Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

January 13, 2014

How to Paint Baseboard Heaters

I don't know why I put off painting our baseboard heaters.  It was on my to-do list for four years but didn't get done until just days before we listed the townhouse for sale.  Why did we live with the drab griege metal for so long? Why did none of you stage an intervention?  In the end it was a really simple project, although it was as tedious a job as I imagined:
  1. Turn off the heat
  2. Pin up any curtains with giant safety pins to keep them out of the way
  3. Tape off the wall and floor with painter's tape
  4. Lightly sand the metal with fine grit sandpaper
  5. Wipe down the heaters with a damp cloth to remove any dust, let dry
  6. Apply a thin coat of Tremclad Metal Primer (I used white), using a small paintbrush.
  7. Let the primer dry overnight
  8. Applied two thin coats of Tremclad Metal Paint (I used semi-gloss white).
Our baseboard heater covers were incredibly difficult to remove and some parts were fixed so I opted to paint them in place with a brush instead of using spray paint.  I had to be careful about painting the parts we flip open when they are in use and this took some extra time and fussing.  With heaters that are easily removed, a metal spray paint could make light work of this job.

I tried a different method for the half bathroom heater: metal primer followed by the same latex paint we used for the walls and that seemed to work just as well, although the semi-gloss paint proved easier to clean and dust.

I painted the heaters in the office, guest bedroom, master bedroom, master ensuite, hallway, dining room, and living room.  My before & after photos are sloppy, and in some cases non-existent, because I was hurrying to get the house ready for sale in only a few days.  Hopefully you can get the idea from these glimpses.  It will be fun, like a spot-the-difference game.  Or maybe more like Where's Waldo.  Ready?

Remember when I showed you photographs of the framed enamel art?  You could see the beige heaters behind the teak and tweed chair.

Now they blend right in, mostly hiding behind the sheers but the piece that always peeked out is no longer an eyesore!

When I showed off my newly minted table, the baseboard heaters ruined the shot.

But now . . .

I even photographed the velvet chair in the same spot, because I didn't think twice about the heaters.

The guest bedroom photos were always ruined by a long row of beige, to the right.

Happily, when I photographed the bedroom swap, the heaters were already white.

The photos from the listing show just how long the baseboard heaters are.  They were terribly noticeable when they were beige.

The office (with no sheers to hide them), showed off the heaters rather clearly.

But in the real estate listing photos, you can barely see them!

My post about the townhouse being sold has many more real estate photos that plainly show off the freshly painted baseboard heaters.  I'm so happy I finally painted them - I only wish I had done it years ago!

Note: we do not have electric baseboard heaters.  Our heating system was converted to radiant heat from electric heat.  Our baseboard heaters are never hot to the touch.  We have only one remaining electric baseboard heater, in the main bathroom.  It was painted before we moved in and we've experienced no problems so far - even though, unlike the others, it does get very hot to the touch.  I'm pretty sure electric baseboard heaters can be painted, but I really can't speak from much experience.

Anyone care to weigh in?


  1. It's amazing what a huge difference a coat of paint can make! Very impressive

  2. they do look much cleaner and blend in better. Great job...and i understand, there are a few baseboards and trim that still need to be painted in our house...dreading it!

    1. After we installed the floors, we lived without baseboards for longer than I care to admit. And then once they were installed we put off the touch ups for at least a year. Ugh. Good luck with painting your last areas of trim. You can do it :)

  3. Replies
    1. I wish I'd done it sooner!! It really helped disguise the age of the home even more.

  4. I painted electric baseboard heaters this summer using heat resistant rustoleum spray paint which comes only in white or black.I found the paint easy to work with - I had one little dribble where I sprayed too much and i cleaned that up with a papertowel and resprayed more lightly and it looked perfectly smooth when it dried. Any little bits of paint i got on the wood floor (oops) came up easily with Goof Off. The white paint really made a huge difference in making the room look cleaner and brighter.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!! I didn't want to weigh in on electric baseboard heaters having only done one that is barely used. The high heat paint is great to work with - I used it for my fireplace vents and found it applies smoother than other spray paint. I'm so happy to hear your painting went smoothly and cleaned up quickly.

  5. I loved this post! I had no idea that baseboard heaters could be painted! :| Can I ask where you find all your gorgeous artwork? Especially the one over your dining table. Love it!

    1. Thanks! The painting in the dining room is by my Hubby's grandfather, Bert Weir ( who is an artist. He did a lot of our paintings, including the abstracts above the sofa, guest bed and in the office.

    2. Thank you, Tanya! They are so beautiful!

  6. Slip on Baseboarders are the best way to transform ugly old baseboard heaters, but it looks like you've achieved some good temporary results with the paint job before they start rusting again.

    1. Luckily, ours weren't rusted - they just stuck out aesthetically so painting them was purely for looks.

  7. Mine are not rusted and I'm wanting to paint our as well. what brands did you use for paint? and since you painted them, have their been any issues with bubbling or peeling of the paint??

    1. I have been a fan of Rust-Oleum for a long time, so that's what I used. No issues with the paint peeling or anything, but keep in mind that I do not have electric heat. This is a radiant heating system so the baseboards don't get super hot to the touch. If yours do, you might consider the Rust-Oleum high heat enamel paint.


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