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galvanised steel

How to Paint Galvanised Steel Like a Pro

Galvanisation is a great way to take advantage of steel’s best qualities while protecting it against corrosion. Galvanised steel is treated with a zinc coating that prevents it from rusting, prolongs its life, and ensures it performs well for decades.

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Due to the metal’s resistance to corrosion and durability, it’s typically used in residential and commercial construction via steel beams and posts. Some structures incorporating galvanised steel include retaining walls, balconies, staircases, benches and even outdoor pipes when plastic does not suffice.  

Why to Paint Galvanised Steel?

As mentioned, Galvanised steel is coated with zinc to protect it from rust and corrosion. While galvanised steel’s metallic look may appeal to some, others may prefer a different colour or finish. In such cases, painting the galvanised steel can be done to contrast or accentuate their current landscape design. 

In addition to providing an aesthetically pleasing look, painting galvanised steel offers additional protection against corrosion in harsher environments. The paint acts as a barrier that shields the steel from exposure to moisture and other elements that may cause rust and decay.

How to Paint Galvanised Steel

Galvanised steel’s surface makes painting more challenging than other surfaces. The zinc is designed to minimise corrosion but causes paint to peel off and shed not long after its application. However, that doesn’t mean painting galvanised steel is impossible; you’ll need a paint system formulated explicitly for the metal. 

Let’s go through step by step how to paint galvanised steel, starting with the correct preparation:

  1. Clean Your Galvanised Steel Surface

The first step in painting galvanised steel is prepping the surface for painting. This means cleaning the metal thoroughly with a degreaser or solvent to remove dirt, brittle material, oil, soluble salts, and other contaminants. You also want to remove any white rust oxidising on the steel. 

  1. Rinse or Wipe with White Vinegar

Instead of solvents, you can use white vinegar to enhance adhesion between your paint and the surface. It’s also less toxic than solvents and thus safer when treating the steel.

Pour white vinegar into a clean cloth or rag and wipe the galvanised steel thoroughly. This will help roughen the surface, letting you paint directly without a primer. Sanding is also viable if you want to roughen the surface even more.

If possible, paint your steel after the galvanising process. As your steel’s zinc oxidises, it forms a patina that stops paint from adhering. When preparing the surface, you always want to remove the patina before painting.

  1. Decide On Which Type of Paint to Use

When selecting your paint product for galvanised steel, it’s essential to consider its resistance to temperature, moisture, and other environmental factors. Vinyl, acrylic, and epoxy paints are commonly used for galvanised steel as they provide excellent protection against corrosion and offer a durable finish that can withstand harsh conditions.

Avoid paint products that contain oils or alkyl substances, as these can react with your steel’s zinc coating. This reaction causes saponification to occur, whereby the paint will immediately peel after its application. 

Consult your local paint supplier or manufacturer if you’re unsure which paint you need. They can help you select the right paint for galvanised steel, the intended use, and the environmental factors to which the metal will be exposed to.

  1. Painting Your Galvanised Steel

Use gentle strokes to avoid leaving any brush marks behind when brushing or rolling. Rolling is a great option if you’re working on larger surfaces and need more coverage than brushing can provide. Brushing is ideal for painting tight corners and crevices in your steel. 

Spraying paint is another common technique used for galvanised steel projects. While it may seem intimidating, spraying paint is simple once you get the hang of it. It’s essential to take your time to avoid overspray and ensure that each area has been adequately covered. 

Finally, overcoat one or two times with thin paper layers to maximise your paint’s protective properties and aesthetic look.

  1. Finishing Touches

Once you have completed the painting process, you can move on to the finishing touches. These can make all the difference in transforming your galvanised steel project into a beautiful work of art. Here are some tips for getting a professional-looking finish:

  1. Use fine-grit sandpaper to lightly sand away any imperfections or unevenness that may have occurred during the painting process. This will ensure that your final product looks smooth and even.
  1. Adding a protective sealant can help extend the life of your project and give it an extra shine. When applying sealant, ensure the surface is clean and free of any oily residue.  

Clean Up And Maintenance

Now that your project is complete, it’s time to clean up and maintain it. Proper cleaning and maintenance will ensure that your galvanised steel project looks great for years to come. Here are some tips for keeping your work in top condition:

Start by wiping down the entire metal surface with a damp cloth to remove any dust, dirt, or debris that may have accumulated during the painting process. Then use a soft-bristled brush and mild detergent to scrub any stubborn stains or spots. Rinse with clean water and dry thoroughly before moving on.

Finally, remember that accidents can still happen no matter how careful you are with your project! If any dents or scratches occur due to rough handling or mishandling of the piece, simply sand them down carefully with fine-grit sandpaper and repaint where necessary. Proper care and maintenance allow you to enjoy your beautiful galvanised steel project for many years!

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What Primer Should You Use for Galvanised Steel?

When selecting a primer for galvanised steel, choose a product specifically designed for use on this type of metal. Look for a primer labelled as rust-preventing or anti-corrosive, formulated to provide the best adhesion and protection against rust and corrosion.

One option for a galvanised steel primer is an etching primer designed to chemically bond with the metal surface and provide a strong base for paint adhesion. This primer is ideal on older, weathered galvanised steel, so always ask your paint supplier if you need clarification. 


In conclusion, painting galvanised steel is a great way to add colour and style to a space. Knowing how to do it properly can make all the difference in the result. 

Regular maintenance is vital to keep your painted galvanised steel looking its best; I suggest washing it down with soapy water once a month and reapplying a coat of paint every few years as needed. With these tips, you’ll surely have a long-lasting and beautiful finish on your galvanised steel!
If you’re looking to purchase galvanised steel, trust RWS. We offer galvanised steel beams like the 150UC23 and concrete sleepers in Sydney and other Australian territories at affordable prices, giving you the best bang for your buck! Call us today or order online – we look forward to hearing from you! Our services are also available in MelbourneBrisbaneGold Coast, and Sunshine Coast.

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