Q. Over the 20 years we've had our older home, we have needed to replace most of the appliances and have gone from white to stainless steel. But over the stove, we still have a white exhaust hood. It still works great, and I would prefer not to replace it. Can I refinish it so that it appears to be stainless steel?
A. Yes, you can paint it using a formula that contains actual stainless steel. Although the color and sheen might not be an exact match -- even solid stainless steel varies, depending on the alloys and surface treatment -- the hood will almost surely look more at home in your kitchen than it does now, and at minimal cost.
A world of metallic-looking paints exists nowadays. Many contain actual powdered metal, which is why some non-stainless metallic paints even tarnish over time as the metals they mimic do. Other metallic paints are available in vivid colors, including blue, purple and orange. Although these may include small amounts of recycled metal, their metallic sheen comes mostly from mica.
For your purpose, the Giani Liquid Stainless Steel appliance paint kit, which sells for $24.95 at Home Depot, should work well. It has several advantages over some other stainless-steel paints: It is water-based, so it dries faster than oil-based paints, it isn't as smelly, and it is easier to clean up. It's also designed so you can apply it with a foam brush, which eliminates the hassles of either trying to spray on a finish without getting a mess all over your kitchen or removing the hood so you can spray-paint it outside. The final result is similar to what you would find on stainless steel with a brushed finish, according to the manufacturer, Giani, a half-century-old paint company in St. Louis that launched into sleight-of-hand coatings when it developed a countertop paint that mimics granite (800-650-5699; gianigranite.com). That paint did so well that the company began developing other paints people on a budget could use to transform surfaces without replacing them.
Giani's stainless-steel paint gets its color and sparkle from flecks of stainless steel, nickel and aluminum, dispersed in a clear resin (no mica). The kit contains six ounces each of base and topcoat, enough to cover 19 square feet, plus a foam applicator. Giani also sells a 1½-quart fridge paint kit ($69.99 at Home Depot). The only difference between the products is the quantity and the applicator, said Giani's manager, Sarah Watts.
The paint withstands temperatures up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and is suitable for vent hoods, as well as gas and electric ranges, wall ovens, dishwashers, and many other metal surfaces. However, it isn't suitable for barbecue grills (they get too hot) or bare wood, drywall or plastics. If you were to paint a refrigerator, the paint would not affect whether it grips magnets. The stainless steel in the paint formula isn't magnetic (some stainless-steel alloys are), but neither does the paint block magnetic properties of the surface being painted, Watts said.
There are other stainless-steel paints beyond what Giani makes. Rust-Oleum Specialty Stainless Steel paint also comes as a liquid that you could apply with a brush or foam pad. But it is an oil-based product, and it's recommended only for surfaces that get up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Although a range hood might stay under that limit, there's a good chance it won't. Hoods with Broan Heat Sentry controls, for example, switch the fan speed to high when the temperature reaches 200 degrees, which implies that the temperature would otherwise rise much higher.
Rust-Oleum does make stainless-steel paint suitable for hotter surfaces, but only in a spray can.
One caution before you paint: Be sure to clean the surfaces thoroughly. Any kitchen surface is likely to have an oily sheen, but a hood -- especially the underside -- is especially prone. If you can't get grime out of all the corners, or if there is a control panel that would be difficult to paint tidily, consider painting only the exterior, which doesn't have tight corners and is therefore easier to clean. An under-the-hood surface that doesn't look stainless would probably look better than one with stainless steel paint that's peeling.