How To Beat Rust – On the House

How To Beat Rust

By on August 5, 2015

Bicycles, barbecues, patio furniture, lawn and garden equipment, steel window frames, rain gutters and downspouts are just a few of the many finishes around the home that are susceptible to damage by rust. Simply stated, rust is a reddish-brown oxide formed on iron and iron-containing material by low-temperature oxidation in the presence of water.

Aside from its ugly appearance, left untreated, rust can bring any of the products above to an early demise and lead to other damage. For example, a rain gutter which is leaking profusely due to a rusted joint could allow water to travel along the wood trim at the roof line or, perhaps, down the wood siding which will ultimately result in rot which might cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to repair.

Another example would be a rusted window frame. Water could enter through the window frame and down into the wall framing below without one’s knowledge until the wall must literally be removed and replaced with new framing, siding and plaster or wallboard.

Rust presents a safety issue as well. A rusted-out screw or the rust-ravaged leg of a garden chair could send an unsuspecting guest flying to a nasty fall. Rusty outdoor power equipment leaves the operator particularly vulnerable as a damaged bolt could act as a projectile akin to that of a speeding bullet!

Okay, you get the picture. So, what to do? If you’re a regular reader you will know that a topic which we periodically discuss is painting. We frequently state that three-quarters (sometimes more) of a good paint job is in the preparation. For all intents and purposes dealing with rust is simply a paint project. Therefore, preparation can make or break your rust repair project.

First, rusted screws and fasteners should be removed. Replacements should be installed after surrounding rust has been eliminated and the object has been refinished. A couple of the most difficult aspects of replacing a damaged fastener are removing it and locating a replacement. One of the best methods of removing a rusted out piece is to saturate it with an oil lubricant such as WD-40. The lubricant frequently will be just what’s needed to break the bond in combination with a screwdriver, pliers or wrench.

Heat is another viable alternative. You’ll want to be sure to wipe off any lubricant first as the combination can cause a fire. A heat gun or propane torch will cause a stubborn nut to expand and break loose from the bolt. When all else fails a drill and a hacksaw will usually do the trick. Difficult-to-find replacement fasteners can usually be found at a machine shop. They will either have inventory or can fabricate a match.

The next step is to remove as much rust as possible. A good, old-fashioned wire brush will get the majority of the surface rust off, However, if you’re anything like us you’ll likely take the path of least resistance which usually involves having a power tool perform as much of the “elbow grease” as possible. Therefore, we suggest a wire wheel on the end of a power drill. And for safety’s sake don’t forget protective goggles, gloves, long sleeves and a fabric breathing mask.

With the majority of the rust removed, what remains can be handled in a couple of ways: chemical removal and chemical conversion. Naval jelly is a product which contains phosphoric acid which works great in removing rust from all kinds of surfaces. Naval jelly is applied to the affected area, allowed to remain for a bit and wiped off.

Rust converters are a popular alternative if removing rust down to bare metal is impossible. The rust converter (a paint) chemically converts the rust to a paintable surface and contains ingredients that will inhibit future rust growth. A converter is not required if the majority of the rust has been successfully removed.

Weather or not a converter is used, the next step is to wash the metal which will allow the forthcoming surface primer to better adhere. There are various one-step washing products available on the market. Most of these primers contain one form or another of acid; phosphoric acid, acetic acid or citric acid. We have found that straight vinegar on a soft cloth works quite well.

Once washed and allowed to dry, the metal should be painted with a primer designed specifically to be used with metal. Metal primers contain ingredients such as zinc oxide and red oxide which help resist rust. Additionally, a primer provides extra resistance to harsh elements and improves adhesion of the topcoat. An oil base metal primer should be used even if a rust converter has been applied.

Most exterior metal surfaces will be more abrasion resistant and last longer if an oil base enamel top coat is applied. In fact, some of the rust converters require an oil base top coat. Therefore, metal railings, garden furniture, toys, outdoor power equipment and farm equipment should have an oil base top coat considering the abuse that each is subject to.

Special items such as radiators, vents, registers, pipes, light fixtures and fans that generate heat less than 200 degrees Fahrenheit should be topcoated with a paint designed to be used with this type of heat. Note that most paints will emit a harmless odor the first time that they are heated, such as in the case of a radiator.

Exceptions to the oil base top coat rule might be gutters and downspouts for one primary reason–architectural appearance. An acrylic latex topcoat produces a low sheen which tends not to draw unwanted attention to these architectural elements. If they are to stand out it should be a function of color and not paint luster. Furthermore, due to their inaccessibility, abrasion resistance provided by oil base enamel isn’t a high priority.

Grills, fireplaces, wood or coal stoves, heaters and furnaces should by topcoated with a high heat enamel specifically designed for use with items that are “too hot to touch”; they generate heat that exceeds 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Converters, primers and paints can be sprayed, rolled or brushed. When spraying it’s always a good idea to back brush for a smooth, uniform surface. Remember to use a natural china bristle brush when using oil base paints. Synthetic brushes made from nylon or polyester work the best with latex paints.

For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener line any time at 1-800-737-2474! All you need to do is leave your name, telephone number and your question.

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