How to Maintain Iron Fences

By Shailynn Krow

Iron fences are not only durable, but they are elegant decorations for your property.

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People love iron fences for their aesthetic appeal, sound structure and durability; iron fencing made from quality materials can last for decades. They do have one weakness, however: rust. Even a little rust can compromise your fence’s durability and even shorten its lifespan. So if you have iron fences around your home, you need to perform proper maintenance to keep up their aesthetic appeal and structural durability. Perform iron fence maintenance at least twice a year, especially if your fence is in a high-moisture area.

Prepare the work area by removing any vines, weeds or grass that might be growing around or onto the fence. Cover the surrounding areas, like vegetation or masonry, with tarps.

Remove any evidence of rust using a fine wire brush. Do not use heavy corded wire because this will ruin the integrity of the fence. Rinse the fence using nonionic detergent and water and allow it to dry.

Apply a rust converter to the areas where there is already rust; phosphoric-acid-based or tannic-acid-based converters are most appropriate. Follow all manufacturer instructions explicitly and wear all the required personal protective equipment.

Apply a thin coat of primer. Primer must be oil-based and made for metal applications. Allow it to dry fully. Spray-on primers are easier to apply and will get into the crevices of ornamental designs more easily than brush-on applications.

Apply a finish coat of an oil-based paint that is designed for metal. Use a similar paint color if you can get one locally. Otherwise, contact the manufacturer to see if any touch-up paint is available.

Maintain your fence’s paint job by cleaning the fence with soap and water once every six months. Apply a thin layer of metal-grade wax to the outside of the fence, especially in areas that are exposed to sprinklers and vegetation, to protect the paint’s surface.

Replace missing fasteners or other gate and fence hardware with pieces of similar size and appearance, which you can get from local hardware or home improvement stores.

Grease the hinges of the gates annually, or if the gate squeaks. Squeaky hinges mean they’re already too dry, so apply a general-grade lubricant to remoisten them.

Things Needed

  • Tarps
  • Wire brush
  • Nonionic detergent
  • Rust converter
  • Metal-grade oil-based primer
  • Oil-based finish coat
  • Similar fasteners and gate hardware
  • General-grade lubricant grease


  • National Park Service: Iron Fencing Care
  • Viking Fence: Iron Fence Maintenance
  • Iron Fence Shop: Care and Maintenance of Your Fence and Gates

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

About the Author

Shailynn Krow began writing professionally in 2002. She has contributed articles on food, weddings, travel, human resources/management and parenting to numerous online and offline publications. Krow holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and an Associate of Science in pastry arts from the International Culinary Institute of America.


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