How to Restore a Rusted Iron Railing

Shannon Lee

Many old houses have charming details that have stood the test of time. Iron accents, such as wrought iron railings or decorative pieces, can often be the focal point of a room, porch, or stairway. But over time, iron reacts with the oxygen in the air to form unsightly rust.

Removing Rust and Restoring Your Iron Railing

Removing rust is a four-step process that can leave your iron railing looking beautiful again:

  1. Clean the iron railing. You can remove rust in a number of ways, but the easiest way to begin is with a simple wire brush for cleaning and steel wool for sanding. Power tools can make cleaning easier, but take care not to abrade the good iron below the rust. Another option for cleaning is the use of chemicals to remove rust, or a "rust converter" to turn the layers of rust back into thick layers of iron.
  2. Repair the damage. Epoxy or polyester resin can work wonders when repairing small areas of an iron railing that has rusted away. Fillers that contain iron can be used to build up a damaged area, and can then be ground flat to match the surrounding shape and texture.
  3. Prime the iron. Iron begins reacting with the surrounding air immediately, so a good rule of thumb is to clean and repair only what you can handle in one day. Choose an alkyd primer that is appropriate for the type of iron you are restoring. Rusty metal primers are usually the best option for restoration work because they often work with the rust itself to form a new, non-reactive film.
  4. Finish the project. You can apply high-quality metal paint in two ways--with a brush or in a spray. Spraying gives a more even finish but takes more layers to do a thorough job. Brushing requires a careful eye and steady hand but requires fewer layers to achieve the look you need.

Restoring an iron railing can be time-consuming work, especially if the railing is very intricate. If this is the case, invest in different types of wire brushes to reach into the tighter spaces, and opt for flexible steel wool you can fold in a variety of ways. Turn to small brushes for priming and finishing to ensure adequate coverage in the smallest of spaces.

Once the restoration work is done, regular maintenance should be an easy task and help your iron railing look beautiful for years to come.

About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

Search Improvement Project