Copper pipes are a popular choice for plumbing purposes. Often they are hidden from view, so you don’t have to worry about how they look. However, the piping might be visible in some places, especially in older buildings. If this is the case, you might want to paint them to hide them or add to their visual interest.
You can paint copper pipes, although DIY experts don’t recommend it. Paint can make plumbing adjustments more difficult or damage the pipes. If you paint your copper plumbing, ensure that you use proper paint suited to metals such as copper — and clean and prime them before painting.
In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss whether or not you should paint your copper pipes, what kind of paint to use, and the best way to protect your pipes from damage and help them look their best. If you have exposed copper pipes and want to freshen them up with some paint, keep reading!
Should Copper Pipes Be Painted?
You can paint copper water pipes, but most plumbers don’t advise doing so. The paint doesn’t protect the pipes in any way, and sometimes the paint connects joints, which makes any adjustments more challenging to perform.
You can paint your copper piping, but many plumbers don’t recommend this. First, there isn’t a functional benefit to painting the pipes. Some people believe that adding a layer of paint will protect the pipes from damage and wear and tear, but this isn’t the case. Copper is resistant to corrosion, reliable, durable, and long-lasting on its own, and a layer of paint doesn’t make any difference for internal plumbing.
Outdoor pipes might benefit from a layer of paint, as the paint acts as another shield from the elements. However, experts don’t believe there’s a noticeable difference in how long painted pipes last compared to unpainted pipes.
Therefore, the only benefit to painting your internal copper piping is aesthetic. If you genuinely hate the appearance of copper plumbing in your home, consider alternatives for hiding them instead of deciding to paint them right away.
For example, you can arrange your furniture differently so the pipes are hidden, or you can hang art over the pipes. You can also use a material other than paint to cover the pipes, such as wrapping them in rope or ribbon.
Here are some other alternatives to paint for hiding copper piping or making them look different:
- Hide them behind curtains. You can strategically hang some curtains or a skirt to disguise pipes.
- Use pipe sleeves. A pipe sleeve can disguise your pipe and protect it from damage.
- Build a bookshelf around the plumbing. You can use vertical pipes as endpoints for a bookshelf. Not only do you disguise the pipes with this method, but you also create a great place to store your favorite reads!
- Place plants around the pipes. You can grow natural plants or wrap fake foliage around the pipe to make it look more aesthetically pleasing. I like these Anoak Artificial Vine Leaves from Amazon because they are high-quality silk, look beautiful, and are likely to last. Each vine is over seven feet long, but you can cut it to suit your needs if necessary.
- Cover them with design tape. Tape comes in all sorts of designs and colors, so you will likely find a pattern that suits your style.
- Build shelving above the pipes. Placing a shelf directly above a pipe can lead the eye away from the piping.
Alternatively, you could embrace the pipes and let them show. The industrial look is trendy, and exposed copper piping can be chic.
If you can’t find any solution to hide the pipes and still want to make them look different, you can proceed with painting them, but you’ll need to do so correctly to avoid conflict down the line.
See also: Do Green Copper Pipes Need to Be Replaced?
What Is the Best Way to Paint Copper Pipes?
The best way to paint copper pipes is to clean them thoroughly, prime them, allow the primer to dry, apply the paint, and then allow time for the pipes to dry before using them again.
One of the essential steps of painting your copper pipes is ensuring they are thoroughly clean. This process helps your paint job last longer.
1. Degrease Your Copper Pipes
The first step of cleaning your pipes is degreasing them. You’ll need to use a degreasing agent, such as KRUD KUTTER Cleaner/Degreaser. I like this product because it is non-toxic, biodegradable, and works quickly to eliminate grease and grime. I also like that it is odorless because other degreasers can have an overwhelming and unpleasant odor.
2. Remove Oxidation and Provide a “Tooth” to Your Pipe
After you degrease the pipes, you’ll need to remove oxidation by sanding them with 400-grit sandpaper. Be thorough with this step, as oxidation can quickly make any paint job look inferior.
For the best results, firmly rub the sandpaper in circular motions but not too hard, so you don’t damage the copper. Keep sanding until the copper is shiny and smooth to the touch. Then, wipe the pipes so there’s no dust from the sanding, as this can also interfere with your painting.
3. Prime Your Copper Pipes
Once your pipes are shiny and smooth, it’s time to prime them. Don’t skip this step! Primer is essential for people painting metal because paint doesn’t naturally stick to metal and other surfaces. If you don’t prime first, you’ll notice imperfections and unevenness shortly after painting the pipes.
I recommend using a primer explicitly manufactured for use on metal, such as this Custom Shop Metal Primer. This primer provides superior adhesion and comes in an aerosol bottle with high fan atomization, which makes for quick and excellent coverage.
Before continuing to the next step, you must wait and give the primer time to dry. Read the instructions on your primer bottle to know the appropriate time to wait. If you don’t provide the primer enough time to dry, it won’t work as well in some areas, and your paint job will probably look uneven.
4. Paint Your Pipes
After the primer dries, it’s finally time to paint! You’ll need an oil-based paint that works on metal. I recommend getting paint in an aerosol can for quicker and easier application. Apply an even layer of paint, wait for it to dry, and then apply another coat if needed.
If you follow these instructions and use the right products, you’re likely to have a beautiful paint job that suits your style and disguises (or highlights, if you’d prefer) your copper piping.
Give the paint enough time to dry before you use them again, so keep the heating off for at least forty-eight hours for the best results. If you notice that the paint is still glossy or wet to the touch, you may have to wait even longer.
What Paint to Use on Copper Pipes?
The best paint to use on copper pipes is oil-based paint, specifically designed for use on metals. Using aerosol paint (spray paint) makes the application process more manageable.
Metal doesn’t respond well to some paints, so if you use the wrong kind, you might end up with cracked or chipped paint that looks even worse than the original copper. For this reason, you should avoid using water-based paint, which isn’t sticky enough to stay on the metal. For the best results, you need hard-wearing enamel and oil-based paint.
This kind of paint takes a long time to dry, extending how long the paint job takes. The more significant time investment might be inconvenient for you, but this inconvenience will pay off in the long run. You can hasten the process by using spray paint.
I recommend Rust-Oleum Spray Paint for your copper pipes. This paint holds up well on indoor and outdoor surfaces and dries more quickly than other oil-based paints on the market. One can is enough for twelve square feet, so you’ll probably need one can to get the job done. Finally, I like the any-angle spray tip and the variety of colors available.
If you still want your pipes to have a metallic finish, I recommend Rust-Oleum Metallic Spray Paint. This paint has a nice metallic finish — from black night to warm gold, no matter what color you choose. I also like that this paint has several corrosion-resistant ingredients that help prevent rust, abrasion, and fading. The paint also has a quick drying time — so the job won’t take too long.
Even though most experts and plumbers don’t recommend it, you can paint copper pipes. The best way to do this is to clean the pipes thoroughly, prime them, then use an oil-based paint designed for use on metals.
If you clean the pipes properly and allow the coats to dry completely before applying the next one, your painted pipes will look great, and your plumbers won’t be annoyed the next time they have to adjust them.