Iron railings are strong and durable. They’re not subject to rot and insects won’t bother them. Best of all, these railings are a classic element that look great in gardens and homes. However, like any other material, iron will last longer if you care for it properly. Moisture is the main enemy of iron because it can lead to rust. If left unchecked, rust will eat through the metal. To minimize damage, repairs, and rust, here’s how to care for your iron railings.
If you spot rust on your iron railings, you can remove it before it does any damage.
1. With a wire brush, gently remove the rust, any paint that’s peeling, and metal flakes
2. Smooth rough areas with sandpaper, continuing to remove the rust until only bare metal remains. Clean the surface with a rag soaked in mineral spirits.
3. On the exposed metal, apply a product designed to neutralize rust. These products are sold under various names and brands, but they all contain phosphoric acid. They will convert any remaining rust into an inert crust. Follow the directions for your product, and protect yourself with proper eyewear. Wear a mask to prevent inhalation of the neutralizer. It can take about a day for the product to work. After it cures, you’ll need to brush off any additional loose matter that forms.
4. Apply metal primer with a disposable brush
5. After the primer dries, apply an oil-based paint designed for use on metal. For long-lasting protection against rust, apply several coats of paint.
You can try to limit moisture on railings by removing any overgrowth of plants around the base of the metal.
Repair a Missing Section
If you need to replace a small section of rail, begin by removing the damaged area. In most cases you’ll use a hacksaw to cut through the iron. On outdoor railings, you can insert a steel rod or use auto-body filler in the gap. You can also use wooden rods to replace the damaged piece if you’re working on an indoor structure. If you have one or two damaged balusters, you may be able to find replacement spindles that match or coordinate with your rail. Unfortunately, if a large area of your railing is damaged, you may need to replace the entire railing. It’s not safe to keep unstable iron in place since it could break causing further damage or injury.
If you keep your railings in good shape with early repair and regular maintenance, you can enjoy years of relatively carefree use.