspace

While the metal is drying, you should prep your workspace. Remove (or cover) objects near your workspace to prevent paint spills over them. Also, cover the floor with plastic wrap or a large drop cloth, especially wooden floors.

3. Scrape The Metal

Scrape The Metal

You must scrape the paint off if the metal surface is painted (or sealed). To scrape metal, use a metal (or plastic) scraper. Just put the paint scraper under the paint, and lift it. You won’t be able to remove all the paint but remove as much as you can.

If the metal surface isn’t painted, you can skip this step. 

4. Sand The Metal

Sand The Metal

Use coarse sandpaper (60-grit) for sanding the metal. Sanding will remove imperfections, bumps, or any leftover paint from the metal. Also, it will provide a smooth surface for latex paint to stick to. After you sand with coarse sandpaper, use fine-grit sandpaper to finish the sanding process.

After you are done, the metal surface will be rough. If you don’t want to scratch the metal while sanding, wet-sand it instead of dry sanding it.

5. Apply Primer

Apply Primer

A primer will improve the bonding between the latex paint and the metal surface. A primer will provide a smooth layer for latex paint to stick to and will also hide (cover) imperfections on the metal surface. Use latex primer or self-etching primer for metal. 

To apply a primer, use a paintbrush or paint roller. Apply 2-3 coats of primer. You must wait until the primer dries before applying a new coat. 

6. Apply Latex Paint On Metal

Apply Latex Paint On Metal

Once the primer dries, you can apply latex paint. To apply latex paint, use a paintbrush, roller, or sprayer. If you use a sprayer, you must thin the latex paint. For the best results, apply 3 coats of latex paint on metal. 

After the last coat of latex paint dries, you must seal the paint. To seal latex paint, use polyurethane or varnish. These sealers will produce a thick glossy layer over the latex paint and protect it from moisture, water, and scratches. Apply 3 coats of sealer over latex paint.

Latex Paint Dry Time on Metal

On metal, latex paint dries enough for a re-coat within 3 hours. This means you can apply another coat of latex paint after 3 hours.

Latex paint dries fast because of its water-based nature. The paint solvent (water) must evaporate for latex paint to dry. Since water evaporates fast, this means latex paint dries fast too.

If you apply a new coat of latex paint before the old one is dry, the finish will turn sticky. That’s because the evaporation process will be stopped, and the paint solvent (water) still be stuck between the new and old coat of latex paint. Since there’s still water on the old latex coating, the new coating won’t stick. 

Also, before you can seal latex paint, the paint must cure. It takes latex paint 48 hours to cure (oxidize). Curing (oxidization) is a process where paint particles harden. Once the paint particles of latex paint have hardened, you can apply a sealer. 

Related Read: How To Paint Concrete With Latex Paint?

Using Latex on Metal Doors

You can apply latex paint on metal doors. But, you must strip, clean, sand, and prime the metal door before applying latex paint. 

Metal doors are durable in terms of security but not in terms of design. As a result, metal doors struggle to retain their look and design after the first few years. So to revive the look, you can use latex paint on the door, but you need to prep the door first.

If the metal door is painted (or sealed), you must remove the finish of the metal door, apply a primer, and then apply latex paint. That’s because latex paint won’t stick to a sealed surface or an oil-based finish. 

You must use a primer compatible with metal surfaces and latex paint. For instance, water-based primers are compatible with metal and latex paint. Also, for outdoor metal doors, you must seal the latex paint after you apply it.

Using Latex Paint on Metal Siding

You can use latex paint for steel or metal siding, but you must use oil-based primer to improve the adhesion of latex paint. Also, you must seal the latex paint with exterior polyurethane. 

However, latex paint isn’t the best choice for metal siding. That’s because latex paint doesn’t have the adhesive or protection features to protect the metal siding from weather elements. Instead, it’s better to use oil-based paint and an oil-based sealer to protect the metal siding from weather elements.

But, for indoor metal sidings, you can use latex paint. Indoor metal sidings won’t be exposed to weather elements, and latex is durable enough to protect indoor metal sidings. 

Final Words

You can use latex paint for metal, but you must apply a primer before latex paint. Also, you must seal the latex paint for outdoor metal surfaces. 

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