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How to Stop Paint on Galvanized Metal from Peeling

One of the more challenging types of paint failures to combat is that of peeling paint on galvanized metal.

Galvanized metal is steel or iron that has had a zinc-based protective coating applied to it in order to neutralize the formation of rust on its surfaces.

What often adds to the frustration of painters and homeowners alike is that unless the correct process is instilled from the very beginning, each may feel as though they are chasing their tail with regard to how to get paint to stick to a galvanized metal surface.

This is often further accentuated from different suggestions and opinions as to how to combat this odd paint failure as nothing will seem to work and stop the peeling.

Afterall, the peeling nature resulting from the solutions experimented with often defy logic and conventional wisdom.

When painting metal surfaces, certain primers are traditionally recommended.

Many times, certain latex primers are recommended and although oil products as a whole are gradually being phased out of the marketplace, there are certain oil primers which are recommended for priming various metals.

The problem is that the way that galvanized metal reacts to most primers does not lend itself to solid bonding properties.

Most primers that work on aluminum, copper, and similar non-ferrous metals (non-rusting metals) will not work on galvanized metal.

Primers that work on wrought iron, non-galvanized steel and similar ferrous (metals that may lend themselves to rusting) will not work either.

So then, what the heck is one supposed to use???

Great question.

Back in the day when I first started in business (circa 1995), there was a popular galvanized metal primer we “in the know” affectionately referred to as ‘GALVO’.

These days Benjamin Moore makes a good, galvanized metal primer, it is in their Super/Ultra Spec line and is called their HP04 Acrylic Metal Primer.

Whether the GALVO from back in the day or the more modern Ben Moore HP04, the specific chemical formulations of these products are made in such a manner in that they form a tremendous bond to galvanized metal.

We get a number of calls every year which relay that a Client is having an exceedingly difficult time getting paint to stick to a metal door, light fixture, etc. and that they have tried “everything”, but nothing seems to work.

Without even venturing out to see things in person, I can pretty much guess what the issue is and what is occurring.

With these galvanized metal surfaces, as with almost everything, the secret to getting paint to stick is in the prep (scraping/sanding/cleaning as applicable) and in the primer.

If the prep is done properly, there are a plethora of products that you can use as the finish coat.

If the prep is not done properly, the definition of insanity commonly kicks in as folks attempt to combat the peeling with similar approaches (often repeated over and over again) with (as you might imagine) similar results.

Unless the correct primer is used in conjunction with the proper prep process, preventing paint from peeling from a galvanized metal surface may continue to be a frustrating exercise in never ending head scratching.

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