Paint an oil tank...

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Asked By: 
Brett C.

I need to paint a new oil tank that will be exposed to the weather. This tank is 375 gallon oil tank.

Do I need to use a primer?
What type of paint should I use to prevent rust?
Do I need to seal it?

thanks in advance for your quick response,

Answer: 

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Thanks so much for your question and welcome to the Be Jane Community. We're thrilled that you have joined in.
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First off, as I'm sure you've already been told, keeping a heating oil tank outside your home will most likely shave years off its life. Fuel tanks like these are usually best installed indoors in a basement or garage or underground, where they are insulated by the surrounding dirt. Outdoor installations are more susceptible to condensation as a result of day-night temperature changes and humidity and thus, early deterioration.
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That said, if you are going to attempt to paint your tank, you'll want to be sure you do so in a manner that will protect it from the elements as best you can. You didn't specify the model or make of your tank, and thus, I can only give you a bit of a generalization on what to do.
You mentioned that your tank is new. Several new tank products have been marketed during the last few years. Steel tanks have gone to a heavier gauge to mitigate the effect of corrosion and perhaps increase the lifespan. New technologies for non-metallic tanks have emerged so that internal corrosion ceases to be an issue. ZCL Composites offers two tank designs: the all fiberglass tank, available in single wall and double wall versions, and the polyethylene tank, secondarily contained in a galvanized steel container. Both of these tanks have been proven, tested and are ULC listed for the storage of fuel oil.
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If you have any of these types of tanks, corrosion from the inside out will not be as significant an issue for you. But, let's assume you have the most common type; a steel tank:
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<li>It's very important to be sure to properly seal off any potential openings into the tank itself. The majority of steel fuel oil tanks rust from the inside out. Because of condensation, water and sludge accumulate at the bottom of tanks. This combination creates an ideal environment for internal rust or corrosion of the steel tank wall. More often than not, since oil floats, the water goes to bottom of the tank, and that's usually where the first leak is. Leaking tanks are also a result of improper tank maintenance, damp locations, and mechanical damage.</li>
<li>Exterior rusting is noticeable by the small pinholes on the tank.</li>
<li>Make absolutely sure to clear off any visible rust. You'll then want to begin with a flat gray rust-inhibitor type paint. This will help the initial job of warding away any future rust. There are many wonderful brands out there that offer this product.</li>
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The type of paint you choose beyond this will be dependent upon the type of material your oil tank is made up of. Once you determine this, you can provide this information to the paint person at your local home improvement center and they should be able to specify a particular type of paint. Just be sure to inform them that you are painting a FUEL tank and that it will be stored outside.
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As far as the color goes, you'll want to be sure to keep it "light." Meaning, the darker the color, the more effect the sun will have on it, adding unnecessary wear and tear. So, keep it to a white, light blue or cream.
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Oil tanks and boilers usually last around 20 years. During sustained periods of frigid weather, heating systems are working their hardest and running overtime and therefore, most prone to failure and oil tanks located outside and in garages are most susceptible to "freezing up." Products like LiquiFire can avoid "clogging" if you find you're having this trouble when the temperature drops below a certain level.
We wish you luck with this project and look forward to hearing how it turns out!
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We hope this helps. Let us know how it all works out.
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If you have any further questions, feel free to contact us at any time. We're here for you!
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Best of luck with all your Jane projects!

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