You step back into the street and take a look at your house. You’ve put a lot of work into it and you should be proud. From landscaping to replacing those old address numbers, to installing a new mailbox…but there’s something amiss. It’s those darn utility meter boxes on the side of your house. They stand out like a sore thumb. Even if passers-by can’t see them from the street, you still know they’re there. And that’s what really matters. So, it begs the question: Can you paint your utility meter boxes?
In most places, you’re free to paint your utility meter boxes. This includes gas, water, electricity, and even the boxes that house a rat’s nest of cable and phone wires. There are some stipulations, though. And it’s always best to check locally to make sure you won’t be fined for painting these boxes.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about painting your exterior utility meter boxes.
Finding Out for Sure
Before you start gathering paint supplies you should find out for sure if you’re allowed to paint your utility meters. Sometimes this is as easy as an internet search, but other times you may need to call your gas, water, electric, or cable company, depending on which box you’re thinking of painting. You may also ask friends and family. Chances are someone has already done the research in your particular city or town. As mentioned above, in most places it’s perfectly fine, but you always want to make sure.
If you live in a townhouse, multi-family housing, a co-op, or a neighborhood with a homeowners association, you’ll probably have to check with the landlord, manager, or the association’s rules, as well.
Can You Paint Your Utility Meter Boxes Any Color?
When you do your research to determine if painting the utility box is okay, make sure to ask if you can paint it any color. Most places that allow you to paint these meters won’t specify the color, but a few will. For example, many cities don’t want the meters painted black. But I can’t imagine anyone wanting to paint their meter black anyway, so this may not be a big concern.
Color limitations could be important information if you want to paint the box the color of your trim. If they only allow that utilitarian shade of gray, it may not be worth it unless your box is really run-down.
Best Type of Paint For Utility Meter Boxes
Once you know it’s okay to paint your meters, it’s time to find out what type of paint is best. You’ll want a paint that will hold up well in the elements while helping to prevent rust. For vinyl boxes, like those of your exterior cable and networking device, you should use acrylic paint. For the other boxes, typically made of metal, you can use an exterior oil or latex paint. Read on for a more detailed look at painting your utility meter boxes.
How to Paint Your Utility Meter Boxes
It’s important to avoid painting the clear plastic or glass covers that are found on water, gas, and electric meters. Obstructing the meters can make it hard for energy company employees to read them, which can result in a fine. So, make sure to tape them off fully to avoid any accidents. The same goes for any sort of identifying numbers or plates attached to the meter.
Before painting it’s a good idea to look for rust anywhere on the utility meter. If you do find some, consider removing it as best you can before using Rust-Oleum primer or a similar product. Simply covering rust with paint— even rust-resistant paint— can cause a pocket of rust that continues to eat through the metal.
While you may not think it’s your job to take care of the city’s or company’s meter, they may not see it that way. Chances are if they’re okay with you painting it, they consider care for the meter part of your responsibility, too. Of course, there are limits to this. You’re not expected to fix the meter if it breaks but a minimum of care is usually assumed.
Taping the utility meter off is essential for a job well done. As mentioned above, completely taping the clear view portal is a good idea to prevent any paint from getting on it. You’ll also want to tape behind and around the meter if possible. You can lay down an old sheet or runner to protect your grass or plants from paint drips. Once you’re confident that you’ve taped off any spots that are likely to come into contact with a paintbrush, it’s time to get painting.
Your first coating should be an exterior-rated primer of some kind. There are tons of options for this, including Rust-Oleum mentioned above. A decent primer will lay the foundation for whatever color you’re going to paint the meter while providing added protection. You won’t have to paint it again for a long while.
You’ll want to be careful when painting utility meters and boxes. If you see any exposed wiring or anything out of the ordinary, it may be best to contact the city organization or company that manages the box. It’s not often that we inspect these boxes, and painting or handling exposed wiring can be dangerous.
You’ll also want to look out for levers or switches. Accidentally painting over a shutoff valve can cause issues if you need to turn off the gas or other utilities to the home. Luckily, most of these shutoff valves and switches are easily identifiable.
Avoid painting on the inside of any utility box doors. There’s usually important information on the inside of the doors that workers need to see when they come to perform maintenance or repairs.
In the vast majority of places, you are free to paint your utility meter boxes. With a little research, a few dollars, and an afternoon of work you can have a utility box or meter that matches your home and looks brand-new.