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Restore Your Engraved Address Plaque in Three Steps: Clean, Dry, and Repaint
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 address marker looking fresh and new again.
- 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.
- A soft cloth for wiping and drying. A cotton rag or an old cotton washcloth is perfect.
- 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.
- Water. This can come from your hose, or you can even just use a large glass or two of water from your kitchen sink to rinse the plaque after washing it.
- Flat black paint. I used interior paint that 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, so I only used a couple of tablespoons of paint. If you must also fill in your street name or other details, you'll require a bit more.
- A small, square "flat" artist's brush (approximately 1/4 inch wide) with either a straight or angled edge. Brushes with stiff or rigid bristles allow you more control and so are preferred over floppy bristles, which make precise painting difficult. (In the photo above, 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.)
- A small, pointed artist's brush. Stiff bristles are preferred for this brush as well.
- 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 your peace of mind.
- A disposable cup. This is for holding the paint.
Step 1: Clean and Prep the Surface
- If your plaque is moldy, spray it generously with spray cleaner. For a moldy address plaque, use a cleaner that contains bleach. Before wiping, allow the cleaner to sit for a bit on the plaque to give the bleach time to kill and lighten the mold.
- If your plaque is simply dirty or dusty, after spraying it with cleaner, use a soft cloth to gently wipe it clean, paying close attention to any crevices or decorative elements that might harbor dirt.
- Repeat the spraying and wiping if necessary.
- Rinse the plaque with water to ensure you have removed all dirt and grime, as well as any residue left by the spray cleaner.
- 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.
Step 2: Let It Dry
- Allow the plaque to dry completely. Just as you would never paint a wet wall or a water-soaked piece of wood, you must let your stone block dry completely so the paint will 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 3: Repaint Your Address
This is the portion of this little project that requires the most concentration and attention to detail, by far, so I'm including some extra tips and advice.
1. Put Your Paint in a Small Cup
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 the cup, it's likely it won't spill. However, do keep in mind that a small, lightweight cup could blow over or even blow away on a windy day.
2. Fill in the Wider Portions With the Square Brush
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. Do the Detail Work With the Pointed Brush
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. Overall, keep in mind that while the bumpy texture of the engraving might make your paint job look imperfect up close, it will look terrific from the street.
4. Touch Up the Paint as Needed
Check your work and take care of any spots that you missed or that need touch-ups.
5. Let It Dry
Allow the paint to dry completely.
My Experience With a Faded Stone Address Plaque
During the 15+ years we've lived in our home, we have spent a considerable amount of time improving the property to meet our personal needs, 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 of 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.
Cast Stone Address Blocks Last Forever, but Sun and Mold Discolor Them
Sure enough, upon inspection, I saw that 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 it had even grown into the brick mailbox's mortar joints.
Is Power-Washing an Option?
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 that 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.
The DIY Alternative Is a Success!
I took a softer approach to cleaning the plaque, and I 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.
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