Tips for Painting a Metal Shed

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Tin, aluminum and steel storage sheds don't always come in colors that complement your home, and if they do, they eventually succumb to the elements.

If your shed is blending with your home about as well as a logger jacket with a pencil skirt, or it's sporting some dings, dents or rust, don't replace it. With a few tips, painting -- and maintaining -- it can be easier than dismantling and hauling it away.

Warning

  • A pre-1978 shed is likely finished with toxic lead paint. Compromised paint, from weathering or sanding, for example, is hazardous. If you aren't sure about the shed's age or the paint's safety, have it tested by a government certified lead-based paint risk assessor before prepping it for painting.

Prep Steps

The most important steps are likely those that prepare the metal shed before you pick up a roller or brush to prime and paint it. Both finishing mediums are simply colored adhesives or glues, and won't stick -- not for long, anyhow -- to dirt or loose corrosion.

  • Remove any rust, using a metal scraper and wire brush or steel wool. 
  • Wash the siding -- a long-handled car-wash brush comes in handy, and using it probably means you won't have to lug out the ladder. 
  • Let the shed air dry; primer and paint, like many glues, bond better to a dry surface than a damp one.

Prime Pointers

You might think that by rolling on a thick coat of rust-inhibiting metal primer, you're creating a better base for the paint -- but not so. Building the base with a couple of thin coats establishes staying power. Give the primer enough drying time between coats; check the label, which may suggest only 10 or 20 minutes. On a humid day, however, primer dries slowly, so double the recoat time for good measure.

Tip

    • Check the forecast and plan the job for a warm, dry day rather than a humid one.     
    • An ideal temperature range for applying latex paint outdoors -- or in -- is 40 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity level between 40 and 70 percent.   

Don't Wait to Paint

Primer isn't meant to sit exposed to the elements, so apply a quality exterior paint as soon as the base dries, or at least within a day. As with primer, allow sufficient recoat time, and build the paint with a few thin layers rather than one or two thick ones to achieve a durable, lasting finish.

Tip

    • Control rust-causing moisture by caulking the seams before painting.
    • If you stop painting for a few hours or have to continue the next day, keep the roller and brush from drying out by wrapping them in plastic -- plastic grocery bags come in handy.
    • Cut your painting time significantly by using a paint sprayer. Follow up with a brush to work the paint into cracks and crevices. 

Timely Touch-Up Tips

Typically, a metal shed is subject to dents and dings, which can lead to corrosion and suggest a poorly maintained home. To help keep the unit from rusting, touch up scratched paint as soon as possible. Push dents out from inside, using only as much force as needed. Basic upkeep such as this not only improves your shed and property's overall appearance, but lengthens the time before you need to paint again.

Tip

    • Store touch-up paint where it won't freeze or get too hot, such as in an attached, ventilated garage.  
    • Label the can as "shed paint" for easy reference.
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