best paint for metal file cabinets?
March 26, 2012 10:41 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to paint a pair of file cabinets. Any suggestions for the best paint?

Powder-coating is too expensive and too much trouble--I'm on the top floor of a walk-up and don't want to cart them to a powder-coating place.

They are currently "stone" colored. I'd need to do it on my roof on a hot windless day, I suppose--spreading out a lot of newspaper. I'd like to paint them a tomato red.

I'm thinking not spray paint, due to possibility of accidentally painting the roof, and we have a kid, so I'm thinking nothing that will have a nasty toxic smell afterward.

Any suggestions for paint and/or best practices?
posted by Ollie to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
spray paint (sorry)'s going to give you the cleanest look and last longest (make sure the can says 'enamel', but not 'latex enamel') ...also, it at night/dusk and do it over cardboard, not paper (the number of times i have had a dropcloth blow onto wet paint and ruin it...grar!) but too cold=bad too...shoot for 'around room temperature'
do one light coat (yes it will look blotchy), wait until the next night, do another, wait another night, do a third...if the next morning the paint feels at all sticky or has any 'give' let it sit another full day before you move it (the heat of the day, later in the drying process is ok, but not immediately after the paint is sprayed will crack and wrinkle)
make sure they are clean clean clean before you start...windex or 409, then water, then dry dry dry (this part you can do earlier in the day when it's hot)
try to rush the process along and it will come out fugly, guaranteed!
posted by sexyrobot at 10:57 AM on March 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you are going to brush on paint, I would suggest rustoleum. I frequently brush it over other paints with good results. I clean the object with dish soap and a brush, rinse and it let dry. Then I just brush on. This will leave brush marks so if you cannot live with that this is not the way to go. You could brush the back of one to see what it looked like.

Also, don't waste your time removing the old finish. It is almost never worth it.

There is a totally different idea: go to a sign shop and buy large sheets of red adhesive backed vinyl. Cut it out panels to the sizes of parts of your item with a razor knife and stick them on. Hey, it could work.
posted by bdc34 at 11:03 AM on March 26, 2012

Yeah, you really want spray paint for this job. I painted a rose coloured file cabinet black a few years ago, worked perfectly. I suggest getting a 5 cubic foot moving box and making a half box (back and half sides, top and bottom) using bricks or free weights to hold it down then using it as an over spray guard. It also will help block the wind from your spray.
posted by saradarlin at 12:36 PM on March 26, 2012

I did this with 2 coats of spray paint (putty/stone-ish color cabinets to powder blue.) I forget the brand of paint, but it was one of the major ones at the hardware store. I spread newspaper on the floor of the screened-in porch where I did it. There was no lasting smell, and I have a really good sense of smell, I mean odors that other people can't even detect really bother me. I think I left the cabinets outside for a day or two, and they didn't smell at all.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:15 PM on March 26, 2012

I would recommend Rustoleum spray paint. But, regardless of brand, definitely spray paint specifically for metal. You are never, ever going to get a flat, smooth finish with a brush.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:55 PM on March 26, 2012

FWIW, I once got good results using one of those teensy foam rollers and a tray. No brushstroke, wind, stray spray or major fume issues.
posted by likeso at 7:41 PM on March 26, 2012

Spray paint would be best for metal in terms of finish, but it is quite messy. No matter what you use, you shouldn't have any issue with fumes once the paint has fully cured. The overspray from spray paint will spread quite widely and, if the red contrasts with the colour of the surroundings, will be quite noticeable.

The foam roller idea is a good one (microfibre rollers are also good, but quite expensive - foam rollers are cheap enough to just throw out between coats), but practice a bit on the back to get the technique right first. Two coats of enamel should be sufficient if you use that method and just wait the time shown on the can between coats. Given that you are painting metal (I assume) in the sun, heat will be your enemy, so paint first thing in the morning before the metal gets hot. If the metal is hot, the paint will dry too quickly and you want it to have sufficient time while wet for the paint to flatten out and minimise any roller marks.

If you use spray paint, use multiple thin coats (don't try and cover with the first couple of passes, just concentrate on slowly building up an even layer).
posted by dg at 8:51 PM on March 26, 2012

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