Every tower in the United States that is over 200 feet in height must be equipped with proper lighting and paint to ensure it can be seen by pilots and others traveling by air during both day and night to avoid potentially deadly collisions. In addition, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) works with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to create tower paint guidelines that must be strictly adhered to

Read on to learn everything you need to know about tower painting, including FAA and FCC tower paint regulations and how to choose a good-quality tower paint that is easy to apply, is durable, and protects your tower metal from the elements well. 

FAA Tower Paint Color and Pattern Regulations 

To meet FAA tower paint regulations, a tower must be painted with specific paint colors applied in a specific pattern. The FAA states that alternating sections of white and aviation orange paint aid in maximum visibility of obstructions, including towers, from the sky. 

The advised pattern of paint application varies depending on the size and type of the tower:

  • Towers about 10.5 feet in height or less and less than 10.5 feet in width should be covered with aviation orange paint alone.
  • Buildings, water storage tanks, and grain storage tanks taller and/or wider than 10.5 feet should be painted with an aviation orange and white checkerboard pattern made up of alternating rectangles of the colors. 
  • Communication towers, poles, smokestacks, and other structures with greater height than width and the framework of tall storage tanks should be painted with alternating bands of aviation orange and white. 
  • Round water storage tanks should be painted with a teardrop-striped pattern 

Color bands painted on towers should all be equal in width and present in an odd number. In addition, if the tower has a roof, the roof and the first color band below it should be painted aviation orange. 

While typically, the majority of a tower surface should be covered with aviation orange and white paint, walkways, ladders, and decks do not have to be painted if the application of this slick paint would potentially cause a safety hazard to people walking on them. 

How to Choose a Good Tower Paint

When you paint your tower or have it painted, you want to choose a paint that adheres well to metal surfaces and that is durable enough that you do not have to re-apply it on a frequent basis as it chips or flakes off. 

For this reason, you should choose a paint that has good surface wetting and penetration of rusted surfaces if your tower has areas of rust and a paint advertised to have good galvanized steel adhesion. In addition, a paint with high-build properties will allow painters to apply one thick coat of paint instead of several thinner ones to limit the labor hours required for paint application and potentially risky climbs up and down your tower. 

Quality tower paints are often resin-based to aid in rust penetration and maximum protection from water penetration, contain corrosion inhibitors, and contain quality pigments, such as micaceous iron oxide.

Not only is micaceous iron oxide a paint pigment, but it also offers additional benefits that help tower paint provide an effective barrier against the outdoor elements. This form of iron oxide increases the chemical resistance of paint and provides an effective barrier against water and oxygen that contribute to metal corrosion. In addition, this pigment absorbs UV light before it comes into contact with the metal underneath and helps prevent paint erosion that can occur over time. 

Reach out to a professional if you have any tower painting questions.