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How to Paint a Fire Escape

In the event of a catastrophic fire, a fire escape can mean the difference between life and a horrible death. With so much at stake, authorities place heavy emphasis on keeping fire escapes in good condition. Many localities require property owners to repaint fire escapes periodically as part of a regular maintenance plan. The paint acts as a protective barrier against moisture and other outdoor elements. If you don't paint a fire escape often enough and bare metal becomes exposed, rust could form and weaken the integrity of the ladder, leading to potential injury if it needs to be used.

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  1. Scrape existing rust and flaking or peeling paint off the fire escape. Scrub the area with a wire brush until all signs of damage are gone. Check any welding or joints with an especially critical eye.

  2. Clean the fire escape using rags soaked with warm, soapy water. Start at the top of the fire escape and work your way down. Dry the fire escape with clean rags afterward. Use a pressure washer instead of hand-washing the metal if you'd like the process to go faster.

  3. Apply a coating of rust-inhibiting primer to the fire escape using a paint brush. Start at the top of the fire escape and work your way down to be able to easily smooth over any dripping primer. Spread a thicker coat of primer over any structural weak points, such as joints and welds. Allow the primer to dry.

  4. Apply a first coat of an enamel or oil-based exterior paint to the fire escape, using the same top-to-bottom pattern used to apply the primer. If your municipality requires you to use two separate paint colours on your fire escape, apply the lighter colour first. Allow the paint to dry.

  5. Apply a second coat of paint to the fire escape. Allow it to dry fully.

  6. Tip

    Some of the metal, such as the underside of platforms, may not be reachable from the work areas of the escape itself. Use a securely positioned ladder next to the fire escape to reach these areas. Wear a safety harness at all times while working from a ladder at heights over 6 feet. Check with local authorities to determine if any special fire escape maintenance rules or regulations apply in your area. For example, in New York City fire escapes must be painted at least once every five years using two contrasting paint colours. Wear protective goggles to save your eyes from falling paint and rust chips. Wait for a week with a low chance of rain to prevent the fresh paint from washing away.

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Things You'll Need

  • Wire brush
  • Liquid dish detergent
  • Rags
  • Pressure washer (optional)
  • Paint brush
  • Rust-inhibiting primer
  • Oil or enamel-based exterior paint

About the Author

Brad Chacos started writing professionally in 2005, specializing in electronics and technology. His work has appeared in Salon.com, Gizmodo, "PC Gamer," "Maximum PC," CIO.com, DigitalTrends.com, "Wired," FoxNews.com, NBCNews.com and more. Chacos is a frequent contributor to "PCWorld," "Laptop Magazine" and the Intuit Small Business Blog.

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