Learning how to paint behind a radiator can help to ensure a first-rate finish, and while it's a task that requires thought, it doesn't have to be a painstaking job to complete.
There are effectively three options. The first, and easiest, option is not to bother - simply paint as far as possible with a brush - and this is an acceptable choice if you’re refreshing the wall, such as white on white.
However, painting behind a radiator is recommended if you're adding a new, contrasting colour, and to do this you can either use a specialist brush or roller, or remove the radiator to paint it.
Here we give you some pro tips and advice on how to get the job done.
(MORE: How to choose your radiators)
How to Paint Behind a Radiator Without Removing it
Your tool list for painting behind a radiator:
- Radiator roller
- Radiator brush
- Dust sheets
- Cling film
- Masking tape
1. Prepare the area
Put down dust sheets and cover the radiator valves and pipes with masking tape. Then use clingfilm or tape plastic sheeting firmly into place to protect the back of the radiator - alternatively, if you are not concerned about getting paint on the back of the radiator, you can give it a clean with a brush/duster so no debris gets on the brush. Then cover the skirting board with painters tape.
2. Use a paintbrush
A radiator will typically be 1-2 inches from the wall so paint as far as you can go with your standard paintbrush. Wiggle the brush down into the gap - top and sides - and pull the paintbrush along to cover the area. Repeat until finished.
If you have a cast-iron style radiator you can use a long-handled radiator brush to paint the wall - place the brush in the gaps and paint with up and down strokes. But if you have modern radiators then typically a roller is a better option.
3. Finish with a roller
To paint behind a radiator you will need a long-handled mini roller. Make sure you buy one with a short pile sleeve (the bit where you add the paint) as these tend to work better than foam rollers. If you have a large space to paint you could try using a telescopic extendable roller.
Apply the paint to the roller - be careful not to overload it - and start from above the radiator and roll down in smooth strokes inside the two radiator brackets. Next, work in from the sides up to the radiator bracket. Let the paint dry and repeat.
(MORE: How to paint radiators properly)
How Do I Remove a Radiator to Paint?
An easy way to remember which direction you need to tighten/loosen a radiator valve is the old adage ‘righty-tighty/lefty-loosey’. Turning clockwise - righty-tighty - tightens while turning anti-clockwise - lefty-loosey - loosens a valve thread.
Your tool list for removing a radiator:
- 12” adjustable spanner
- Jointing compound
- Protective sheeting
- Radiator bleed key
1. Switch off radiator valves
The first step to removing a radiator is to isolate the radiator by switching off both radiator valves. This will stop any water from coming through the pipes.
It's important to note that different valves work slightly differently - you may be able to switch off the valves using the cap, but if not you will need a large adjustable spanner to turn off the valve. Turn clockwise to turn off.
2. Prepare the area
Place a bowl under the radiator valve. If you are removing a large radiator then use a large bowl/container and have a second ready in case you need it.
Place a towel around the valve to catch any splashes, and to protect carpets you can put down plastic or waterproof sheeting. Cover an area of at least 1m from the radiator, and cover an area to place the radiator once removed.
3. Drain the radiator
Undo the large nut on one side of the radiator that attaches to the valve. Next, and this is important, use a pair of grips to keep the radiator valve steady and use an adjustable spanner to undo the nut. Do this slowly. The water will then drain into the bowl.
4. Remove the radiator
Once the water stops coming out, undo the nut at the other end of the radiator. Remember to place a bowl under the valve and use the grips to steady it.
Next, lift the radiator off the wall and tip up into the bowl to remove any remaining water. Once empty, turn the radiator upside down and store. Place tape over the radiator valve thread to stop any dust/dirt paint from getting into the pipes.
5. Replace the radiator
After you have finished painting the radiator you will need to place it back.
First, remove then tape then wipe clean inside the valve with a clean cloth. Then add a little jointing compound inside the valve thread with your finger, place the radiator back on the wall and tighten the nuts and switch the valves back on.
Next, open the bleed valve - commonly positioned in the top right - until water starts to dribble out. You may need to repressurise your boiler after.
(MORE: The best radiators for your home)
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Steve is Homebuilding & Renovating's DIY content editor, and has been a writer and editor for two decades. He is an avid DIYer with over 20 years of experience in transforming and renovating homes. He specialises in painting and decorating, but has strong all-round building skills, having previously worked in the industry for 10 years.