Painting the walls? Don't let a cumbersome radiator get you hot under the collar. Here are some foolproof tips and techniques for painting behind a radiator.
So you're painting your living room. You're excited, too. This is going to turn out great.
You've bought everything you'll need. A bountiful heap of plastic shopping bags full of drop cloths, roller frames, paint pans, a 5-in-1 tool,
and, of course, paint brushes -- and not just any old brushes; you need good paint brushes: watch this video to learn how to choose!
You've also got just the right color picked out. And because it's an older place, you've tested for lead paint.
As you paint your way around the room, you first realize the radiator in your charming old place is at first in the way. Then, as you get right up to it with the brush you realize, "Wait a minute. I can't really
get the brush back there. What the heck?"
And all your good karma turns sour because you now dread an ugly, slathered paint outline around the radiator.
That's usually how the scenario plays out. So whether you've found yourself there already or you had the foresight to research the problem before it actually became a problem, here's the best approach to painting behind a radiator.
Should You Remove the Radiator?
Let's get this out of the way early. Our advice: Don't even think about it. This is a professional plumber
's job (the Washington Post
agrees). Still want to attempt it yourself? We suggest at least consulting a professional plumber first.
Get Yourself Some Radiator Rollers and Radiator Brushes
The easiest way to paint behind a radiator is to head back to the store (turn the heat off before you go; you'll see why later) to get what's called a "mini-long-handled roller." You can find this long, slender type of paint roller at practically any paint store or big box home center. Some manufacturers call them "radiator rollers."
You'll probably find two types at point of sale: one with a sponge roller cover (the part you put the paint on) and one with a microfiber roller cover. For what it's worth, I've had the best luck with the microfiber covers, but both work for this application.
Though I've never tried them, some people use radiator paint brushes too, which are designed to be long and slim enough to fit in tight quarters (same idea as a radiator roller).
Also, grab a box of contractor grade trash bags while you're there (you'll want them later for all the paint cans and debris that'll stretch your kitchen bags past the breaking point.)
When you return home, slide a contractor bag over the radiator -- which should be cool by now -- and snug tight with tape or string (or just have someone hold it taught). This is to protect the roller from all the dust bunnies and debris back there.
Then, load your radiator roller with paint and sneak it down between the bag and the wall. Paint what you can but if it won't go all the way down, let it be. You won't be able to see that far behind the radiator anyway -- nor can you see through most radiators, for that matter.
Unlike standard size roller covers, I clean out mini roller covers in my utility sink. Why not just throw them out? First, they're not all that cheap, so I tend to reuse them. Second, unlike full-size roller covers, they clean up fairly easily so it isn't a hassle at all.
Or You Could Just Build a Radiator Cover
If for some reason you can see through the radiator to the unpainted wall behind but can't paint there's another other option: building a radiator cover. These are a really fun projects. However, we bring it up here only as an option. How to build them is another kettle of fish entirely.
In this video, DIY Network's Marc Bartolomeo demonstrates how to make a radiator cover out of wood and leftover soapstone countertop: