Rusty old garden gates and farming implements are much sought after as garden features. Many people love the rusty patina of steel. Learn how to maintain your steel items so they’re around for years to come.
Old gates and garden implements are getting harder to find for sale at auctions, clearing sales, demolition yards and second hand stores. Rusty old garden structures, especially heritage style gates, cast jointed farm gates like the Sunshine McKay and Simpson gates, old farming implements, rusty wagon wheels and quaint wrought iron garden gates are fetching high prices at sales as they get rarer and demand from home renovators, landscapers and gardeners increases. Maintaining any steel item is really important if you want it to last.
Demand for old rusty gates and garden structures …
The appeal of old, time worn pieces never fades. An established garden is a beautiful and relaxing place to be and garden structures that look like they’ve been there for decades add instant appeal which is why they’re so sought after. Quite often we are asked if our gates and arches can be made from rusty steel. Quite a number of the Farmweld range of gates is made from ‘black steel’. This doesn’t mean it’s black, it’s just another way of saying raw, untreated or ungalvanised steel from the mill which just has a mill coating on it offering light protection. The mill coat might be a thin layer of paint, sometimes blue, or ‘mill scale’. The mill finish eventually wears away but if you want a new item to rust evenly and quickly, I’d suggest that you have it sandblasted to remove the mill scale or paint residue.
The colour of rust …
Believe it or not some people have a preference for brown rust or orange rust. We can’t dictate the colour. Rust is rust, it starts out as orange and as it ages it takes on a more brownish hue. The colour can’t be controlled as it’s a natural process. If the rust is bright orange then it’s probably fresh oxidation of the steel and your item is still rusting away. You’ll need to seal it from moisture to stop any further weathering and deterioration.
My gate is already rusty so why should I stop more rust developing?
You should always seal raw steel, for a few reasons:
- Deterioration: If rusty items are not sealed against moisture they will deteriorate and eventually rust away.
- Staining: You don’t want rust stains on your hands, clothing, furnishings, or rusty water stains on your paving or masonry pillars. Rust stains can be very difficult to remove.
How do I treat wrought iron and rusty items?
If you don’ t know how to protect your rusty items from further deterioration there are a number of sealants on the market. We recommend and use a product called ‘Penetrol’ which is available from most hardware stores. This product is an oil that dries to a hard varnish-like finish leaving you with a lovely natural brown patina on your steel and wrought iron work.
For newly made steel items we suggest that you:
- Leave your item out to weather till it reaches the patina you’re after
- Lightly rub off the really loose rust using fine steel wool. Don’t polish it to bare steel but leave it so it still has a lovely aged and rusty patina.
- Using a soft brush, apply Penetrol generously. Make sure the oil flows into:
- all the nooks and crannies.
- the underside of the gate or item you’re sealing.
- Any areas where water may sit, e.g. on the low point of scrolls, bottom bars, horizontal surfaces, etc.
- Seal it with at least two coats of Penetrol.
- Make sure you dispose of your rags carefully as Penetrol is highly flammable.
For older items just follow steps 2 and 3, or alternatively have it sandblasted. This will give you an opportunity to see if the item needs any repairs. You can then start from step 1.
Depending on your local conditions rusty gates and garden structures will need regular maintenance. Look over your garden and entrance gates at least once a year and apply Penetrol annually to keep your gates and items in good condition.
If you’ve got any questions or comments please leave them below.