Painting a metal fence

A metal fence, as a partition of the garden or balcony, has two functions: it is there for decoration and safety. Good maintenance is important for both purposes. Rusty and damaged fencing is not a nice sight and it can be dangerous, especially on a balcony, if rust affects the metal of the balustrade.


  • Metallic or aluminum lacquer
  • Paint stripper
  • Metal degreaser
  • Rapid filler for metal
  • Fine sandpaper (320 grit)
  • Anti-rust primer
  • Adhesion primer
  • Metallic varnish


What metal is the fence made of?

The type of metal your fence is made of determines the treatment and the type of paint or varnish you will use.

Ferrous metal

Steel, wrought iron and cast iron are ferrous metals. These are subject to rust. Thus, you must paint a fence of ferrous metal with metal lacquer.

Non-ferrous metal

detail of rusty garden gate

Galvanized metal, stainless steel, aluminum and zinc are examples of non-ferrous metals. These do not rust but may, of course, need a facelift with a fresh coat of paint. For a fence of one of these materials, use aluzinc lacquer.

Rust spots are, therefore, an indication that the fence is made of ferrous metal. Another indication is that ferrous metal is magnetic and nonferrous metal is not. If you have any doubts about the material of your fence, hold a magnet against it.

Painting a metal fence in 7 steps

  1. Do a paint test
  2. metal balcony gate

    If the old paint layer is still intact and stainless, you can paint over it without rust treatment or primer. To check, first apply a little metal lacquer or aluzinc lacquer on a small piece of the fence. Let this dry and see if the new paint does not wrinkle or come off.

  3. Remove the old paint
  4. If the old paint layer is damaged or uneven, you will have to remove it for a seamless finish. Use a wire brush, paint scraper or paint stripper to do this and protect yourself with safety goggles, work gloves and a dust cap. You should leave a stripper on for at least six hours, after which you remove the paint residues with a wire brush.

  5. Sand the fence
  6. Sand the fence with a sander or sanding block. Use fine-grit sandpaper and remove the sanding dust with a soft brush. It is also advisable to wear safety goggles and a dust cap when sanding.

  7. Repair the gate where necessary
  8. You can repair damage to the fence with filler. Apply this with a putty knife and allow to harden well before continuing. If you don’t want to wait too long, use quick putty.

  9. Degrease the fence
  10. Paint does not adhere well to a greasy surface. Clean the fence thoroughly with a degreaser which you dissolve in a bucket of water and apply with a cloth or sponge. Rinse the gate with water.

  11. Paint the fence with primer
  12. Use a round brush to coat the entire fence in the anti-rust primer.

  13. Paint the fence
  14. After you let the primer dry, you can paint the fence in the colour of your choice. The choice is much greater in metal paints than in aluminum paints, but you can also use metal paint on non-ferrous metals after you have first applied a layer of adhesive primer.

Tip: if you want the fence to be weatherproof and have an even more flawless finish, then apply a layer of metal varnish.

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