The simplest makeovers are often the easiest ones. We have a center hall colonial, which is exactly what it sounds like. When you walk into our house, our tiled center hall is large, with a radiator to the right, and coat closet and the stairs leading to the second floor straight in front of you. The previous owners added a chair rail, with a textured wallpaper below it, and a striped wallpaper above. It may not be exactly our style but despite the abuse the rest of the house has been through it is in surprisingly good shape.
All of the woodwork needs to be cleaned and painted, including the stair risers which are horribly scuffed and discolored. That’s an upcoming project. The biggest eyesore by far, though, was the radiator cover. We don’t keep much on it – just a silver tray for the mail and a plant. But we still wanted it to look nice. And the one that was there was boxy, dirty, and had screens that were punctured. While it had been painted white at one time, it was now far from it.
The screens were the biggest obstacle. Having refinished three radiator covers in the house already, I knew that sanding globs of paint off of them was difficult to say the least, as well as taking hours of work. I also learned from redoing the one in our main bath that they had been painted with latex. The minute you started sanding or cleaning, the paint would start rolling up and peeling off. New radiator screens are anywhere from $18 to $36 per sheet, and with the size of this radiator, the cost of replacement was going to be over $100 before paint.
In a lucky trip to ReStore, we found the solution.
I have always loved metal radiator covers. They almost always have a beautiful shape or screen design, and the lids typically tilt up for easy bleeding – much easier than having to pull out the whole cover. This one was scuffed, had a little bit of rust, and had a little bit of discoloration. But it was solid, and a beautiful shape. Even better? It was $45.
Armed with 100 and 220 grit sandpaper, an orbital sander, and Rustoleum Universal Gloss Spray Paint (with a spray trigger – so much easier!) in white, the project was underway. The sanding is by far the most important process. Small paint bubbles, rust, and dirt all have to be removed carefully. The whole cleaning process only took about two hours. The painting was the difficult part but not why you might think.
Because we bought the piece on Black Friday, the cold weather was soon upon us. My spray paint projects (you’ll find out after a while that there are A LOT of them) all happen in our garage, so the cold weather is an issue. They aren’t lying when they tell you it has to be 50 degrees or warmer. If you ignore that and decide to paint anyway, you’ll be cursed by dimples in the finish and paint that doesn’t cure. If you go to do a second coat and it’s not cured, the ripples will be horrible. Not to mention you have to sand those areas down again and start over. If it’s just over 50 degrees, chances are the garage might be colder inside, so you still have to make sure you keep the cans warmer (I put them in my pockets when they’re not being used) and if it’s sunny out leaving the radiator (or any project) in the sun for a little bit helps to warm it up.
So over two months, I only had a handful of days that were warm enough. But the final product was well worth the wait.
The sidenote is that this radiator not only looks clean, beautiful, and more in keeping with the house, but also gives off a LOT more heat. With more screening and less wood, the metal radiates so much more warmth than before. On any given night, one or both of our cats will be laying in front of it. (And they’re also happier because they can now retrieve the toys that they knock underneath.)
Total cost? $45 for the cover and just under $18 for spray paint and spray sealant.
The effect? Gorgeous. Priceless. Perfect. Next step? Framing a print for above it.