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topic 23568

Coating to keep copper from tarnishing outdoors

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A discussion started in 2003 but continuing through 2018

(2003)

Q. I'm building a deck. I've researched railing and have not really been happy with anything I've come across. I was enamored with the coated aluminum balusters which lead me to my situation. I picked up a copper corner post cap and was really happy with the look of the copper against the wood. I would like to use 3/4" copper tubing for my balusters. I did a small section as a test - I cut a 10 foot section of tubing into 5 pieces, polished them up and spray coated them with a gloss water-based polyurethane. After a day in the sun the balusters are already showing signs of tarnish. My next thought was to dip the whole tube in a solvent based UV protective polyurethane. Am I barking up the wrong tree? The finished product is definitely worth the extra work, but only if there is a way to keep the copper from tarnishing.

Robert Niedzwiecki
Bob's Cabinets - Collinsville, Illinois, USA

(2003)

A. Just keep them cleaned and polished.

Simon Dupay
- Roseville, Minnesota


(2003)

A. Your advice may be correct for navy sailors, Simon, but I can't even fathom the level of cleaning and polishing that would be needed to keep copper from tarnishing. I'm sure the copper needs to be lacquered or clear-coated.

Brass lacquer is probably better than polyurethane, Robert. Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



(2003)

Q. Recently we purchased an expensive big copper weathervane while vacationing in Maine. We brought it home in our van and finally got it up on the front peak of the garage. So far, it hasn't tarnished and it's been about 3 weeks that it's been up. The saleslady told us it should take about 10 years for it to become fully tarnished. Too bad there isn't a spray-on product for the bigger outdoor copper items. I do know of a Hospital in the St. Louis Mo. area that has a huge copper roof. It's St. Louis University Hospital on Grand Ave. I'll bet it would really be a beautiful sight if a crew could get up there and clean it. at least if they fell off the roof, they'd be in a good hospital already.

What can I use to keep our beautiful copper weather vane, designed as a lake heron about 3 feet long with a wing spread of about 4 feet, clean and shining like the day it was bought?

Rose Young-Stewart
- Pontoon Beach, Illinois, USA


Brass Lacquer


A. Hi Rose.

All metals with the exception of gold and other precious metals corrode. That's why you'll find gold nuggets in nature but not copper nuggets.

Brass lacquer can go a long way towards preventing that corrosion, but must be regularly renewed, especially outdoors, especially in the full sun that a weathervane sees. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



(2006)

Q. Copper weathervane was clear coated with lacquer 8 years ago and has now oxidized. How do I restore the bright copper finish, and how do I reseal it.

Steven Gulino
Home owner - Milford, Massachusetts


Aircraft Stripper

June 1, 2012

A. Hi Steven.

The old lacquer can be removed with Acetone [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] or lacquer thinner [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], the copper buffed back to a shine, and brass lacquer reapplied.

If the lacquer doesn't come off that way, it's not lacquer but some more exotic clearcoat. In that case, aircraft stripper =>
will probably remove the coating without harming the metal, but it's toxic, noxious, dangerous stuff. Use only outdoors, preferably standing up-wind. Wear goggles [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] and protective gloves [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] as a minimum. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


June 1, 2012

! I make copper wind chimes and have been looking for a product to keep them from tarnishing. I have found Everbrite [a finishing.com supporting advertiser] and Protectaclear from Everbrite [a finishing.com supporting advertiser] on the internet. All the reviews I have read are great. Am ordering me some. I wanted something that will not change the tone as I make some that are tuned to the pentatonic scale (black keys on the piano).

Mickey Willard
- Corapeake, North Carolina


June 1, 2012

A. Hi Mickey. Sounds like a good coating for that situation, but remember that coatings don't last forever.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



September 10, 2016 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Greetings,

We are currently landscaping and would like to put a perforated copper wall outside and up-light it. How can we prevent oxidization? Your help is greatly appreciated.
Vikki

Vikki Smyth
- Santa Monica, California USA


September 2016

A. Hi Vikki. We added your question to a previous thread on the subject. Brass lacquer has the advantage over most clear coatings of being easily removable ... in case you change your mind and go for natural aging at some point. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


September 12, 2016

Q. Thanks for your help.
If I were to use a metal outdoors, which one would you recommend?

Vikki Smyth
- Santa Monica, California USA


September 2016

A. Hi again. There is nothing wrong with copper -- it just depends on what you want. Stainless steel may involve somewhat less maintenance. Galvanized is good, but you might not like the look. Nothing wrong with painted or powder coated metal either is you like that look.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



March 9, 2018

Q. In one of your answers you say "Brass lacquer can go a long way towards preventing that corrosion, but must be regularly renewed, especially outdoors..." Is regularly weekly, or monthly, yearly?

Thanks for your help,
Kate

Kate Harper
- Maple Valley, Washington


Incralac

March 2018

A. Hi Kate. Although people probably won't be able to tell you exactly how long brass lacquer will last, I think a year is a good guess, maybe two.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


May 29, 2018

A. As a plumber for over 35 yrs you can always use a course grit cloth for getting back the original sheen; this is required for soldering old pipe but the patina is easily removed if you want to keep it shiny on a regular basis

Bryan Slack
- Calgary Alberta Canada



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