Is It Ok to Paint an Electrical Panel? (Answered!)

You’ve probably been tempted to apply the same paint on your circuit breaker box as the wall.

Electrical panels can easily resemble an ugly patch on a freshly painted wall, so it would be perfectly ok to contemplate giving it a fresh coat.

If your home is old and hasn’t been maintained well for some time, the shiny panel might turn into a gnarly piece of metal with peeling paint that needs urgent reapplication.

So, Is it ok to paint an electrical panel?

Yes, but you need to be careful. Painting the cover alone wouldn’t be a violation. However, the innards of the unit, including insulators, wiring terminals, busbars, and other surfaces, should not be contaminated or damaged by foreign materials like paint, plaster, corrosive residues, abrasives, or cleaners.

One of the major challenges with painting these fixtures is getting a sleek and good finish.

You must use the right primer for the task. If you don’t, and also fail to do proper sanding, you will have a hard time getting a smooth surface and good opacity.

Besides, if there’s any rust anywhere on the panel, you will need to scrub as much of it off the panel as you can.

If your box is exposed to the elements of nature (like those installed outside the house) and you are planning to paint it to blend with colors on your walls or vegetation, you can take an entirely different approach from if you were painting a box in a basement or utility room.

Related: Is It Safe To Have An Electrical Panel In A Bedroom?

A Six Step Process – How to Paint Your Electrical Box

Step One

Before embarking on the task, examine the panel to ensure that all the components are in order.

In case you spot any exposed wires or amiss parts, call a qualified electrician who can figure out if there’s a safety risk.

Step Two

Sand the box thoroughly so that the surface is ready for the primer.

Proceed to prepare the surface further for your primer.

If there’s any rust remaining and dust, sand it off and wipe the surface with a clean dry piece of cloth.

Step Three

If the box is exposed or open, and you plan to use a specific color, choose a liquid primer – liquid primers have the advantage of providing more color options than non-liquid options.

The interiors will require you to use latex paint for the top coat.

Most of the primers you will find out there are perfect for this, but remember to check the label to confirm.

If there’s a deep layer of rust on your panel, use a primer in combination with a rust inhibitor.

There’s plenty of proprietary formulations in the market today.

Paint on your primer with a smooth bristled brush, smoothing the panel with slow, downward strokes.

Step Four

If this exercise is taking place in your basement or utility room, consider using paint and spray primer that can guarantee an even finish.

You should obtain a primer specifically designed for metallic surfaces, and again, uniquely formulated to inhibit the effect of the rust if there’s any on the electrical panel.

Proceed to tape off the box and surrounding wall surface to protect the sections around the box.

Begin with your spray primer, and administer by spraying from at least 1 ft. distance.

Keep the spray in motion, evenly, to prevent dripping. Ensure you have sufficient ventilation.

You might want to install a fan in a close-by window to expel the fumes from the region.

Step Five

Once your primer is dry, proceed to apply your first coat of freshly prepared paint either with a brush, if you prefer liquid latex paints, or by spraying.

Ensure you have a mask on your face all along. If you apply the coat lightly, everything should go smoothly.

For all brush applications, again, go light.

Such applications should consist of two coats or more – figure out the best way to achieve them.

It is more beneficial to use multiple light coats than just one heavy coat because this will create a much cleaner finish.

Step Six

Apply several coats (just as many coats as you see fit) to get a thick and clean finish on your electrical box.

Two coats sound like enough but that’s the least you could go; depending on your type of paint, four or five might be preferable.

Also, you can choose to sand your brush coat gently between two coats if you spot a lap or brush.

Related: Is It Better To Paint Your Home Yourself Or Just Hire Someone To Do It?

So, what color should you use?

Electrical boxes come already painted, so you should try to apply the same paint like the old ones.

Otherwise, Black, Red, Blue –1, 3, 5 & 2, 4, 6 would be great.

The same concept goes for all other voltage color schemes you may encounter. Typical color wiring for the 277 / 480 V panel is normally Brown, Orange, Yellow –1, 3, 5, & 2, 4, 6.

There are no rules on what color you should apply on the panel, meaning pretty any reasonable color scheme that works for you would still be appropriate.

It might be a bit difficult to get an exact match of spray paint for your project, but you could get pretty close to what you want or simply go with black, grey, or another nice yet contrasting color (better than pukey grey).

Some homeowners would not use latex paint themselves even in presence of a primer.

You would also want to remove the covers off, obviously, before spraying the unit and will need to be extra careful when painting on the latch and hinges and latch.

The latch is mostly plastic so it may not readily take the paint unless it is Krylon or other flexible multi-surface paint.

Three Alternative Electrical Panel Color Schemes

You don’t need to paint the electrical box to blend it with the rest of the wall.

If the box is located in inconvenient spaces but you still don’t want it to stand out of the wall, you can adopt other methods that are very much like painting but works better.

1. Use Color Camouflage

Camouflaging can work just as perfectly as a matching paint.

The color of an electrical box is normally shiny and bright and provides a contrasting foreground that complements the dull background created by the wall.

The trick here is to find a color that resembles the color of the box and apply it to the wall instead of painting the box itself.

You can do things the other way round – painting the box with the same color as the wall. You can also imitate blemishes on both surfaces to create a uniform outlook.

2. Try Graffiti

If you’re the wild-type, why not try graffiti?

You probably don’t mind colorful artwork and paints on your walls or front yard – graffiti is the way to go if you an open-minded homeowner.

The electrical panel offers a sizeable canvas that you can utilize to express your feelings through art.

3. Use Wooden Fixtures

Better yet, you can create an array of creative disguising fixtures with wood then install them on the box.

Wood comes in cheap and handy when your panel is located outside near the house, e.g. on your home’s outer wall or backyard.

To conceal the ugly box, you may consider building a beautiful wooden barrier around it.

Equipped with wood, your creativity is the limit. You may even choose to make it look like a cabinet for easy access.

Or you can choose to build a simple wooden box to hide the unit.

This can work for larger electrical panels that are installed very close to the ground.

To improve the visual appeal, you can add porcelain and flower vases on top.

Summary

Is it ok to paint an electrical panel? Absolutely. If you are careful to spot bare wares and other issues before embarking on it, the only other thing that may come in the way is the choice of paint, which needs to blend the panel with the color on the rest of the wall.

One of the major challenges with painting these fixtures is getting a sleek and good finish. You must use the right primer for the task.

If you don’t, and also fail to do proper sanding, you will have a hard time getting a smooth surface and good opacity.

If there’s any rust anywhere on the panel, you will need to scrub as much of it off the panel as you can.

If your box is exposed to the elements of nature and you are planning to paint it to blend with colors on your walls or vegetation, you can take an entirely different approach from if you were painting a box in a basement or utility room.

However, you don’t need to paint the electrical box to blend it with the rest of the wall.

If the box is located in inconvenient spaces but you still don’t want it to stand out of the wall, you can adopt other methods that are very much like painting but works better.

Camouflaging can be a better alternative – camouflage paintjob can work just as perfectly as a matching paint.

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