Rusty water pipes inside or outside of your home aren’t just ugly. Rust will eat away at the pipes until they become leaky, which costs you money for repairs, and can waste a lot of water. Rust can also find its way into your water, turning it brown and gross (though it’s not actually dangerous, for what that’s worth). But if your rusty pipe situation isn’t too advanced – that is, if you haven’t got leaks yet and the rust is just starting – you can fix rusty pipes yourself.
Fixing rusty pipes
If rust is just starting to nibble away at a pipe outside your home, you can stop it in its tracks. The trick is to paint over it to contain the rust and stop letting it feed on the metal. But before you do that, you’ll want to get rid of as much of the rust as you possibly can.
Removing the Rust
You have three choices here.
- Rust-removers are chemical agents that will remove rust thoroughly. If you want to use one of these, there are a lot of choices out there, and they are all designed to leave you with a smooth surface for painting.
- Wire brush. You can also scrub the rust away with a special wire brush that looks something like a toothbrush. This takes some serious elbow grease, but it doesn’t involve any chemicals at all. It will ultimately work just as well as using a chemical rust-remover.
- Fine Sandpaper. Sandpaper will take off light rust, or help create a very smooth painting surface after the wire brush has done its work.
- Combination. You could use a wire brush to get off most of the rust, then use a chemical rust remover for the last step. Some people feel this is necessary for some jobs, where one method alone might not do the whole trick.
Painting Rusty Pipes
The best paint for this job is an oil-based enamel paint. Oil-based paints have a lot of fumes and take a while to dry, but that finish will last. You can choose from spray-on or brush-on paints. Spray on is convenient, especially if you’re painting a section of pipe you can’t stand too close to due to the terrain, but you obviously have the challenge of getting the spray on paint to go only where you want it. Brush on is easier to control. The quality of paint is the same in either case.
- Primers. You can buy a primer to go under your paint, but as with the rust removers, it’s not necessary. Special primers are designed to smooth the rust away into a nice surface that will hold paint well. Sandpaper can do exactly the same thing.
- Choosing paint. The paint is the most important factor in this DIY repair. I’ve had very good results using Rust-Oleum oil-based enamels and they come in a good selection of colors.
- Applying paint. This is the easy step, and I only have a few tips for you. If it’s an outdoor job, pick a day that looks to be sunny, and be prepared to put an umbrella over your paint job if rain surprises you. Don’t put too much paint on your brush. Use firm strokes to make sure it’s sticking well. Cover the pipe thoroughly with the paint.
And that’s it. Once you’ve removed the rust and painted over the pipe, it’s protected for a long time to come.