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Restoring Vintage Radiators?

Q. We have some old cast-iron radiators that have been heavily painted. Is there anyone in this area who restores vintage radiators?


A. The best way to strip old paint from radiators is to sandblast them, especially if they’re the really old kind with lots of raised decoration. The pros at Ace Sandblast Company (4601 W. Roscoe St., 773-777-6654; acesandblast.tripod.com) have had plenty of experience sandblasting radiators, but they do not pickup or deliver. You or your plumber will have to disconnect the radiators and have them delivered to Ace. The experts there will sandblast, prime, and paint with paint provided by you.

Vice president Julie Largay says Ace will do any job from one little radiator to a whole houseful of them. She recommends oil-based rather than latex paint because the moisture associated with radiators will cause rusting with latex paint. There is something called high-heat paint, but Largay says it’s not necessary; oil paint works fine.

If you’re partial to a raw metallic look, you might wonder if you can leave your radiators as is after they’ve been sandblasted. Largay doesn’t recommend it because, she says, they will start to rust almost immediately. Old-fashioned silver radiator paint is one solution, and Largay says it’s making a comeback, but there also is a metallic-flake paint called Cres-Lite (available at Sappano’s Hi-Grade Decorating Centers; see paintplus.com for locations) that results in an attractive metallic look and comes in 100 colors. Of course you can choose non-metallic oil paint in any color with any finish you like—flat, glossy, satin—at your local paint store.

For a radiator job, Ace charges by the fin, or section: $7 a fin to sandblast; $3.50 a fin to prime; and $3.50 to finish with the customer’s paint. It takes a week or two.

Another place that sandblasts and paints radiators is the Bellows Shoppe (1048 Gage St., Winnetka, 847-446-5533; chicagolightingantiques.com), where pickup and delivery service is offered. The pros here use waterproof, two-part epoxy-paint. Owner Steven Schmid says customers should bring in a color sample and experts at the shop will match it.

Schmid will give an estimate based on a photograph of your radiators. He says a two-by-four-foot radiator would typically cost about $150 to $175 to restore; jobs generally take about three weeks to complete.

Another firm that does this kind of work in the city is Alpha Paintworks (6316 N. Cicero Ave., 773-725-8901, or cell, 773-653-5050), where owner George Korkofigas also offers pickup and delivery service. Experts here sandblast, prime, and paint using high-heat or oil paint, which either Alpha or the customer can supply. The pricing depends on how big the job is and what condition the radiators are in, says Korkofigas, and the work usually takes a week or two.
 

JUST ASK Have a design or renovation question? We’ll do our best to answer it.

E-mail us at chicagohome@chicagomag.com. Sorry, we cannot take questions by phone, or guarantee individual responses.

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