When It’s a Good Idea and When It’s Not
Baseboard heater covers, by their nature, are very visible. If you haven’t been lucky enough to already install Baseboarders™, which are ultra durable and rust-resistant, you may have baseboard covers that have become an eyesore. You can’t put the drapes in front of them or slide the couch over to hide them. Rusty, discolored, scuffed covers become an eyesore quickly. So what are your options?
Can you paint baseboard heater covers? Of course. But the better question is, is that a good idea? Sometimes it is and sometimes there are better options. Let’s dig a little deeper into the topic to help you make the best choice.
Refresh with a Cleaning
A good cleaning may be all you need to make your baseboard heater covers look good again. You can remove covers in a snap and place them horizontally on the floor, on a table, or across two saw horses. This makes it easier to give them a good cleaning. If you leave them attached to the heater, you may be tempted to cut corners because you are in a physically awkward position. Another good reason to remove covers for cleaning is that it will give you a good look at the state of your heating element and fins. They should be cleaned regularly to keep your unit running efficiently.
Some mild, all-purpose cleaner and a non-abrasive cloth or sponge with soft scrubber will get the job done on your baseboard covers. If you notice discoloration, a spot that won’t come off, or rust, it may be time to consider another option.
Update with Paint
When cleaning isn’t enough, painting may be the way to go. After your baseboard heater covers are clean, switch to abrasive methods to get rid of rust, smooth out rough spots, and prep for paint. Try steel wool first then progress to sandpaper and wire brushes if you need something more meaty. Be sure to wipe away the dust you create from sanding with a damp cloth and let dry thoroughly.
Priming is a must for refurbishing your baseboard heater covers. Stick to primers for metal or you run the risk of shortening the life of the paint. There are a couple things to consider when it comes to primer. If you didn’t have any rust on your covers to begin with, a regular metal primer is sufficient. If you did have rust, you’ll want a rust-specific primer.
Clean Metal Primer
Clean metal primer is good for baseboard heater covers that were previously painted or have light rusting. After sanding and cleaning your covers, apply primer then let dry and cure for 24 hours before proceeding to add the paint top coat.
Rusty Metal Primer
Rusty metal primer is specially formulated to resolve rust issues. It contains substances that bond with the rust to create a better surface for the top coat to adhere to. This seals off the metal to stop rust from corroding the metal. However, rusty metal primer should not be used on lightly rusted or metal with no rust. The ingredients that bond with the rust will simply rise to the surface and create a slick that paint won’t adhere to.
Heat Tolerant Paint
You might wonder whether you need to get a paint made for heated surfaces. Most regular paint can withstand 250 to 300 degrees so it’s not necessary to get high-heat paint. Hot water baseboard heaters (hydronic) heat water to 180 degrees and the covers will be far cooler than that. Electric baseboard heater elements get up to 190 degrees. Once again, the covers don’t get anywhere near that temperature. Bottomline, regular paint should do just fine on your baseboard heaters.
There are situations where cleaning or painting isn’t the right thing to do, or isn’t enough. For instance, if your baseboard heater covers are damaged, no amount of paint can fix that. It’s probably time for a new cover.
Severe rust can sometimes be beyond repair. If your covers have holes or damaged edges due to rust, it’s probably time for new covers. It’s hard to keep severe rust at bay and they will need to be refinished again in the not-too-distant future.
Refinishing your baseboard heater covers may be a time consuming and expensive process. Maybe you want to sidestep that and start fresh with new covers.
Instead of replacing your covers with a new version of the same thing, consider going with something that has better durability and looks 100% better. Baseboarders covers come in four designs so you can pick the aesthetic that works best for you.
Baseboarders covers are powder coated so you won’t have to worry about rust or refinishing. They are also easy to install. It takes about five minutes to remove old covers then replace them with the new ones—a fraction of the time it would take to clean, sand, and paint your old ones.
Whichever approach is best for you, be sure to take necessary precautions and wear protective equipment before starting any project.
Learn more about how easy it is to install new baseboard covers—so easy, your kid could do it.