Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
Commonly used in buildings for window and door frames, column wraps, façade finishes, and interior applications such as lighting fixtures, anodized aluminum is an elegant material on its own. However, there are times when you may want to change the color and appearance of the natural metal finish. As such, you may wonder if it can be painted, or perhaps you’ve heard it does not take paint well.
Can anodized aluminum be painted? Yes, anodized aluminum can be painted. The critical thing to remember is that the surface must be thoroughly washed and dried before applying the etching primer and paint. Multiple layers of paint may be necessary.
Anodized aluminum is primarily a specialty aluminum finish that adds durability to aluminum. According to Lorin.com, anodized aluminum is created with an “electrochemical process where the metal is immersed in a series of tanks, wherein one of the tanks, the anodic layer, is grown from the metal itself.”
What are the Benefits of Anodized Aluminum?
Some of the top benefits of anodized aluminum – which also double as the reasons why this particular aluminum is the best choice for painting – include:
- It is corrosion-resistant and is not prone to peels or cracks. Other aluminum corrode when left in an area with high moisture content, but anodized aluminum will never succumb to corrosion or any other unsightly peels or cracks.
- It can be easily dyed. If you are looking for an option that is even easier than painting your anodized aluminum, you also have the option of dying it. Regular aluminum won’t retain any coloring, so it can only be found in a chrome hue.
- It offers extreme adhesion. This is valuable for various reasons, but in this case, it is highly beneficial to the painter. The pores of the anodized aluminum essentially soak in anything that is placed on it- such as primer and paint- for a flawless, lush finish.
- More durable than regular aluminum. This clearly benefits anyone looking to build a structure or item, whether big or small. The anodized aluminum is more durable and reliable, so you can feel confident that the building or item is strong enough to take on any challenge that comes its way.
Anodized aluminum has become a top pick when creating all types of items and structures. Its durability is unparalleled, and its ability to stave off corrosion, no matter where it is placed, is a tremendous benefit for all types of applications.
Can you Paint over Aluminum?
As previously mentioned, anodized aluminum can be painted. In fact, it is one of the more straightforward materials to paint because of its superior adhesive qualities. The pores of the surface of anodized aluminum allow the paint to seep in, making it an ideal surface for painting.
However, just because anodized aluminum is easy to paint does not mean there are no strict steps to follow and specific tools necessary for success. In this next section, I will describe – in detail – the best way to achieve a superior paint job on your anodized aluminum.
How to Paint Anodized Aluminum in 4 Steps
While painting anything made from anodized aluminum is simple, essential products and timeframes should be adhered to. The good news is that you only need a few items and about 6 hours to complete the painting job. Following this procedure will ensure you are left with a vibrant, flawless finish.
What You Will Need:
- Dish Soap, Brush, and Water
- Etching Primer
- Oil Based Paint
1. Start by Thoroughly Washing the Anodized Aluminum
Although anodized aluminum is designed to be more porous and adhesive than other aluminum, when it comes to painting on top, you need to ensure it is thoroughly cleaned before application. This is because anodized aluminum will become less adhesive over time when contaminants, such as grease, oil, or particles from the air, become locked inside. While this doesn’t harm the anodized aluminum, it makes it less possible to paint.
That is why you should thoroughly scrub the anodized aluminum using dish soap (try and find dish soap specifically designed to remove grease and bacteria, such as Dawn). Use a scrub brush to scrub away any impurities thoroughly. When finished scrubbing, wash away the soap thoroughly. Any leftover soap will cause problems with adhesion.
Wait for the anodized aluminum to dry entirely before moving on to the next step. However, ensure you are ready to prime and paint as soon as the anodized aluminum is dried. You do not want to leave any time for contaminants to disrupt the adhesive again.
2. Apply Etching Primer
Pour the primer into a painter’s pot where it is easily accessible. You will need to coat the item or building in etching powder thoroughly. Ensure that no spots are left untouched, as the primer will be necessary for thorough adhesion of the paint onto the anodized aluminum.
When finished applying the primer, you will need to let the primer dry completely. This should take at least two total hours. During this time, clean off the paintbrush thoroughly.
3. Use Sandpaper to Remove any Bumps
Sometimes, primer can leave unsightly bumps and nicks in the anodized aluminum. If this is the case, you will need to use your sandpaper to grind away the lumps for a smooth surface gently. This is important for a slick surface that will adhere to the paint while also offering a sleek finish.
Be careful when using sandpaper, as you do not want to remove any of the primers from the anodized aluminum. The good news is that you won’t risk nicks or scratching the anodized aluminum itself.
4. Apply the Paint
Apply a thorough coat of the paint to your anodized aluminum surface. Make sure the paint is oil-based, as this will allow for the best adhesion from the anodized aluminum since the paint can seep into the pores. Make sure the entirety of the surface is covered with a thick coat of paint.
Wait a full two hours for the paint to dry. If necessary, apply additional coats in the same manner. Depending on how light your paint color is, you may need up to 3 coats for the best results. While the paint is drying, wash your paintbrush thoroughly to prepare an additional layer.
Anodized aluminum provides an excellent surface for painting as it is readily adhesive and is designed with pores that quickly soak up materials, such as primers and paints. However, you must ensure that the item or building component is thoroughly washed and dried before painting, which can cause adhesion issues. You will also need an etching primer and oil-based paint for success.
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