You may be wondering, does paint stick to conduit? Well we were wondering the same thing so we tested 10 different methods for painting EMT Conduit to find out. We performed a simple adhesion test on each pipe and the results were pretty surprising! Let's get into it.
There's no reason to tell you ever little detail about all ten tests especially since six of them had pretty poor results. I will say that I tried everything from spray painting un-prepped Conduit all the way to cleaning, sanding, priming, and painting. I not only tried spray painting, but hand painting also. After each of the ten pipes dried over night I performed the same adhesion test on each. The adhesion test consists of scratching a grid on to the surface. After scratching the grid you rip off a piece of duct tape, and see if the grid stays on the pipe or rips off which means poor adhesion. Now that we know how I got the results, let's find them out.
The best adhesion based on my testing came from simply de-greasing the conduit with this cleaner, spray priming with rustoleum automotive primer, and spray painting with rustoleum enamel spray paint. This was the only method out of the ten that survived the adhesion tests. I even tried ripping tape off multiple times consecutively and it still held up fine. The other nine lost chunks of paint during the testing.
I found that simply cleaning the pipe with a de greaser and using this rustoleum 2n1 paint and primer that the adhesion was pretty close to the best method mentioned above. Only when I went back with the duct tape over and over did it start losing chunks of paint. This method was the easiest to apply and it dried the fastest so if you're looking for the fastest/easiest method that doesn't compromise too much quality then this method is the one I'd recommend.
Spray painting is a lot faster in terms of application and drying, but there are also a couple of things to consider when using spray paint. Firstly the over spray is pretty bad especially when you have to hang the pipes up in order to cover them completely. Secondly is the finish, some of you may prefer the finish of hand painted pipes vs the spray painted.
I tested four different hand painting methods and the I found that the more prep work I did the worse the adhesion testing went. The worst results out of all ten pipes came from a pipe that was cleaned, scrubbed with vinegar, sanded, hand primed, and hand painted. When I did the adhesion test, the grid ripped off almost completely. In case you want to hand paint I'll share the best results I found. Cleaning the pipe with de greaser and then hand painting without sanding or any other prep work resulted in the best adhesion.