How to Restore & Repaint your Engraved Cast Stone Address Plaque
Clean, dry and repaint -- that's all it takes to restore your cast stone address plaque.
It's easy to refresh your home's cast stone address plaque. This simple DIY project requires some spray cleaner, a bit of black paint and a couple of artist's brushes to get your home's engraved stone address marker looking fresh and new again.
Cast stone address blocks may last forever -- but the black letters and numbers fade over time.
During the 15 years we've lived in our home so far, we have spent a considerable amount of time improving the property to our liking and to meet our personal needs, of course with an eye toward curb appeal and resale value. So it was a bit of a surprise to get a letter from our home owners' association notifying us of a violation. Although we had invested lots if time and money in designing and planting the landscaping and cultivating a (mostly) weed-free lawn, we had not noticed that over the years, the cast stone address plaque set into our brick mailbox had become faded, dirty and moldy.
The HOA compliance committee noticed, however, and notified us that we must take steps to clean it up and fix the sun-faded numbers. Sure enough, upon inspection, I saw that over time, not only had the plaque's address numbers faded from black to a very light gray, but also the "white" portion of the cast stone block was dirty and even moldy in places. Because the plaque faces east, it only gets morning sun; therefore in rainy weather it tends to stay wet for hours as it does not receive direct afternoon sun to fully "bake" out any moisture. As a result, mold had grown in one especially shady corner of the plaque, and had even grown a bit into the brick mailbox's mortar joints.
Although the HOA letter specifically instructed us to power-wash the mailbox, I was hesitant. While I wouldn't classify cast stone as fragile or delicate, it is not exactly diamond-hard, either. In fact, although it is technically stone, it is somewhat soft and could even be considered a bit crumbly. Power-washing seemed much too harsh and abrasive. I worried a pressurized stream of water from a power washer would blast away the plaque's smooth texture, or possibly even ruin the shape of the engraved numbers.
I took a softer approach to cleaning the plaque, and repainted the numbers myself. The project wasn't complicated at all and left me with a satisfied feeling: not only is the HOA compliance committee off our backs, but also the mailbox looks great and certainly increases the curb appeal of our home.
1. Spray cleaner. I used a store-brand version of Clorox Cleanup, which is an all-purpose spray cleaner with a bit of bleach added. The bleach helped lighten and kill the mold growing on my address plaque. If your plaque isn't moldy, any spray cleaner, such as Formula 409, is fine.
2. A soft cloth for wiping and drying. A cotton rag or an old cotton washcloth are perfect.
3. A soft cleaning brush. This is needed only if the spray cleaner and cloth don't do the trick on their own. An old toothbrush works well.
4. Water from your hose, or even just a large glass or two of water from your kitchen sink to rinse the plaque after washing it.
5. Flat black paint. I used interior paint as it was what I had on hand, but exterior paint is probably preferable if you have it. I don't recommend craft paint -- although it would do in a pinch, acrylic craft paint will not withstand the elements as well as latex paint. A very small amount is all you'll need. In my case, I only needed to paint four numbers; this required only a bit of paint -- probably a couple of tablespoons is all I used. If you must also fill in your street name or other details, you'll require a bit more, but still won't need much at all.
6. A small, square "flat" square artist's brush (approximately 1/4 inch wide) with either a straight or angled edge, and a small pointed artist's brush. Brushes with more stiff or rigid bristles allow you more control and so are preferred over more floppy bristles, which make precise painting more difficult. Note in the photo there is a small paintbrush with orange bristles; it is about 1/4-inch wide. It is the one I used as opposed to the wider, white one, which is about 1/2-inch wide. The half-inch brush was just too large to paint with precision.
7. Masking tape and paper. Rather than masking off each number individually, which would have been nearly impossible due to the curve of the numbers and the texture of the stone, I used masking tape and a piece of paper across the bottom of the numbers to help keep a crisp line and to catch any drips. It turned out this was unnecessary, but you may want to do this for peace of mind.
Diluted bleach kills and lightens mold and stains.
Step-by-step Instructions: Cleaning and Prep
1. If your plaque is dirty or moldy, spray it generously with spray cleaner. If your plaque is simply dirty or dusty, after spraying it with cleaner, use a soft cloth to gently wipe it clean, repeating if necessary, paying close attention to any crevices or decorative elements that might tend to harbor dirt. For a moldy address plaque, use a cleaner which contains bleach, and before wiping, allow the cleaner to sit for a bit on the plaque, to give the bleach time to kill and lighten the mold. Repeat if necessary and wipe with a soft cloth.
2. Rinse the plaque with water to ensure you have removed all dirt and grime, as well as any residue left by the spray cleaner.
3. At this point, if stubborn dirt or mold remains, spray it again with cleaner and use a soft brush to gently scrub away the grime. An old toothbrush works well for a small area such as this. Be careful not to apply too much pressure -- you don't want the stone's surface to become rough or pitted. Rinse with water.
4. Allow to dry completely. Just as you would never paint a wet wall or water-soaked piece of wood, your stone block must be completely dry for the paint to adhere properly. If it is a rainy or very humid day, save the painting portion of this little project for a dry, sunny day when you can be assured the stone surface is completely free of moisture.
Step-by-step Instructions: Painting
This is by far the portion of this little project which will require the most concentration and attention to detail, so I'm giving it its own section in order to provide you with exra tips and advice.
1. Start by pouring a small amount of paint into a small disposable cup. This makes it easy to hold the paint in one hand and the brush in the other. Also, if you happen to knock your paint over, if there's only a bit of paint in the bottom of a cup, it's likely it won't spill. However, do keep in mind that on a windy day, a small, lightweight cup could blow over or even blow away.
2. Use the 1/4-inch square artist's brush to fill in the larger, wider portions of each letter or number. Get enough paint on the brush that you have some to spread across a small portion of the number or letter, but not so much that it drips off the brush or drips down from the engraved (painted) portion of the plaque onto the smooth (unpainted) portion. The way my address marker was made, the white portion is smooth, while the engraved numbers have a rough texture. It took a bit of practice to get accustomed to painting this rough surface.
3. Once you've filled in the larger parts of each number or letter, use the smaller, pointed artist's brush to paint the edges and curves. The smaller brush allows better control in these more difficult areas. Go slowly and carefully, and realize it can be difficult if not impossible to get straight edges due to the bumpy textured of the engraved areas. Do your best to keep the paint within the engraved portion and off of the smooth portion. Keep a wet rag or a couple of wet Q-tips handy to take care of any small mishaps. Blot these off right away, before the paint dries. Over all, keep in mind that while the bumpy texture of the engraving might make your paint job look imperfect up close, from the street it will look terrific.
4. Check over for and take care of any spots that you missed or that need touch-ups, then allow the paint to dry completely.
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