Design & DIY

Cottage Q&A: Painting a rusty fireplace

By AlexMaster/Shutterstock

We have a gas fireplace that has rusted inside, and we want to refurbish it. Is there a paint that is safe to apply to the inside metal plates?—A Colourful Character

Sure—there are several brands of high heat paint out there: look in hardware stores or hearth retailers. Some high temperature paints are best suited for engine parts and mufflers; some for hot-water radiators; and others for barbecues.

“Make sure that what you get is rated for stoves,” says Derrik Stahlstrom of B.C.’s Fireplaces Unlimited. (Check the label: some paints are even designed to resist the direct “lapping” of flames.)

If you used any old high-heat paint in a fireplace, the coating might change colour or begin to dull. But would you have a disaster? No. “Probably the worst that would happen is that it would flake off,” says David Hacker, an independent coatings consultant with Polymer Expertise Group in Toronto.

On the other hand, using regular paint is a recipe for melting, dangerous fumes, and “a tremendously bad odour,” says Pete Bouchard of Forrest Technical Coatings in Eugene, Ore.

Don’t slack on the surface prep—the metal must be pristine. “High-heat paint is very sensitive to anything that gets in between the surface and the paint,” says Bouchard. You’ll need to get rid of all the rust—use medium or fine sandpaper, steel wool, or a wire brush—and clean the metal using a solvent such as acetone or lacquer thinner.

Follow the paint’s application instructions carefully. “The paint will create a film that protects the metal from rusting again,” says Bouchard. That is, as long as you don’t dilly-dally: wait more than a few days between prep and painting and the metal might start to rust again as it oxidizes.

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