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Spray paint works wonders bright brass fixtures

By Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood writes on Home design, do-it-yourself and real estate for The Charlotte Observer. His column appears each Saturday.

Some homeowners still love bright brass light fixtures.

Well, they don’t exactly love brass. I shouldn’t go that far. That’s probably /a/ reach.

But they actually buy brass items and take them home. They pay real money – albeit not a lot – for bright brass light fixtures that other owners have pulled down and given away.

Habitat ReStore staffers say they see regulars scour shelves looking for items to update or repurpose, including bright brass. “Oh, my gosh, yes. Some of them come in every day,” said Jean Flynn of Our Towns ReStore in Mooresville. “They take the bright brass and paint it. ... They might change it over from a light fixture to a candelabra. ... They might use it outside.”

They love bright brass – as long as it’s not bright or brass.

That’s one lesson learned in the wake of a recent column, in which a veteran real estate agent recommended replacing dated “builder” brass if you’re getting ready to sell your home.

Here’s another: If you’re selling, you can use spray paint to update your brass, too. “The paint they have now is amazing,” Flynn said. “There are all sorts of colors and finishes.”

Terry Alfero, the Allen Tate agent who recommended in last week’s column that sellers update their brass, agrees. Painting a light fixture isn’t difficult if you’re handy, and the results can be dramatic.

A couple of months ago, Alfero listed a house in which the owners had eliminated brass light fixtures – even before she recommended that. She complimented the couple on choosing new, more current lighting fixtures. “Oh, no,” the woman replied, “I painted them.”

The fixtures looked terrific, Alfero said, with a sort of dappled faux-finish. Prospective buyers were sure to be impressed.

You’ll find how-to-paint-brass tips and videos online. If you’d like to paint a light fixture or other brass hardware, poke around and you might find someone tackling a project just like the one you have in mind.

Here are some things I’ve learned about painting bright brass:

• Take stuff apart. You’re better off disassembling that light fixture, and spreading the parts out to spray paint them. You’ll get more even coverage, a more consistent finish.

• Experiment. I had to spray-paint an extra long down rod to hang a fan from a high ceiling. To my eye, the finish on the fan looked like a combination of two types of spray paint. I sprayed the rod with a base coat of hammered bronze and added a light misting of stainless steel. Turned out to be a good match.

• You’ll find stories and videos online about spray-painting door knobs. Not sure I’d try that on a knob that’s used regularly, but Painting hinges is a snap. If you replace your brass knobs with brushed nickel, for instance, you can paint the hinges and get a pretty close match. And you can leave the doors in place. Remove one hinge on each door. Clean it well with sanding prep solution. Spray-paint it – and don’t forget the screws. When it’s dry, replace it. Remove another hinge on each door and repeat the steps.

What color should you choose?

Reader Bill Ingram emailed after last week’s column to says oiled bronze is “out,” according to Consumer Reports. If that's not your favorite, you still have umpteen choices. You’ll find brushed, hammered and antique versions of metallic looks. Don’t overlook the stone finishes. Krylon even makes a stone metallic.

Special to the Observer: homeinfo@charter.net
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