It’s not uncommon to be in the middle of a project before realizing you’ve only bought mediums suited for one of the materials you’re working with. And sometimes we can’t find exactly what we’re looking for even if we’re keeping the right material in mind.
If you’ve found yourself in a similar predicament and only have metal paint to paint your woodworking project, you may be hesitant to just go for it without doing some thorough research first. Well, that’s why we’re here!
So, can you use metal paint on wood? Metal paint will adhere to wood. However, it won’t be as durable and flexible as paint made to flex and bend with wood as it expands. It’s best to choose an all-purpose paint that works with metal as well as wood if you have a project that includes both materials.
In this article, let’s talk about how well metal paint performs on wood and how you can achieve the best result when using metal paint on a wooden surface.
What Is Metal Paint?
Metal paint is a coating that can be applied to most metals in order to increase their durability, UV resistance, water resistance, and even weather resistance. It also protects the metal from rust and corrosion.
The most popular use for metal paint is to protect car parts from the elements. Metal paint can be applied to protect your vehicle from rain, harsh sunlight, and the elements. In addition, metal paint can also be used on doors, furniture, tools, and other miscellaneous objects that are made of metal.
Although ‘metal paint’ is a common name for a type of paint that is typically used on metal, it doesn’t refer to a specific formula of paint. Metal paint can be oil-based or water-based paint, depending on the brand you are purchasing.
Typically, oil-based paint is known to be more durable, which is why it is often used in outdoor furniture. However, oil-based paint can be difficult to apply and takes longer to dry, which is why it is not very friendly to beginners.
On the other hand, water-based metal paint is very easy to apply and is often non-toxic, so beginners will have an easier time working with this type of paint. Water-based metal paint is usually less durable than oil-based paint, which is why it is only recommended for indoor use.
You can buy metal paint in various applications, including regular paint that you can apply with a paintbrush or spray paint. The spray paint application is more popular for metal paint because it can get into all the crevices and corners that may be difficult for a paintbrush to get into.
Like all other types of paint, applying metal paint does require some proper preparation so that the paint can adhere to the surface effectively.
This usually means you will have to remove any dirt, grease, and rust on the metal surface before painting. In addition, you will need to use a primer to prepare the surface so that the paint will adhere properly to your surface.
Note that you will have to match the type of paint with the type of primer you are using. That means oil-based paint will need to be used with an oil-based primer, and water-based paint will need to be used with a water-based primer.
Can You Use Metal Paint on Wood?
Why did we tell you all about metal paint before answering this question? This is because understanding how metal paint works will help you understand whether it is suitable to use with wood.
Generally, all-purpose paint that is formulated to be used with all kinds of surfaces will also work well with wood. Paint that is formulated to work with metal may also work on wood surfaces but will not be as durable as you might want.
Metal paints are excellent for use on other surfaces, but they do not have the same flexibility as paints made specifically for application to wood.
Since wood is porous, and it can expand and contract as it is exposed to moisture and heat, and any paint used on wood needs to have the same flexibility. Otherwise, the paint layer can crack and peel off the surface as the wood moves through its rhythm.
While it is generally advised that you use flexible paint on wood, sometimes you just need a quick fix and may not have anything else available in your workshop. In that case, there are things that you can do to prepare the wood and help the metal paint perform better.
Preparing Wood For Painting With Metal Paint
Why is it so important to prepare wood for painting? The answer is quite simple. The paint will not stick to the surface properly if you don’t prep it properly first.
Most types of paint will only stick well to clean, smooth surfaces. This means if your surface is dirty and rough, the paint will not show up very well, and you will see a lot of texture and bumps in the final result.
You should consider painting a “makeover” step where you can totally transform the appearance of a piece of wood, so putting some work in to properly prepare the wood for paint will definitely make the finished product look more polished and professional.
Here are some things you should do to prepare your wood surface for painting:
- Clean the wood surface. Be sure to remove all dirt, dust, wax, and other foreign matter from the surface with a vacuum cleaner and wipe it down with a clean cloth.
- Repair and fill in any cracks and holes, and then sand the wood to smooth out any rough patches. If your wooden item has already been painted, it is highly recommended that you remove the previous layer of paint using a paint stripper or sanding to give the primer a better chance of sticking to your surface. Use a power sander for large areas or hand sanding for small details. You should use fine-grit sandpaper in the last step of this process to make sure that the surface is smooth.
- Clean the surface again with a clean tack cloth or vacuum cleaner to remove any residue that might prevent your paint from sticking to the wood’s surface.
- Allow the wood to dry completely, which will take about 24 hours. This step is extremely important because any moisture that is trapped in the wood after painting can damage the wood’s structure, causing warping and splitting.
- Use an acrylic latex primer (or a primer that is suitable for your type of paint) to thoroughly prime the wood surface. This step will give the paint a better chance of staying intact after it is applied, without cracking or peeling off the surface.
Since metal paint can also be quite thin in terms of viscosity, a porous material such as wood can really soak up your paint. Priming is an important step that will act as a barrier to prevent the wood from soaking up paint, keeping the paint on the surface of the wood.
How to Apply Metal Paint on Wood
When it is time to apply metal paint on wood, the trick is to apply thin layers of paint and allow each layer to dry before applying the next one. Metal paint will look blotchy if it is applied in thick layers, and applying several thin layers will also allow the paint to become more flexible, which is a key quality when working with a wood surface.
This is simple enough if you are using a spray paint application. However, if you are using a brush application, you will need to thin down your paint quite a bit with a solvent-based thinner (or water for water-based paint) to achieve a runny consistency suitable for painting on the wood.
This is especially necessary for the first coat of paint since this is the layer that is closest to the wood. Then, wait for the first layer to dry completely (how long it takes depends on the type of paint that you are using) before applying the next coat of paint.
After your paint job is finished, you will also want to apply a clear sealer over the top of the painted surface. Wood is very prone to be distorted by the elements. Moisture, sunlight, and heat are some of the things that can cause wood to become discolored, warped, or cracked.
Despite metal paint’s ability to resist some of those elements, using a wood sealant, especially a waterproof sealant, is highly recommended to give the wood some extra protection and give your paint layer a fighting chance.
Can You Use Metal Primer on Wood?
We have stressed how important it is to prepare your wood surface for painting, where priming is a key step to help your metal paint stick to your surface, but what if you only have metal primer? Can you use that with your wood surface as well?
A primer is a necessary step when painting either wood or metal. Primers create a smooth surface on the wood or metal and allow the paint to adhere evenly to it.
Both metal primer and wood primer have the same function: to create a smooth surface on which the paint can stick and help the paint go on more smoothly and evenly. However, metal primer and wood primer are not one and the same thing, as each of them is made to work well with the properties of the material they need to stick to.
Metal is a non-porous material that can be difficult for any type of paint to adhere to, so the primer’s job here is to act as a bond to assist the paint to keep it from peeling off the metal’s surface. This means the primer needs to stick to the smooth metal surface and cover any imperfections on the metal.
On the other hand, wood is a material that has no problem with paint. In fact, because it is a porous material, it often works too well, meaning it often soaks up the paint into its pores, which can result in an uneven finish.
The wood primer’s job here is to act as a middle layer between the wood and the paint. It can seal the wood and keep any moisture out of its surface, and at the same time, keep the paint intact on top of the wood and prevent any paint from seeping into the porous surface.
Because metal primer and wood primer serve two very different purposes, we don’t recommend using a metal primer for wood because it will not work very well and can even waste your paint and effort in the process.
If you are planning on using metal paint with wood, it is best to use a wood primer to prime the wood surface, which will help the paint perform well after it is applied.
What Kind Of Metal Paint Can You Use With Wood?
Most paints are made with oil or latex and can be used on a variety of surfaces, including wood, metal, ceramic, glass, and plastic. The trick is knowing which paints work best on which surfaces and what kind of finish you want to achieve.
Oil-based paints are ideal for creating durable finishes and work well with both wood and metal surfaces. It is great for outdoor furniture and can stand up to extreme weather conditions, thanks to its durability.
Oil-based paints dry slower than water-based paints, which gives you more time to work and allows the application to be smoother. If you have an oil-based metal paint, chances are, it will work well for wood.
Latex paint is another formula that serves both wood and metal surfaces very well.
Latex paint comes in two main varieties: interior and exterior. Exterior latex paint is formulated to deal with elements like heat and humidity, while interior latex paint offers less protection.
However, latex paint is still considered less durable than oil-based paint, so if you are working on exterior wood, it’s best to go with an oil-based paint option to ensure the paint’s performance.
Does Metal Paint Work With All Types Of Wood?
While the principles for using metal paint with wood are the same, there’s a big difference between hardwood and softwood. Although the fundamentals are similar, you have to approach each type of project a little differently.
Softwoods like cedar, pine, and fir tend to be cheaper than hardwoods and are durable in their own right. However, they’re also more susceptible to rot, which means that you’ll need to take extra care if you decide to paint them.
Softwoods also tend to have knots, which can pop during painting if they’re not dealt with properly. Since painting those knots could result in an unsightly mess of paint on your floor or furniture, you’ll want to get rid of them by chiseling them off before you get started.
Additionally, softwoods may be more prone to blue stains under certain conditions. If this happens to your wood, grab a chemical stripper to loosen the finish, and use some steel wool to remove any remaining spots.
Compared to hardwoods, softwoods tend to need more preservation against fungi, so you will definitely need to apply some treatment to the wood before painting.
Hardwood is made from deciduous trees, such as oak, maple, and cherry. Hardwoods can be sanded, refinished, and stained without worrying about degradation or warping.
This usually means that hardwoods require fewer treatments and less maintenance than softwoods, but it also means that hardwoods are generally more expensive.
If you have a hardwood that needs to be painted, you don’t have to do much in terms of preparation, just follow the steps above, and the metal paint should serve you well.
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