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How to Get Aged Look on Galvanized Roof


Q. I have a covered bridge with a typical corrugated galvanized steel roof... I want to lose the shiny, new look of the steel to make it look old and rustic. How can I do this without contaminating the water under the bridge?


Jeff Urban
- North Royalton, Ohio, USA


A. I have seen a slurry of Pumiceamazoninfo used with tampico brushes, to mechanically polish down the shine of zinc and other hot dip coatings (during the sheeting manufacture, not after installation). Using a very fine - grade FFF pumice, should result in a pewter-like finish. It is not expected that the slurry will pick up any appreciable zinc off the sheet surface, but thinking environmentally, it might be best to arrange to rinse the slurry off the roof and collect it for proper disposal.

Your call, and this will take a lot of labor, I'm sure. Someone working with such roofing may give you an estimate of how long nature will take to give about the same finish. My estimate would be a year, or less.

Good Luck.

W. Carl Erickson
- Rome, New York


A. I have done a few Mexican restaurants that have this look, the electrical conduit was washed with sulphuric acid/water solution and I think the tin roofing was washed with the same. I have heard that Hydrofluoric Acid may be used but be very careful with this extremely dangerous acid. It will eat glass.... I would suggest testing of several solutions before trying on your project.

Good luck.

Craig Calhoun
- Houston, Texas

Ed. note: Thanks Craig, but hydrofluoric acid has no role in this at all and is the most dangerous material you can imagine. Please see the entry of December 1, 2010 and don't even consider hydrofluoric acid.


A. Have used vinegar, bleach, strong salt solution, the main thing is you need "acid". I have never used any acid that would be harmful should my grandkids be around while I have worked on tin in the past. Set the tin on your drive way, pour on a vinegar & salt & let it set.... no scrubbing. Just be careful where you wash the salt off to, it will kill your plants.

Kele Robers
- Ft. Worth, Texas


Q. Good day all.

I have been asked to try to find a means of dulling the surface of an installed mill-finish aluminum roof on a house - the neighbours are complaining of the glare from sunlight.

What I have in mind is a conversion coating, eg. an oxide that can form at ambient temperature on the installed roof. Application should be as for paints - by roller, brush or spray. The solution applied should not be too toxic or dangerous to the environment or to the applicator. I might add that I am about to try out in the laboratory, some of the formulations in the textbook by Wernick and Pinner, The Surface Treatment and Finishing of Aluminum and Its Alloys, in the chapter on conversion coatings.

Thanks in advance

John E. Leitch
- Pietremaritzburg, South Africa


Q. I want to do a project around home using galvanized steel. I've been trying to find some that's old and dull/slightly rusty, but no luck. So I thought I could distress it myself, a friend said to use swimming pool acid. any thoughts?

Pete Lexy
- Wrightwood, California, USofA


Q. I would like to find out if there is a way to treat corrugated galvanized roofing to reduce the glare or solar reflectance to a dull finish. I do not want the roofing to rust, I just want to reduce the glare.

David Shube
homeowner - Minturn, Colorado, USA


Q. Just had galvanized awnings added to my homes exterior by a handyman. The only thing I can find to "age" them is in a kit. Surely there is a process, and one can purchase the pieces in the steps.

Ericka N. Gillette
homeowner - Cedar City, Utah, USA


Q. My name is Romualdo de Blas and I live in Bisbee, Arizona. I am a retired architect designing a new house for myself in the historic preservation district of this old mining community. Corrugated steel roofing and siding was commonly used in this district from the 1880's to the 1940's. I want to duplicate the appearance of that weathered material and need to find out if there is a user-friendly product that can be applied to new galvanized corrugated steel that will make it look rusty in a matter of days or weeks. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you.

Romualdo de Blas
retired architect - Bisbee, Arizona, USA


A. There's a multi-step painting process by modern masters called metal effects that can be used on exterior metal roofing. I think it's a little pricey if I remember correctly, but it looks really nice. There are a few different finishes available....aged iron, copper patina, etc. hope this helps

It's a 4 step process....a coat of seal over the steel, then a coat of metallized paint that matches the steel over that, then a coat of rust activator (which supposed oxidizes in minutes) and then another coat of seal over can read more about it at the modern masters website under metallic effects. There's also an image gallery with some examples of rust effects used on exteriors.

Shannon Sparks
- Springfield, Missouri

Metallic Paint


A. I have primed galvanized surfaces with vinegar before painting and I have completely removed galvanization with Muriatic acid. Any acid-weak or strong will work at removing the galvanization from sheet metal. The acid from years of rain will remove it, but stronger store bought acids will cause it to rust faster. Rust is nothing more than a burning action taken on the metal by oxidation just as ashes from a fire. The zinc coating just protects iron from oxidation. Remove the zinc with acid.

I've seen movie sets in New Mexico sprayed with varying degrees of diluted Sulfuric acid just a few weeks after construction that looked a hundred years old in a very short while.

Ron Cook
building construction supervisor/school teacher - Tahlequah, Oklahoma

July 16, 2008

A. Try phosphoric acid. It'll knock the glint off of galvanized surfaces and leave them quite dull. Repeatedly soak the panels and rinse with plain water. Phosphoric is a common fertilizer element so it's not dangerous to the ground in the concentrations you'll use. In fact, your grass may grow greener if its soil PH is too high!

You'll need to wear protective glovesamazoninfo and protective gear, but it won't hurt you if you get splashed (unless it's the eyes, nose, ears, and so on). I generally apply it with a red Scotch Briteamazoninfo abrasive pad. Remember to rinse the panels when you're done.

Chris Shelton
- Camano Island, Washington

Ed. note: Don't ever use acids without wearing gogglesamazoninfo.

September 26, 2009

A. Try using diet Coke, the acid in it will dull even polished aluminum, and it will be environmentally friendly.

Kenny Hibbs
- Rockwall, Texas, USA

April 2, 2010

Q. I am trying to renovate a 1930's house, that has a 1900 barn made of tin that is very rusted and very beautiful. I will let you know what works best for me. Thank you for all the information! I want to make the house look like the barn.

Richard Rees
- Grass Valley, California

December 1, 2010

! I would be interested to hear the results of any experiments here - I have heard that muriatic acid is the way to go.


Hydrofluoric acid is a highly corrosive liquid and is a contact poison. It should be handled with extreme care, beyond that accorded to other mineral acids. Owing to its low dissociation constant, HF penetrates tissue more quickly than typical acids. Because of the ability of hydrofluoric acid to penetrate tissue, poisoning can occur readily through exposure of skin or eyes, or when inhaled or swallowed. Symptoms of exposure to hydrofluoric acid may not be immediately evident. HF interferes with nerve function, meaning that burns may not initially be painful. Accidental exposures can go unnoticed, delaying treatment and increasing the extent and seriousness of the injury . . .

Andrew Paul
- Yucca Valley, California, USA

April 9, 2011

PLEASE FOLKS DO NOT USE ACID UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. Acid needs to be disposed of after you have finished and there is no good way of doing that unless you neutralize it with soda ash when done. Even then what do you do with it? I know when galvanized is welded it turns rusty immediately. that leads me to believe that heat can burn it off probably. Use a torch on your metal and see if that works. Or like someone else said earlier try diet coke 1st.

- WEST COVINA, California

April 10, 2011

Thanks, Father Jameson, but don't use a torch on galvanized material. Welders who weld galvanized metal and inhale the zinc fumes get flu-like symptoms called "metal fume fever" -- which you can read more about by searching our site for that term.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

November 18, 2012

Q. How long will it take to get the rusty look on tin after acid washing?

Billy c
- Belden, Mississippi

November 19, 2012

A. Hi, Billy. I assume we're actually talking about zinc coated steel sheet metal rather than tinplate or solid tin. But once the zinc is gone, rust will occur as soon as the same day or next day.

Vinegar plus salt, or diluted household bleach are probably a bit safer than sulfuric acid or muriatic acid. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

December 30, 2013

Q. I am looking for a way to put a greenish patina look on two accent roofs on a custom home. They don't want copper, but want the look of old copper. There is going to be standing seam so there will be about 28 sheets of Bonderized metal 4' X 10', Thanks for any help.

Danny Kasinger
Roofing - Riverside, California, United States
  ^- Privately contact this inquirer -^

January 15, 2014

Q. Only days after installing a Galvanneal steel roof on a residence dozens of large dark areas developed over about 25% of the material, producing a checkerboard effect which is very unsightly. My installer tells me it is caused by oxidation and is normal and that eventually all oxidize but it may take a long time.


Is there anything I can do to accelerate the process so the roof has a uniform look?

Mac Wesson
- Dallas, Texas, USA
  ^- Privately contact this inquirer -^

February 28, 2014

A. Mac,
I'd be a bit cautious about believing your contractor there, I'd be more concerned that the zinc isn't uniformly applied than getting it to look uniform.

Outside that, mild vinegar solution (1 gal vinegar, 9 gal water) should help speed it along. I'd advise against it though, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Marc Banks
Blacksmith - Lenoir, North Carolina USA

Tired yet? If not, a very similar thread with additional ideas is letter 46671 "Knocking the shine off of new galvanized tin panels".
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