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Biggest Mistakes When Applying Etch Primers for Steel Fencing 

Have you finally decided to take out the time and paint your steel fences and are ready to start with the etch primer? Many property owners and contractors face challenges when it comes to getting a flawless finish on steel fencing, especially when it comes to applying the crucial etch primer. 


If you want to avoid issues like peeling paint or poor adhesion, despite your best efforts, then keep reading. 


At Stock & Noble, we provide the finest fencing solutions to high-end property owners across Australia and New Zealand. Our range of paints, stains and primers has been specifically designed to achieve beautiful timber and steel fences that last for decades. 


We understand the frustration that comes with investing time, effort, and resources into a project, only to be met with poor results. That’s why we’re passionate about sharing our knowledge and expertise to help you avoid common mistakes and achieve a beautiful finish. As a first step, we would advise you to go through our guide on etch primers, in case you haven’t seen it yet.  


In this blog, we will share the most common mistakes to avoid when applying etch primers for steel fencing. From inadequate surface preparation to choosing the right primer and considering suitable weather conditions, we’ll cover it all. You’ll gain valuable insights and practical tips to ensure that your steel fencing project is a success. 


Mistake #1: Cutting Corners on Cleaning the Steel Surface 

When it comes to applying etch primer on steel, one of the biggest challenges is ensuring the surface is squeaky clean. This step is super important because if the surface isn’t clean, the primer won’t do its job properly. 

It can be tempting to take shortcuts, especially on large projects or when you’re working on something like a horse day yard where dirt and grime seem to be everywhere. But trust us, cutting corners on cleaning will only lead to inferior results for your etch primer, and therefore the entire painting project will likely be compromised. 

You should get rid of any rust, oil, dirt, or other substances using the right methods like sanding, wire brushing, or solvent cleaning before you plan to apply the etch primer. 


Pro-Tip for Large Projects 

If you’re tackling a big project, like painting a whole fence, clean the surface as much as you can practically paint in one day. That way, you can clean and prime as you go, which saves time, avoids the dirt getting settled again and ensures a better finish. 


Mistake #2: Using Oil-based Etch Primers 

When it comes to picking the right etch primer for your steel fencing project, in a lot of fencing scenarios it’s best to steer clear of oil-based options. 

Oil-based etch primers might seem like the go-to choice if you read the recommendations of professionals who typically handle steel paint in a factory or dedicated area. But the truth is, oil-based paints in rural/remote/outdoor projects can be a real hassle. You’ll need dedicated chemicals and PPE etc. to clean your brushes and equipment after every application. This makes the whole project more difficult and less enjoyable than it needs to be. 

Instead, choose a water-based etch primer. Not only is it easier to apply, but it also requires very little safety gear. Plus, clean-up is quick and simple, so you can focus on the task at hand without the cost and frustration of dealing with oil-based alternatives. 

So, skip the stress and choose water-based for a smoother, simpler and hassle-free painting experience. 


Mistake #3: Applying Thick Layers of Etch Primer 

Etch primers have a little bit of acid that helps etch the steel surface ensuring the best possible bond. But if you go overboard with a primer, it can build up a base that is not required and soften the overall finished paint layers.  

So, when it comes to applying etch primer on your steel fencing, remember: thin is in! Avoid the temptation to go heavy on the primer, and go for thin layers instead. Your fence will thank you for it!  

Let your topcoats of paint build up the thickness of the layer instead. This works better because the sole purpose of the etch primer is to simply bond to the steel and the topcoats create the strong, tough layer that protects the steel there on.  


Mistake #4: Avoid Unsuitable Weather Conditions 

When you’re painting your steel fencing, it’s crucial to consider the weather. 

Extreme temperatures or high humidity can affect how well the paint dries and adheres to the surface. This can lead to a finish that doesn’t match your expectations. 

For the best results, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding temperature and humidity. For instance, premium primer – Forever Etch shouldn’t be applied in temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius. Aim to paint your fencing during conditions within the specified range. This ensures proper drying and adhesion of the paint. 

Waiting for suitable weather conditions may require patience, but it ensures a better outcome for your painting project. By applying etch primer in the right conditions, you’ll achieve a beautiful and long-lasting finish. 


Mistake #5: Rushing the Drying Time 

Waiting for your primer to dry thoroughly is an important step to achieving your dream fences. 

Insufficient drying time between primer and paint application may result in poor adhesion and coating failure, which is the last thing you want. 

To ensure proper drying and adhesion, it’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding drying times. This is especially important if you’re using oil-based primers, as they may require longer drying periods. 

Water-based primers dry quickly as compared to some oil-based options. This makes it more practical, especially for those who don’t want to spend all day waiting for paint to dry. Once the primer is touch-dry, you can proceed with painting. 


Mistake #6: Not Being Cautious of Overspray 

Overspray happens when paint mist lands on surfaces other than the fencing, like vehicles or nearby fencing materials. This is especially risky with etch primers because they can cause unintended damage due to their etching(acidic) nature. 

When painting your steel fence, it’s important to watch out for overspray to avoid accidents.  

During one of our recent projects, overspray from the etch primer landed on the fencing material and an energiser unit located next to the fence. Unfortunately, because the primer contained etching agents, it caused considerable damage with the potential need to replace the energiser. This serves as a stark reminder of the potential consequences of overspray. 

To prevent overspray damage, take precautions to protect nearby surfaces. remove any nearby vehicles or materials from where you’re painting and don’t paint in the wind!  


Refer to Our FAQ for More Tips 

For additional tips on painting and fencing, check out our Paint FAQ guide. It’s packed with useful information to help you navigate your project safely and successfully. 


Ready to Apply Etch Primer on Your Steel Fences? 

In this blog, we’ve explored the most common mistakes to avoid when applying etch primers for steel fencing. 


Remember, the key to a successful painting project lies in attention to detail and sticking to the best practices. Don’t cut corners on cleaning the steel surface, choose water-based etch primers, avoid applying thick layers, and paint in suitable weather conditions. Additionally, ensure proper drying time and take precautions to prevent overspray damage. 


As you begin transforming your steel fences, the next step is to learn how to apply the etch primer and paint your steel fences. By following pro tips and recommendations, you’ll gain valuable insights and practical guidance to ensure the success of your painting project. 


With the right products and approach, you can turn your steel fencing into a durable, aesthetic asset that enhances the beauty and value of your property for years to come. If you have any more questions on choosing the primers or paints and their application, connect with our fencing experts. They are there to help you every step of the way.  

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