Cast Iron Radiators of Death
June 11, 2014 3:14 PM   Subscribe

Mr. Kitty and I are pretty handy, but removing 100 layers of 100 year old paint from our cast iron radiators may kill us. Who can we pay to make this problem someone else's?

So we are renovating our home (slowly, but surely) and are sprucing up our cast iron radiators. They are original to the house, and based on the zillion (more likely 15) layers of paint on them, we are the only ones to ever try to remove their paint. So this sounds easy, but it's not. We tried all the ways to do it ourselves with limited success. We want to pay someone else to whisk away our ton or so of radiators, strip them, paint them, and magically place them back at our doorstep.

We KNOW there are companies that do this, but finding companies near Philadelphia (and not say...England) is feeling impossible.

The rules -

1.) Must use chemical bath for stripping. Because of reasons [like compression fittings, paper filters, pitting, yada yada yada] they can't be sand blasted.

2.) Must come and take them away. Literally - we have over 2,000 lbs of radiators to refinish. The smallest weighing about 300 lbs, the largest somewhere near 600. They will not fit in the Prius.

I have googled this six ways to Sunday, but can't find any closer than upstate New York. Philadelphia is an old city, surely there are resources for renovating old houses here? So Mefites, who did you use to restore your radiators in the City of Brotherly Love?
posted by Suffocating Kitty to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The best thing to do is ship them to a powder coating shop.

They are sandblasted and then powder coated.

The most expensive part of this is moving them - consider each radiator weighs 250- 800 pounds depending on size, and if more than one is transported at once it will take a semi.

My friend had one radiator done and I helped her. It cost about $300 to transport each way ($600 total) and the powder coating and sandblasting was in the hundreds. The radiator is now gorgeous!
Considering just one radiator cost just shy of $1000, doing a whole house full of radiators is probably a $5000 project or maybe much more, mostly varying on transportation costs.
Powder coating is far superior to regular paint, and the powder coat people do sandblasting instead of chemical paint removal as sandblasting also removes rust and debris.

You can also get into a lot of plumbing problems when uninstalling and reinstalling these. They are often seized up. You may need to replace parts that are difficult to source.
posted by littlewater at 3:25 PM on June 11, 2014

Sorry just saw your reasons for not sandblasting. I have only seen radiators sandblasted and it did not affect the metal design or the fittings.
posted by littlewater at 3:26 PM on June 11, 2014

(We have hundred-year radiators too and everyone told us not to do this - that it was miles and miles more trouble than it was worth. Yours may be worse than ours, so this may not apply, but I was genuinely surprised by how much, much better they looked after a light scrape to remove any loose bits and a fresh coat of paint. I am happy with them least the ones in the few rooms we've fixed up...sigh.)
posted by Frowner at 3:42 PM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Gee, thinking back on that, it was nearly 20 years ago in Maine.

A moving crew of about 7 men took the main floor bathroom radiator, a smaller one by radiator terms, and put it in a semi.

The powder coating place serviced the maritime businesses and were used to large heavy things.
posted by littlewater at 3:56 PM on June 11, 2014

Portland Landmarks recommended that we take ours to a certain local auto body shop, who did ... something (probably sandblasted, it's been years)... to get down to the bare metal, then repainted them.

In our case, we moved them ourselves, on a trailer. You can also hire movers. See if the powder coat place will do soda blasting instead of sand blasting.

I assume you've seen this, but if you haven't....
posted by anastasiav at 5:26 PM on June 11, 2014

You probably already know this, but old paint is likely lead-based, so be sure whoever's doing this knows how to do it right.
posted by the big lizard at 5:33 PM on June 11, 2014

Also note that sandblasting is a pretty refined art, and blasting medium is selected as to not damage the item being cleaned. Blasting media ranges in hardness from synthetic gemstones down to crushed walnut shells, plastic beads and baking soda. Look for a sandblasting shop experienced with decorative wrought iron, or a shop who restores decorative wrought iron.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:11 AM on June 12, 2014

If you can't find anything closer there's Metal Man Restoration in Mt. Vernon, NY. They offer pickup and delivery "to any part in the Northeast." And their restoration process seems to be exactly what you're looking for.
posted by zinon at 6:56 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just so you know it's an option you can also look into "needle scalers" most are pneumatic. Grainger has them, McMaster-Carr as well.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:06 PM on June 12, 2014

Just a thought: instead of painting them, have you considered having metal radiator covers made? We adore ours. In the winter, they make great hat/mitten/scarf/coat drying racks. Quite cost effective, and you can have them made historically appropriate to the age/style of your house.
posted by apennington at 5:16 AM on June 16, 2014

We do have radiator covers for them - but we want them stripped and repainted. Metal Man restoration is the one I referenced as being in New York. Unfortunately - about $2,000 of the cost is transportation alone - which is why we were hoping to find something more local. I guess I am out of luck though.

Thanks for all the answers!
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 11:49 AM on June 16, 2014

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