Copper pipes have been a staple in plumbing for many many years. We like to have them hidden where we can but that is not always practical or even possible. If you have recently had some work done and you are not happy with how it looks; it may be time to paint your copper pipes! But what do you need? Can you just paint them with any old paint, or is there a specialist copper pipe paint? How should you go about painting them? Do they need to be primed? We have got all the answers to these questions and more for you in this article.
Why Do Plumbers Use Copper Pipes?
We all know there are several factors that determine the type of pipe to use. Water pressure, temperature, amount of liquid and many more contribute to what kind of material is required for a particular job. In our homes, copper pipes are used by plumbers because they have many benefits over other materials such as plastic or iron. Copper Pipes are the best for durability, maintenance costs and versatility. Copper is soft yet durable making it an excellent choice in plumbing because of how much abuse it can take.
Copper pipes also do not corrode easily which means minimal corrosion and build-up around the fittings which decreases the chances that copper piping will leak after years of use. The cost savings from choosing this product over other options such as steel or plastic makes them the ideal material.
Can You Paint Copper Pipes?
Yes, you can paint copper pipes, but you must take precautions; use the right paint and ensure the paint is allowed to completely dry between coats and left for a few days before using the plumbing. To get a good finish, you will need to ensure the primer and paint you use bond to the piping well. Be sure to adhere to manufacturers’ instructions and recommendations about the length of time between applying coats.
Do You Need to Paint Copper Pipes?
If the copper pipes are exposed directly to the elements (such as rain), then painting them will help them last longer by slowing down any external corrosion that may occur. For internal plumbing though, there is no noticeable benefit in painting your copper pipes, so it really is up to you and how you want it to look.
If you do not want to paint your pipes, shiny copper can give a room a rustic feel, but the rustic look is not for everyone so painting may be the best option if you want to match your decor.
When is Best to Paint Copper Pipes?
Painting copper pipe is best done during the warmer months of the year when your heating is not likely to be in use. Your copper pipes will need time to dry between primer coats and also between the primer and topcoat. This job could take a few days so you will want to ensure that your home is warm enough to leave the heating off the whole time.
How to Paint Copper Pipes
As with any paint job, there are things to consider before you get the paintbrush out, but we have a handy guide below to help you get that nice, clean finish for your room.
What You Need
You will need a few things to ensure that you give your pipes that quality finish that will last. As they say, failure to prepare is to prepare to fail so make sure that you are ready to complete this job with all of the necessary equipment.
- Dust Sheet
- 400 Grit Sandpaper
- Cloth/ Rag
- Acid Etch Primer (recommended)
- Oil Based Paint for Metal
- PPE (Goggles, Gloves, Respirator)
Step 1 – De-grease the Pipes
Firstly, before you begin de-greasing your pipes, you will want to lay down your dust sheet/s to protect any surfaces, floors, carpets, and furniture.
Then you will want to give the pipes a thorough clean with a de-greasing agent.
Personally, whenever I need to clean copper pipes, I use white spirit.
Step 2 – Clean the Oxidisation
Next up, you will want to give the pipes a good going over with the 400 grit to remove any oxidization. Sand the pipes until they are shiny and bright even if the pipes appear to be clean. The pipes must be sanded as the oxidization may not be visible to the naked eye and if left untouched, it could play havoc with your paintwork later on.
After sanding, you will need to give the pipes a wipe with a cloth or rag to ensure that there is no leftover copper dust that will affect your painting.
Step 3 – Prime
As we mentioned above, we recommend the best primer for copper pipes is an acid etch primer (Amazon link – opens in a new tab). An acid etch primer is what is often used in vehicle repair shops, and it is great for difficult-to-paint materials like copper. This primer will come in aerosol form making it extremely easy to apply – just remember to wear your PPE. We recommend wearing gloves, goggles, and a respirator to keep yourself safe.
Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions that should tell you:
- How to use the primer
- How many coats required
- How long to wait between applications
Step 4 – Paint
Once the copper pipes have been primed and you have given enough time for drying as per the primer instructions – it is time to paint. We recommend the best paint for copper pipes is an oil-based paint that is made specifically for covering metal. Many people will just use emulsion or gloss, but this is not ideal – gloss does not usually give a clean finish and emulsion soon develops cracks due to the constant changes in temperature.
Note: When painting by hand, paint the pipes lengthways and do not forget your PPE!
Step 5 – Leave to Dry
The drying periods required are the main reason for painting your pipes during the warmer months. After the final coat has gone on, we recommend leaving the heating off for a further 48 hours to give the paint a chance to dry thoroughly – Voila! All done!
Best Copper Pipe Paint?
The best copper pipe paint for your home is an oil-based aerosol (spray paint).
Aerosols typically give a cleaner finish that looks great not to mention it is quicker too. A brand that I have used before is Rustoleum and they do a range of spray paints (Amazon link – opens in a new tab) in different colours.
Now you have learned how to paint copper pipes, you can now go and get some paint. As we mentioned, the best copper pipe paint is spray-based unless you are a real smooth operator with a brush. Don’t forget to make sure your heating is off and leave it off for a bit for the paint to dry.
Plumbing Wizard Tips
“Although pipes can be painted with a brush, we recommend using an aerosol – thank me later!”
“When painting, start at the top of the pipe and work downwards!”
“Even if the paint says – no primer needed, I would still prime the area first!”
“To ensure a good finish that lasts, the prep work is very important – do not skip the prep work or you will end up regretting it!”
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to prime copper pipes?
Yes, for a good finish, you will need to prime copper pipes. We recommend using an acid etch primer like what is used in many body repair shops.
What kind of paint do you use on copper heating pipes?
Oil-based aerosols are the best paints for copper heating pipes. Aerosols are easy to use and will give you a great finish especially if you are not too skilled with a brush. Just remember to use a quality primer beforehand.
How to clean copper pipes?
White spirit is great for cleaning and de-greasing copper pipes but if you do not have any, you can make a cleaning solution from the products you have at home. All you need is some white vinegar and some salt. Mix a teaspoon of salt with about 300ml of white vinegar and there you have it. A perfect copper cleaning solution.
Is painting internal copper plumbing necessary?
While there’s no functional need to paint internal copper pipes, doing so is a matter of personal preference and aesthetics. Unpainted, shiny copper can give a room a rustic feel.
When is the best time of year to paint copper pipes?
It’s best to paint copper pipes during warmer months when you don’t need to use heating. This ensures the paint dries properly between coats.
Why should I avoid using emulsion or gloss on copper pipes?
Gloss might not provide a clean finish, and emulsion can develop cracks due to temperature changes in the pipes.
How long should I wait after painting before turning on my heating?
After the final coat of paint, it’s recommended to leave the heating off for an additional 48 hours to ensure the paint dries thoroughly.
What are some tips for a successful paint job on copper pipes?
For a smooth finish, use an aerosol for painting, start painting from the top and work downwards, always prime the pipes even if the paint claims no primer is needed, and do not skip the preparation steps for the best results.
Lee Pearce is not just a master plumber; he’s a veritable Plumbing Wizard. With over 30 years of experience in the trenches of pipes and drains, Lee has become the go-to sage for DIY plumbing, saving homeowners thousands in potential call-out charges. As the founder of Plumbing Wizard, he’s dedicated to demystifying the complexities of home plumbing, offering easy-to-follow advice that stands the test of time and pressure. His online blog is a treasure trove of tips, tricks, and tutorials that empower everyday individuals to take charge of their home’s plumbing health. Lee’s practical wisdom is not just about fixing leaks; it’s about imparting confidence and self-reliance. When he’s not writing or elbow-deep in a plumbing project, Lee is passionate about educating the next generation of DIYers, ensuring that practical skills are passed down and preserved.