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How to paint behind a radiator

With Google searches for “how to paint behind a radiator” surging at the beginning of this year, we asked our Instagram audience what the biggest challenges were when it came to painting behind radiators.

While two thirds said that they do paint behind their radiators, over half (56%) said it was too difficult, and 44% said it was just too messy to get done!

So, we’ve revised our guide for 2024 to give you some inside tips on how to achieve a neat and tidy look when painting behind radiators.

Helpful tips for an awkward radiator painting job

In decorating a home, the painting job can actually be one of the more simple and even enjoyable tasks to crack on with overall.

You have the chance to set to with your roller and brushes and stroke away with a few tunes blasting out, it can even be a cathartic process.

That is until you reach the space where the radiators are located, of course.

At that point, your tranquil experience could turn to a rage-filled one, unless you’ve equipped yourself with the knowledge of how to paint behind a radiator and in any awkward gaps that surround your heating devices.

BestHeating, and this article, come in here, to provide you with what you need to know to successfully paint behind a radiator…

Woman painting radiator with white brush

What do I need to paint behind a radiator?

You’re likely to have the standard painting essentials at your disposal under the assumption that a full room decoration job is taking place.

The basic paintbrushes, rollers and dust sheets are somewhat generic items for a DIY décor refurbishment, but there are a few accentuating tools that can greatly assist with painting behind a radiator.

One of the key components for any would-be paint-behind-the-radiator specialists should be a long-armed roller, which will make it much easier to squeeze into narrow or awkward crevasses in tight spaces in and around the radiator.

You can reach right down from the top to the bottom and gain paint coverage from the end to end space that the radiator encompasses.

Alternatively, the paint pad method can be exercised, particularly for homes where any designer radiators do not project much from the wall at all. This process entails covering a flat pad with paint, and sliding it behind the radiator to cover a surface area that is difficult to reach.

The perfectionists amongst our readership meanwhile, might opt for a precision finish by working with an extended-reach cutting in brush featuring a shaped head, or a longer thin handled brush with a short angled head. These styles will provide a greater level of close control for the decorator in those narrow gaps.

Prepare to paint, or prepare to fail…

The very first most imperative aspect of painting behind a radiator is to prepare accordingly for the task at hand.

To start with, lay down mats, dust sheets, old linen or newspaper on the floor to catch any splashes of paint and avoid them from ruining your carpet or whichever surface is laid.

Then switch off your heating and allow time for the radiator in question to cool down. Then, use a dry brush or a duster to sweep the appliance free of any dust or dirt that has built up behind the radiator. Another means to do this is to use a slimline vacuum attachment to literally hoover up any grime or debris.

As another means to prepare, it might be in your interests to remove the plastic caps from your radiator valves or thermostatic controls if they are positioned close to the wall. This will allow you extra room to manoeuvre for a more accurate painting job. To do so, switch the thermostatic valve to zero, loosen the head and take it off. You can re-apply in the same way once you’ve finished painting.

Of course, you won’t want excess paint to drip onto your radiator and adjust the tone, especially so if you’re a lucky owner of a number from our stylish coloured radiator collection.

But it can be a touch difficult to properly cover the device to protect them from splashback; saran wrap is a recommended vice to do so, given that the presence of a dust sheet in attachment to the radiator could complicate the painting process itself. It is also a good idea to keep a wet cloth handy so you can counter any specs or splodges as and when they show up before the paint has dried. To further protect surroundings from unwanted paint splattering, you can use painter’s tape to shroud skirting boards or nearby pipework.

Paint tray, roller and brush on blue background

From the top, people…

You should stop at the top of the heating device and work your way down whichever method you choose to paint behind a radiator.

In instances where the radiator is positioned underneath a windowsill, cutting in is the very first port of call, where a brush will be used to fill in the gap between the wall space directly above the radiator and the sill itself. Take care and time to cover this area to prevent paint from hitting the top of your radiator.

Once this has been done, you can add paint to your tray and encase your mini roller in your preferred shade. Then set to work with this, rolling along the free wall space and reaching into the nooks and crannies that can be tough to access. Follow the same process if you are opting to use a thin brush or a paint pad, as alluded to earlier.

Round the sides and down to the bottom…

As you tackle the sides of the radiator with your roller or paintbrush, go as far behind the radiator as is physically possible, and don’t worry about coming into contact with the side of any supporting brackets; they can be painted as well.

When you move to the foot of the radiator, you might find you find an easier access point when led on the floor facing upwards (so it goes without saying to ‘get your scruffs on’ if you haven’t already for this part of the job) – you don’t want your radiator to be a constant reminder of the time you ruined your best clothes!

Whichever painting method you are preferring overall, you should use a brush for this section of the work. This will allow you to cut in around the trim edge with added accuracy, before the use of a thin head brush is recommended to touch up the immediate surroundings of pipework and valves. Then you can move on to the rest of the wall space.

Close up image of hand painting wall with thin paintbrush

Completing painting behind a radiator

At this point, you can afford yourself a brief minute to admire your handiwork so far. But don’t get carried away, there’s still a job to do.

After looking how the radiator appears from the front and a side viewpoint, take the mini roller, or a fine brush, and set about adding the finishing touches to the area, styling out any spots you might have missed in your first foray.

Have your damp cloth handy as well, so you can eliminate any splashes of paint from the radiator or other unwanted areas like the pipework or valves while it is still wet.

Can you remove your radiator to paint behind it?

It is possible to remove a radiator to paint behind it, and will likely afford you the chance to achieve significant or full coverage of the space immediately behind where your radiators are situated.

That said, the actual task of detaching the radiator, potentially draining it, making a note of the pressure it works at and re-pressurising the system properly before having to re-fit it can prove a lot more hassle than it is worth.

You might also need to enlist the services of a professional plumber to remove and re-attach your radiator, and as decorating costs can mount in subtle fashion anyway, it is probably in the best interest of your budget to avoid the removal of a radiator for painting unless absolutely necessary.

Basically, painting behind a radiator is a simpler and more straightforward, less stressful process to undertake on the whole. And a cheaper one, too.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can use saran wrap to cover your radiators when painting behind them or nearby them, to protect them from unwanted splashback. It is also a good idea to have a damp cloth handy to quickly wipe down the surface of your heating devices if some paint does manage to reach them.

For a more detailed insight, explore our blog, How to paint behind a radiator.

No matter if you use a paintbrush or a roller, or any other alternative method, you should always start at the top when painting behind a radiator.

In the case of a radiator being placed beneath a windowsill, the gap between the heating device and the sill itself will be painted first before touching up behind the actual radiator itself.

For further tips, explore our dedicated blog, How to paint behind a radiator.

You should have a dust sheet or old blanket, along with a paintbrush or roller depending on which method you are using to paint behind a radiator. Plus, somewhat obviously, paint itself!

Ideally, a long-armed roller or thin-head paintbrush are recommended for the best and most detailed coverage.

To find out more, browse our blog, How to paint behind a radiator.

Get in touch with BestHeating

We would hope that you’re now well equipped to complete the task of painting behind a radiator to excellent effect after consuming the guidance offered in this article.

But if you would like any further help or advice in relation to painting a radiator or the surrounding areas around it, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

You can contact us for any heating hints and tips by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below, or via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

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