-- The Home Page of the Finishing Industry
A website for Serious Education, promoting Aloha,
& the most FUN smiley you can have in metal finishing

on this site
current topics
topic 41408

Painting cast iron fountains, Restoring rusty fountains


Q. I am a gardening enthusiast who has obtained a metal fountain. Every bit of the fountain is covered in rust. It appears to have never been sealed or painted. I hope to restore it with a painted finish and bring it into full working condition including a water pump to project water. How do I begin to tackle this problem?

Leonard Strejc
hobbyist - Lombard, Illinois


A. The best thing to do is have it sand blasted, Then a heavy primer. Paint it right after its blasted, it will rust up on you real quick.

Jon Diamond
silver plater
Berkeley, California


A. Another alternative is as follows. Use a hand or power wire brush to remove the loose rust. Check for a Rust Converter [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] (spray or brush type). Coat according to instructions on the converter and then paint with an appropriate top coat. This stuff works very well and actually turns the rust into an oxide that seals the metal surface from further rusting. Not very expensive either. I use the Mar-Hyde brand and have excellent results. Hope this helps.

Bill Miller
- Shinnston, West Virginia

Waterproof coating for steel columns partially submerged in outdoor water fountain


Q. I am a General Contractor, we built an outdoor bi-level water fountain in an upscale restaurant. We have three 5" square steel columns that sit inside the upper level of the fountain, they hold up wood beams above the outdoor dinning. We painted these three columns with two coats of an industrial grade paint for metal, with metal primer. But rust spots have formed on the side/portion of each column that are continually submerged in the fountain water. I have been researching the best metal coatings (polyurethane, epoxy, etc) But not sure what to use. We plan to drain the fountain, remove the paint and install a coating that will prevent the corrosion. The fountain walls and floors are poured in place concrete, also floors have pool grade plaster installed up to and around columns.
So column base plates are encased in concrete and not in direct contact with the fountain water. Only about 2 foot of each column is actually in the water. Need help.


Steven R Plemons
- Ft. Worth, Texas


A. Try cathodic protection. Good luck and hope it helps!

Goran Budija
- Zagreb, Croatia


A. First, no coating is going to be absolutely foolproof, because humans apply it. No disrespect intended. My choice would be a fiberglass resin, with no mat. One with a white tint should work well, based on your pictures. I would use two or preferably 3 coats, with the last one containing wax. Good fiberglass sources can easily set you up with this. Wearing an activated carbon respirator would be a good idea also.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

Ames BMX5RG Blue Max Liquid Rubber Basement Paint

August 25, 2011

A. I install steel cisterns for rainwater catchment. We use a product called 'Blue Max' by Ames Research =>
It is really easy to use and we've had great results. We've been using it for at least 2 years now and have not had any leaking systems.

Lincoln Perino
- Tucson, Arizona, USA

March 1, 2012

A. I am in the coatings business. A product that will fix your problem is Vortex Applied Coatings.

Danny Hanley
- Hull, Georgia, USA

thumbs up signHi. We appreciate the responses from everyone who has tried to help, but this site doesn't consider suggesting brand names the way forward for a bunch of reasons. First, secret formulas don't answer the inquirer's question about comparing the pros and cons of polyurethane to epoxy, etc. Second, they provide no technical education into coating science, which is what this forum is about. Third, they promote one-sided glowing praise of products instead of balance, because people are justifiably afraid of hearing from a company's lawyers if they offer a negative posting about a brand name product. Fourth and probably worst is that they have encouraged fictitious postings from sales managers posing as satisfied customers in a race to the bottom -- which ruined many threads on this site. Please try your best to keep it strictly technical. Thanks!

I think Goran offered great food for thought with his posting about cathodic protection. You won't see a ship or a nuclear containment structure or even a water heater without zinc (or other sacrificial metal) anodes.


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

How do I restore a Cast Iron Antique fountain?

May 25, 2014 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I have an 1865 original cast iron fountain that needs restoration. Could use your advice on this.

41408-2  41408-3  41408-4  41408-5

It would be SUBMERGED in water year-round. It's not removable. Its basin is rusted on the surface. It would, of course, not require any high temperature paint. Would you recommend that I use grinders like your video shows [ed. note: we don't know what thread you are referring to], but use some sort of epoxy paint as a base to coat the entire base, then paint with regular waterproof exterior paint? Appreciate the advice.

Andrew McKee
- Arlington, Massachusetts

May 2014

A. Hi Andrew. I think the epoxy primer would be okay, as would fiberglass products whether epoxy or polyester based, as would the proprietary products mentioned -- but I agree with Goran's earlier posting, and feel that magnesium anodes are a big part of the right answer.

I think you would find sand blasting much faster and easier than grinding. Good luck.


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

June 2, 2014

A. Electrolysis. Followed by drying completely and rubbing beeswax into the metal. It will turn a beautiful slightly glossy black.

I think you could submerge the whole thing by building a wooden tank around it somehow.

-Not an Expert.

Johnathan Flagstaff
- Austin, Texas, USA

Artist made me a steel fountain and it's rusting away

December 20, 2016

Q. I have been on the internet trying to find a solution to a rusting problem and came across your company.
I'm wondering if anyone on this forum can take a second to offer me some advice. I need to send pictures so you can see how severe the problem is. I had an artist make me a wall fountain. I picked out the tile for the area where the water runs down. The artist used steel for the fountain. It was very expensive ($2,300!) and it took a lot of savings on my part to have this piece made.

41408-6a  41408-6b  41408-6c

Magnesium Anode Rod

Rust Converter

Cold Galvanizing Spray

The problem? It is rusting away to nothing. I've only had it a couple of months! The steel is all pitted and and streaked with orange rust. The white grout turned a rusty orange. The artist said he "sealed" the raw steel. It's my understanding now after researching and researching that the water fountains on the market are made out of Stainless steel so they don't rust. I'm desperate.

Christine Green
- SAN Francisco. California. United Sates

December 2016

A. Hi Christine. There are probably 3 approaches to slowing the rusting.

1. Purer water, lower in chlorides and sulphates, and less conductive. Drain the fountain, and use only distilled water or rain water in the fountain. If fertilizer, de-icer or anything else gets in the fountain, drain it and refill.
2. Sacrificial protection. Put a magnesium anode from a boating store or plumbing supply store in the water, firmly connected to the steel that the fountain is made of. Replace the anode periodically.
3. Coating the steel with paint to retard the rust. I don't know how this suits your aesthetic taste, but painting after a phosphoric acid (rust converter) treatment will greatly slow the corrosion.

I'd do all three. If it suits you to paint it the color of zinc with a "cold galvanizing compound", that would probably provide 2 & 3 simultaneously. Good luck.


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

December 22, 2016

Q. Thanks for your excellent advice. Because the rust has marred the whole frame so extensively, it is no longer an art piece. I'm thinking that it would have to be dismantled and redone with stainless or something else. I could try why you say but is that going to get rid of the rust that is already there. It looks awful. I'm hoping the artist will refund my money.

Christine Green
- San Francisco, California. United States

December 2016

A. Hi again. Yes, rust converter and paint will get rid of the rust, but it will then be painted rather than raw metal. I don't know if that suits your wishes. And the repair will have a limited life before touchup is required; I don't know how long.


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

January 2, 2017

Q. Ted,

one more question. When the fountain was created, what should the artist have used instead of raw steel. If he used raw steel, what should have been done to prevent it from rusting so badly?

I am trying to find someone who can maybe take the fountain apart and coat the steel somehow or paint it. The rust is occurring inside the fountain and it's not a place I can reach to paint.


Christine Green [returning]
- San Francisco, California US

January 2017

A. Hi Christine. Best of luck with it. I've already told you three things that I think could be done now, but sorry, I'm not getting into after-the-fact "should haves" and contract disputes.


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

simultaneous January 3, 2017

Ted has posted a number of good suggestions. Here are a few more: (1) Pipelines are routinely protected with an impressed DC current. For details, see: (IMHO pipelines protect the public from accidents caused by rail or truck transportation and cathodic protection protects the pipelines from corrosion.) (2) Steel corrodes much more slowly at an alkaline pH. Platers who plate steel use this to protect in-process parts by dipping the parts to be plated in an alkaline rinse. Depending on the environment, the otherwise unprotected parts can go quite a long time without rusting. So making the water alkaline will almost completely stop the corrosion. (3) Rust is the reaction product of iron/steel with water. Take the water out and you have no reaction. So perhaps a non-aqueous solvent could take the place of water in your project.

Tom Rochester
Plating Systems & Technologies, Inc.  
supporting advertiser
Jackson, Michigan, USA
plating systems & technologies banner ad

January 4, 2017

Oxalic acid is commonly used to remove rust stains. Perhaps that might help.

Then, you could remove any remaining rust mechanically, apply a phosphate wash primer, then coat with lacquer or wax.

Yes, a lot of work. Sadly, it's always easier to avoid problems than to fix them afterwards.

dave wichern
Dave Wichern
Consultant - The Bronx, New York

This public forum has 60,000 threads. If you have a question in mind which seems off topic to this thread, you might prefer to Search the Site


Disclaimer: It's not possible to diagnose a finishing problem or the hazards of an operation via these pages. All information presented is for general reference and does not represent a professional opinion nor the policy of an author's employer. The internet is largely anonymous & unvetted; some names may be fictitious and some recommendations may be deliberately harmful.

  If you need a product/service, please check these Directories:

JobshopsCapital Equip. & Install'nChemicals & Consumables Consult'g, Train'g, SoftwareEnvironmental ComplianceTesting Svcs. & Devices

©1995-2018, Inc., Pine Beach, NJ   -   About   -  Privacy Policy
How Google uses data when you visit this site.