How To Paint a Metal Roof (Easy Step by Step Guide)

Learning how to paint your metal roof is a great way to stay on top of maintenance issues and change its appearance.

Since metal roofs can last an astonishing 70 years, sticking with the same color for decades might get old.

Fresh paint lets you quickly and cheaply address issues like rust before they turn into serious problems.  

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how and when to paint your metal roof, whether you should use spray paint or other application methods, and common mistakes to watch out for during this process.  

How To Paint a Metal Roof

Every decade or so is a good rule of thumb when deciding how often to paint your metal roof. Sometimes you can wait a little longer; in other cases, you’ll need to paint sooner.

Here are some signs a new coat or touch-up is needed for your metal roof.  

  • Any visible rust spots 
    Rust spots can quickly spread and grow larger, causing leaks to form in a metal roof and compromising its strength in that area. If you see rust spots, it might be time to give the entire roof a new layer of protection. Touching up those areas, if nothing else, can reseal the surface and stop the rust from getting worse or causing holes.  
  • Cracks in the paint 
    Paint serves as a protective layer on your metal roof. Cracks, peeling, and chips allow moisture or debris to get in and sit directly against the metal, which can result in corrosion and damage. There’s also the issue of appearance: a cracked paint job simply doesn’t look as nice. 
  • Peeling or bubbling 
    Bubbling is often a sign that your paint will begin to crack or peel off your metal roof soon. When you notice this, you’ll want to consider repainting before the problem gets worse. Additionally, peeling or bubbling can be a sign the last paint application wasn't done correctly. Your roof might have been dirty, wet, or too hot for the paint to adhere properly.  
  • A chalky appearance or fading color 
    While this isn’t necessarily a sign your paint will start cracking or peeling soon, it can be a valuable indication of a paint job’s age and how much durability it’s got left. Furthermore, chalky or fading paint can make your metal roof look dull or dirty.  A fresh coat will dramatically improve your structure’s appearance.  
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Benefits Of Repainting A Metal Roof 

  • Sustainability & Increased Roof Life
    Putting a new coat of paint on your metal roof can actually help decrease the temperature inside by a few degrees, and can be recycled when you decide to replace it. Painting can also make your metal roof last twice as long as going without, which reduces waste in general. 
  • Increased Energy Savings
    Painting or repainting a metal roof will increase its energy efficiency, thereby lowering your heating or cooling costs.  Solar heat is better reflected—keeping your home cooler in the warm months—and interior heat is better retained during cold seasons. 
  • Improved Aesthetics
    Shingles are often limited when it comes to color choices, but metal roof paints come in virtually any color you could want for your home, outbuilding, or business. You can even add decorative elements or patterns, depending on the metal type. 

Things To Consider Before Painting A Metal Roof 

Layers of existing paint  

If you or previous owners have already painted the roof (or if it was painted prior to installation), this can affect how well the new paint layer adheres to the surface. For blistering or peeled areas, you’ll want to get all the old paint off the metal roof before repainting.  

Scrape and sand the old paint until it’s removed or at least smooth, and give your metal roof a thorough power-washing. Allow it to dry before applying your primer or paint.  

The condition of the substrate

The substrate of a metal roof is the underlying structure that supports the metal panels. If it’s in bad shape or deteriorating, climbing on the roof is not advisable. Consult a professional to assess the substrate’s condition before you repaint the roof.  

Surface cleaning

To clean your painted metal roof, you’ll first want to sand or scrape the old layers, then power-wash the roof to remove all dirt and grime. You can also scrub the roof with solutions made of water and bleach or mild soap, as long as you thoroughly rinse the roof afterward.  

Keep in mind, however, that the runoff will go into your gutters and then the ground, so heavy-duty chemicals or bleach should be used sparingly, if ever. Many metal roof owners prefer diluted white vinegar for a powerful cleaning agent that won’t harm the environment or contaminate groundwater.  

Inspection

Besides the substrate condition, you’ll also want to inspect your roof thoroughly—or hire a professional to do so—to make sure no panels are loose, weakened, or corroded. Leaks or drainage problems should be addressed prior to painting, as well.  

Damaged areas are a waste of time to paint since you might need to replace those elements soon after. More importantly, the roof is too dangerous to climb onto while painting.  

The color of the paint

Darker colors are harder to paint over than lighter shades on metal roofs, just like on interior surfaces. If you’re going to a lighter color, keep in mind that removing the old paint as much as possible and using a primer will go a long way in increasing the new coat’s coverage.  

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How To Paint A Metal Roof Yourself: Easy DIY Guide 

Although you can certainly hire professionals to paint your metal roof for you, doing the process yourself can save thousands and let you assess the roof’s condition up-close with your own eyes.  

Before you get started, gather everything you’ll need for a quick and thorough job: sandpaper, vinegar or cleaning solutions, a power washer, and rollers with long or telescopic handles, or a paint sprayer.  

Non-slip shoes and a safety harness are also needed, as well as a ladder that’s sturdy and tall enough to reach your roof. Don’t climb anywhere you aren’t comfortable being, and always make sure a spotter is present to hold your ladder and assist you while you work.  

You’ll also want paint trays, cloths to clean up spills or drips—and, of course, your paint.  The best paint for a metal roof will be acrylic latex specifically formulated for use on outdoor metal surfaces. You'll also want a metal primer and perhaps a sealant for extra protection.  

When done correctly, painting your own metal roof can provide professional, lasting results for a fraction of the price.  


Steps to Paint A Metal Roof 

  1. 1
    Remove any peeling, bubbling, or cracked paint currently on the roof. There’s no need to remove the entirety of the first paint job if the surface is still smooth and shows no damage. 
  2. 2
    If needed, scrape and wipe away rust spots. Extensive damage might require patching or replacing entire panels before you begin painting. 
  3. 3
    Power wash the roof to remove all dirt, debris, and loose paint. Allow the roof to dry completely. 
  4. 4
    Roll on your primer, or use an exterior paint sprayer for much faster application. Once the primer is dried, decide if a second coat is needed. If not, move on to the next step. 
  5. 5
    Roll or spray your first coat of paint onto your roof. Apply a second coat when that’s dry, and perhaps a third if the coverage or color isn’t quite what you’ve envisioned yet. 
  6. 6
    If the label on your paint specifies the need for a sealant, apply that after the last coat of paint has dried. 

Tips and Tricks for Painting Different Types of Metal Roofs 

Old/Rusty Roof 

The biggest challenge in painting an old metal roof is that its structural integrity might not be up to par. Inspect your roof carefully for loose panels or screws, compromised elements of the substrate, and other signs of instability. Fix these before you attempt to climb on, clean, or paint your metal roof.  

For rust, scrape and clean the rust away with a paint scraper and some vinegar solution. You mostly want to remove the flaky parts, as this will affect paint adhesion just like dirt or debris. Any areas where the rust can’t be removed should be sanded and primed with a rust-formulated primer before the main primer is applied.  

Steep Roofs

Particularly steep roofs should be left to professionals, or equipped with anchor points where you can attach a safety harness with ease and avoid falls or slips. If your metal roof has a steep pitch, that makes a harness system and extra safety precautions—including a helper/spotter and shoes with exceptional grip—absolute must-have supplies.  

Corrugated Metal Roof

Unlike ribbed or flat panels, corrugated metal roof panels have a wavy appearance that makes painting with a roller a bit more time-consuming, as it’s hard to get even coverage on such a varied surface.  

Small areas will do fine with a brush application, but you might want to consider painting your corrugated metal roof with an airless sprayer instead. This ensures an even paint job in very little time.  

Mistakes To Avoid When Painting Metal 

Painting your own metal roof can seem daunting, but even new DIYers can get the job finished correctly with the right precautions, prep work, and tools. Avoid these all too common mistakes people make when painting their own metal roofs.  

Not cleaning/preparing the metal first

Diving right into your painting project is exciting, but make sure you take that extra time to prepare the surface properly for optimized adhesion. Failure to clean your roof of dirt, rust, or old cracked and peeling paint can result in more bubbling or peeling of the new coat.  

Not using a sealant or primer

Primer helps the paint adhere to your roof better and also covers the metal or old paint color more thoroughly for a better-looking final result. If your paint advises using a sealant for a final coat, definitely take the time to apply one. This will provide extra protection against the elements.  

Not using the right paint application

Brushes, rollers, and sprayers are all effective options for painting a metal roof, but it's important to consider your particular roof type and other factors. A sprayer is the fastest paint application process overall but won't work well on windy days; rollers can't always cover varied surfaces, like corrugated metal roofs.   

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How long does paint last on a metal roof? 

When applied correctly, paint can last 10 years on your metal roof before you’ll want to consider a new coat due to damage or fading.  


What color metal roof fades the least? 

As the sun and elements break down the pigments in paint, its color will fade and appear dull, chalky, and less vibrant. White fades the least, as do other light colors. Rather than absorbing sunlight, they reflect it and thus preserve their pigmentation longer. Consider mineral compound pigments, as well; these are highly durable colors engineered from metal oxides, which don’t break down as easily as organic compounds.  


How much does it cost to paint a metal roof? 

If you paint your metal roof yourself, your costs will be limited to your supplies: safety gear, ladders, rented or purchased pressure washers, paints, primers, sealants, and painting supplies. Altogether, you should expect to spend at least a few hundred dollars during the process.  

 

Professional metal roof painting will cost an average of about $2 to almost $4 per square foot. Steep roofs or those in need of repair or power washing first will cost extra, totaling $2,000 or more in many cases.  


Is it cheaper to paint or replace a metal roof? 

It’s cheaper to paint your existing roof, even if you hire a professional. Replacing a metal roof can cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of your home and other factors like steepness.  


How do you cut painted metal roof panels? 

If cutting painted metal roof panels by hand, you’ll want to use tin shears or nibblers. For larger jobs, a circular saw can get the panels cut quickly, especially if the panels are very thick. 
 


Conclusion

Metal roofs are more durable and last far longer than other roofing materials. Painting your metal roof properly can extend its life significantly, prevent leaks and rust, increase energy efficiency, and provide a refreshing new look when your old paint has faded or simply grown boring.  

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