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Does BBQ Paint Need Primer?

You’ve been looking out of the window at that tired old BBQ going rusty for weeks now – but restoring it to it’s former glory needn’t be a big job. I’m about to make your life a whole lot easy.

BBQ paint does not need primer if your prepare the surface properly and apply two coats of Rust-Oleum®. You only need to wait a few minutes between each coat and your BBQ should look as good as new and be ready to use in 2 hours.

In the rest of this article we’re going to look at why you don’t need primer in more detail, consider if you should paint the inside of your BBQ – and give you a simple 10-step process for quickly painting your BBQ.

Do You Need Primer For High Heat Paint?

This is a much-debated query among BBQ owners: if you’re painting your grill, do you need to use primer? If you look among yard forums on the internet, you’ll see opinion is divided between those who say that you definitely need to apply primer, and those who reckon it’s a waste of time.

As we all know, a good coat of primer certainly can improve the quality and finish of a paint job. It ensures that the surface is ready for the paint, so the finish will look good, and for longer.

Does Rust-Oleum® High Heat Paint Need Primer?

However, the argument against primer in this instance is that top-quality BBQ paints like Rust-Oleum® simply don’t need this extra layer, as they would adhere to a well-prepped surface anyway.

If you do decide to apply a coat of primer, it will need to have the same high temperature resistance as the paint. You can buy high temperature primer spray online. This is often intended for use in motor engines, so make sure the one you choose is appropriate for your grill.

However, when you’re painting a grill or BBQ, most of the hard work comes during the first stage, the surface preparation.

We’ll take you through this step-by-step in a moment; however, in brief, by the time you’ve brushed, scrubbed, sanded, washed and dried the surface, you’ll find it’s perfect for painting.

You’ll need to do all this whether you’re using primer or not, so arguably, is it with the extra time and expense?

At Take A Yard, we’re in the no-primer camp. A quality, high heat spray like Rust-Oleum® gives you a fantastic finish, especially if you apply multiple coats. Make sure you prepare the surface, then spray away.

This guy makes a great job of doing just this with his old BBQ…

Should I Paint The Inside of My BBQ?

Another big BBQ question is: should I paint the inside of my BBQ? The easy answer is no, you shouldn’t. As well as risking introducing potentially toxic fumes and chips of paint into what’s basically an oven, why paint something that’s rarely on view?

It’s also hard to find a paint that will live up to the job. For the exterior of our barbecues, we use Rust-Oleum®’s High Heat Spray, which is heat resistant up to temperatures of 1200oF.

The temperature of the hot coals and gas flames in a grill are in the range of 2000oF to 3800oF; way, way higher than even a high heat paint can manage. Slow cooking is naturally a lot cooler, but applying paint to your BBQ’s interior will cut down on the different ways you can use it.

So, what can you do if the inside of your BBQ looks a bit old and tired? A good old-fashioned scrub is often the answer. Wiping down after use (when it’s cooled) and regular gentle cleaning should help you keep on top of it. If rust develops, give the affected area a light sand then treat it with some sunflower oil or olive oil to keep it seasoned.

The inside of BBQs and fire pits are expertly designed and treated to cope with super-high temperatures: it’s best just to let them get on with it, and stick to refreshing the outside.

Painted BBQ grill
What’s The Best BBQ Paint? (We Like Rust-Oleum®)

Painting Your BBQ (You Don’t Need a High-Temperature Primer For Your Grill)

Many of us choose to hang onto our trusty old barbecues: we know how they work, and they grill meat just as we like it. However, a dull-looking BBQ in the corner of the patio can let down your otherwise stylish yard.

If your BBQ is starting to look faded or a bit rusty, you can easily restore it to its former good looks with a careful paint job. For this, we recommend a heat-resistant spray paint like Rust-Oleum®’s High Heat Spray, which gives a great finish and is incredibly easy to apply.

However, as well as getting the right paint, the key to a good-looking restoration project lies in the preparation. Here’s our step-by-step guide to painting your BBQ, using a specialist spray paint.

1. Choose a well-ventilated space to work in. This could be your yard or inside the garage with the doors open. Make sure you cover any areas with a drop cloth, as you’re unlikely to want your floor spraying matte black. We also suggest you wear gloves

2. The first task is to take the BBQ apart. Remove parts that don’t need treating (the legs, wheels, shelves, handles if possible) and set them aside for later.

3. Now get scrubbing. You need to remove any flaky paintwork or spots of rust to ensure you get an even, smooth finish. Use a wire brush for bigger and stubborn flakes, then move onto sandpaper to finish the job.

4. You’ve smoothed the rough bits: now you need to roughen the smooth bits. Smooth and shiny surfaces don’t accept paint as well as slightly textured ones do, so rough up these sections with your sandpaper. Who needs primer?

5. Next, wash down the whole surface with soapy water, getting rid of any dust or flakes from the sanding. Leave the BBQ to dry naturally.

6. When it’s 100% dry, put painters’ tape over any bits that you don’t want to spray. This could be the handles if you couldn’t remove them, or any metallic hardware like the hinges.

7. Shake the paint can for about a minute. Holding it 12-18 inches from the surface, start spraying. Use a smooth, up-and-down motion, overlapping each stroke to make sure you don’t leave any gaps. Carry on until the whole surface has had this first coat.

8. With Rust-Oleum®, you need only wait a few minutes before you can apply the next coat. This can be a lighter coat than the first.

9. Again, after the second coat is finished, leave it to dry for a few minutes. You can then apply a third and even fourth light coat (which we always do, to make up for not using a primer).

10. The whole surface should be OK to use within 2 hours. Replace the legs and wheels and take off the tape.

And there you have it: one smart and refreshed-looking BBQ, all ready to be fired up again. If you haven’t used all your spray paint, you can store it in a safe, dry place until the BBQ needs a refresh again (first turn the can upside down and depress the spray button for 5 seconds if you plan to do this).

How long will this last? Provided you prepped the surface well and used a good-quality paint, it should last a good few years before it needs smartening up again. Of course, this depends on how much use it gets and how much exposure to wet and windy weather. Keep it under a waterproof BBQ cover when it;s not in use to prolong its matte black finish and prevent rust.

This painting process also works for fire pits, indoor wood-burning stoves and fire accessories such as screens. 🙂

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >