Last Updated on September 10, 2017 by Dave Farquhar
We had a metal chair and table we kept on the front porch. My mother in law gave them to us around 2006, and around 2015 we gave them back. They were a bit rusty at first but usable. I repainted them to extend their usable life. It isn’t hard to spray paint patio furniture.
I spent $8 and about an hour doing it. They don’t quite look new, but they look a lot better than $8 would indicate. This is another case of my hobby teaching me skills that are useful around the house. What works on rusty Lionel trains also works on rusty patio furniture.
Before you try to spray paint patio furniture, you need to do some prep work. The first trick is to remove all the plastic parts that protect the floor the furniture is sitting on. Odds are, it’s rusty under there, and if you don’t do something about that, the furniture will rust again quickly.
Next, scrape away any loose paint and rust. I used part of an old credit card.
Finally, wash off any dirt and other surface grime.
If I were restoring a train, I’d also treat the rust. In this case I didn’t. If I have a problem in a couple of years, I’ll treat it then. Naval Jelly will remove rust, as will a product Auto Zone sells called Evaporust.
If I really wanted the chairs to look brand spanking new, I’d sand all the rusted areas, then fill in any pits with Bondo putty. I wasn’t that ambitious, since the pitted areas aren’t all that visible.
Spray painting the rusty patio furniture
Once the items were clean, it was time to spray paint patio furniture. First I applied a generous coat of white Rustoleum Painter’s Touch primer. I like Painter’s Touch better than regular Rustoleum. It seems less prone to drip and run. A can costs around $4.
Rustoleum is supposed to be able to penetrate rust and keep it from spreading. It seemed to work for me.
I do think it’s best to go with a brand name like Rustoleum or Krylon, especially for the primer. A good primer makes any paint stick better. But I generally have fewer problems with Rustoleum and Krylon than I do with cheaper brands, and the outdoors can be a harsh environment.
I let the primer dry for 30 minutes, per the instructions on the can. Painting a rocking chair and a table required the entire can of primer.
For a top coat, I used Krylon. It’s usually better to use the same brand of primer and topcoat, but I’ve used Krylon and Painter’s Touch together before without problems. I applied two thin coats of the Krylon, about 10 minutes apart. Two thin coats always looks better than one thick coat. It dries much faster and is less prone to run. Then I went over any spots where bare metal was still visible as necessary.
For best results I should have done it all in daylight, but I didn’t have enough daylight left. The chairs still looked OK. Letting the furniture dry in the hot noon sun would have given a more durable finish.
After letting the paint dry, I put all the plastic parts back on and put them back on the porch. That’s all it takes to spray paint patio furniture, but I have a total of 20 spray painting tips if you want them.
Typically when I spray paint patio furniture and other outdoor items, they look good for about five years before I need to repaint them again. That’s not bad. If they aren’t exposed to direct sunlight, they can last longer. I give metal mailboxes the same treatment.
Repainting patio furniture is cheaper than buying new furniture, and my paint job will probably look good about as long as new furniture would. Maybe longer.
I prefer metal for things like outdoor furniture and mailboxes over plastic because it’s easier to fix metal if it breaks (modern plastics are extremely difficult to glue), and it’s much easier to get paint to stick to metal than to modern plastics. Metal may exhibit problems sooner than plastic will, but you can keep treating and repainting metal. Once plastic breaks or starts looking unpresentable, there’s not much you can do for it.
When the door broke on my plastic mailbox, I fixed it, but within a week it broke again. The secondhand metal one I replaced it with has been trouble-free. But if the door ever does break, I can fix it with some thin metal (perhaps even salvaged from a coffee can), some JB Weld, and a bit of Bondo to smooth over any rough edges.
And if a leg ever breaks off the table or chair, I can straighten the pieces, drill a hole in the center of the two pieces (insert the pieces into a piece of K&S tubing, then telescope a smaller piece of K&S tubing in to hold the drill bit center), then insert a bit of K&S rod for strength, then glue the assembly back together with JB Weld. Smooth the rough edges with Bondo, then repaint, and nobody will ever know. The repaired piece will be stronger than it was originally.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.