Are You Allowed to Paint Your Propane Tank?

two rose-colored propane tanks freshely paint propane tank

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Over time, a propane tank can look unsightly due to the effects of weather. That is why you need to give it a fresh coat of paint. Another reason is you would want your tank to blend with your property landscaping needs. 

Whatever the reason, the question is, can you paint a propane tank? The short answer is yes, you can. However, it is not how you probably think. Painting propane tank requires compliance with painting guidelines in the National Fire Protection Association(NFPA) standard 58. So what are these federal and state laws? 

That is the core of today’s article. This guide will discuss everything you need to know, including the legal aspects, safety, and procedures of painting a propane tank. Join us to learn more!

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Is It Legal to Paint a Propane Tank?

It is perfectly legal to paint your propane tank. However, the legal position depends on a few things. First, you can only paint a tank you own. If you have leased a propane tank, there are restrictions on what you can do on it, painting being one of them. But sometimes regulations will vary depending on the propane dealers. 

If you are not sure, do not just paint it. Ask your propane provider first to avoid any doubt. Furthermore, painting propane tanks is often part of their routine tank maintenance. Therefore, perhaps it is already in the lease cost. However, one propane company may allow their customers to paint their tanks while the other propane supplier may not. In such cases, they provide the paint or recommend the suppliers you can contact.

Is It Safe to Paint a Propane Tank?

Yes, propane tank painting is safe if you do it correctly. First, paint for propane tanks must be only in stipulated colors. The NFPA 58 benchmark standard for safety provides the right colors for this purpose.

In this standard are wide-ranging regulations on the handling of propane, including propane tank painting. Keep in mind, that only bright colors are acceptable. This is not just coincidental. It is based on the effect of heat on substances.

You probably already know that bright colors reflect light while dark colors absorb light. Surfaces with colors that reflect light do not get heated as light bounces off, with no significant effect. In contrast, the dark surface, the one dark paint color, absorbs light and becomes heated.

But why is this important? Propane is a volatile substance, quite sensitive to temperature changes. The absorption of heat by a dark color can result in the expansion of gas, potentially triggering the opening of the safety valve and the release of gas from the tank. That is why you should avoid anything that can cause a rise in temperatures inside the tank and the opening of a safety valve, including dark-colored paints. We understand you want to help your propane tank blend in with the room or garden design but work inside the safe margin for safety reasons unless you’re in an extremely cold climate.

Also, propane tank paint shouldn’t obscure any information on the tank. Propane tanks have a bunch of marks and text like tare weight, origination, and safety information. 

What Paint Do You Use on a Propane Tank?

When it comes to propane tanks, whichever paint color won’t work, if you are harboring thoughts of using some from your previous wall painting project, discard that idea. Spare those cans for another project. They simply do not fulfill the requirements of propane tank paint.

As mentioned earlier, the best paint for propane tank colors must fall within the NFPA benchmark standards, besides other statutory requirements. Statutory requirements vary by state. You can check with the relevant authorities in your state. 

Of course, our current concern is the propane tank paint. But NFPA 58 is an extensive guide on storage, transportation, and handling propane gas tanks. We recommend you familiarize yourself with them for your safety. 

So what are the characteristics of the appropriate lp tank paint? Let us take a look at a few below.

Use Reflective Paint Colors

Paints should be light in color for the same reason we touched on earlier: their heat absorption. Lighter colors, unlike dark color, cause less propane expansion in the tank. Specifically, the best colors for spray paint or paint roller include white, silver, light gray, and a few others. 

Rust Inhibiting Metal Paint

Lp tank Paints for metal surfaces adhere to the surface and lock out the oxidation process, which causes rusting. Rust eats away the metal weakening the metal, a potential source of leakage and explosion. Using such propane tank paint not only maintains their aesthetic appeal but their structural integrity as well.

High Gloss Finish

The best paint for tank’s surface should have a glossy finish. Why? A glossy finish serves several purposes. First, the finish means the light gets bounced off the tank. Secondly, the glossy finish looks more appealing to users. And finally, the smooth feel makes cleaning the dust off the paint easy. This prevents it from accumulating and potentially rusting the tank. 

Steps to Paint Propane Tanks

a man painting propane tank in his garden

If it is your first time learning how to paint a propane tank, you need to do thorough prepping to ensure successful results. Follow the few basic steps below.

Remove Rust From the Tank Surface

Rust poses several problems to the propane tanks. First, rust is brownish. Recall what we said earlier that dark colors absorb heat. In addition, rust also causes pitting that weakens the propane tank. 

For this reason, you should especially be thorough in checking the level of rusting on the propane tank. If the rusting level is extensive, you can seek a professional opinion from your vendor’s technician. Depending on the level of damage, they might recommend replacing it. This is because painting such a tank might hide structural issues that can turn out hazardous.

However, assuming the tank has only minor rusting, all you have to do is clean it. For this step, sandpaper and a wire brush will do the trick. Once done with a wire brush, you can move to the next stage.

Wash the Tank Surface

Here, all you need is detergent, water, and scrubbing tools. Any detergent or cleaning agents with surfactants against rust and spray paint will work. The best detergent brands for this work include Tide, Dawn, and several others. 

All these and more are readily available in your local convenience store. Alternatively, you can order them online, in marketplaces like Amazon. Pick your choice, thoroughly scrub your propane tank with warm water, rinse well, and let it dry.

Cover Important Fittings and Labels

When painting, remember to exclude certain sensitive parts of the propane tank. You want to avoid gauges and hookups. Spraying these fittings will not be of any value, as most are made of non-rusting materials, anyway. 

But most importantly, painting might clog them and cause gas flow problems. Regarding the labels and all markings, you shouldn’t paint them at all. Painting them obscures the crucial data about the tank. Keep them off by covering them with old newspapers and masking tapes.

Painting the Tank

Once you get the bases covered, how to paint a propane tank is a fast process. First, apply the primer on the surface. Also known as the undercoat, the primer ensures paint sticks better on the tank. This prevents rusting and makes the work more durable. 

Unlike paints, there is no restriction on the application of primers. Primer brands in the market are also a dime a dozen. One of the best examples of primers for metal surfaces is the Rust-oleum Clean Metal Primer.

After applying the primer, you can mix the paint with thinners and other ingredients and paint it as you would on other metal surfaces. But remember, you will need to do more than one round. For best results and to make it more durable, you will require at least 2-3 coats of white or light gray

Remember to allow enough drying between each round of application coat for proper curing. Once the paint has dried properly, that is it!

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Ryan McCabe

Ryan McCabe

Ryan is a home and small business energy expert, having overseen retail propane, heating oil, and HVAC services companies. On ComparePropane, Ryan writes about things that people should know when shopping for or using propane in their homes and businesses. 

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