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How to Paint Metal Patio Furniture with Spray Paint

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Learn the affordable way to transform the look of old, worn patio furniture with this step-by-step tutorial for how to paint metal patio furniture!

This post was originally published on May 8, 2017 but has since been updated to include more detailed and printable instructions.

If you’re looking to update your patio space on a budget, don’t overlook your old patio furniture!

Paint is a super cheap (and easy!) way to give that furniture a face-lift and have it serving you and your family for many more years.

With these instructions, as well as 10 tips for spray painting metal patio furniture, you’ll have that furniture revamped in no time, without breaking the bank!

We recently started our backyard makeover, and so this weekend, while Chris was busy cleaning up the landscaping, I gave our old, hand-me-down patio furniture a simple, DIY refresh for under $20.

I love how it turned out and am really excited to share the project with you!

Here’s how the furniture looked when we brought it home last weekend:

Patio Refresh

It is a lovely, metal set from World Market, but after sitting out in the weather all winter (and here it’s been raining for like 6 months…) they were definitely needing a bit of a face lift.

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the cushion covers were really dirty and the metal frames were starting to fade.

Since we don’t have a huge budget for this makeover I decided to try washing the cushion covers and see if they would clean up well enough to still use.

Luckily, after two bleach soaks and two intense washes, they cleaned up nicely.

As for the frames, I knew I was going to spray paint them, but it wasn’t until I found these fabulous pillows at Tuesday Morning that I decided to do the chairs in a bright color. (The love seat will get a fresh coat of black paint and it’s on my to-do list for this week.)

Patio Refresh

Aren’t they splendid? And only $11.99 each! What a steal. 😉

I think I’ve decided they will be my color palette for the entire deck makeover.

The light blue matches our exterior house color and the darker blue is almost the exact color of our trim that I’m also using to paint the deck.

Anyway, I took this pillow with me to the hardware store to pick a bright color paint for the chairs and I initially thought I wanted to paint them a coral or red color, but my husband convinced me to do this Key Lime color from Rustoleum and I’m so glad I listed to him, because the color is fantastic!

I hope these tips teach you how to paint metal patio furniture and give your set a nice update on a budget too!

Best Spray Paint for Metal

The first step to painting your outdoor patio furniture is deciding on what paint to get.

When it comes to painting metal patio furniture, spray paint is definitely one of the best ways to go.

Hand painting furniture takes a lot more time and it’s difficult to get a nice, smooth finish.

Type of Paint

In terms of what type of spray paint, I recommend getting one with a paint and primer in one.

While you’ll still need to do two coats of paint, the benefit to having the primer in with the paint is that both coats are the same color and so your small imperfections or missed spots will likely blend right in.

Paint Sheen

In addition, you have to consider the sheen you want. I typically like high-gloss because it cleans easier but it also shows more imperfections. If you’re worried about having to touch up paint later down the line, then matte might be better for you.

Honestly, in terms of metal patio furniture, I recommend you get the sheen that best aligns with the LOOK you want. Do you want the furniture to be shiny (gloss) or not (matte)? Or maybe a bit in the middle (satin)?

Paint Brand

My favorite paint for projects like these is Rustoleum Painters Touch 2x. It covers extremely well and dries nice and flat.

How to Prep Metal Patio Furniture for Painting

The most important part of the spray painting process is the prep work.

Don’t skip this step!

1. Wash with Soap

Begin by giving your patio furniture a nice wash-down with soap and water.

You’re really just looking to get any grime off of them before you start working.

If your furniture is REALLY dirty, you could use a higher powered cleaner like TSP for this step.

After you’re finished, be sure they’re nice and dry before moving on to the next step.

2. Remove Chipping Paint

If your furniture has an large chips in the paint, or pieces of paint barely attached to them, use a wire brush or medium grit sand paper to remove the loose paint.

You don’t want any spots with paint that could easily peel off after you’ve painted.

3. Lightly Sand

Next, you want to lightly sand each of the pieces with a low-grit sand paper.

Make sure you get the entire surface, including all of the edges.

You’re not looking to take off any of the old paint, you’re just giving the surface a semi-rough texture so the paint can better adhere.

4. Final Wipe-Down

Lastly, give your furniture a thorough wipe-down with a clean rag to remove all the dust.

If you have a furniture with a lot of small details, you can use an air hose attached to a compressor to spray the dust off of them too.

The key is you want the surface to be as clean as possible before you start spray painting.

Patio Furniture Refresh

5. Prime over Rust

If your metal patio furniture is extremely rusty, you may consider priming it with a rust-covering primer first. I recommend Rustoleum’s Rust Reformer.

This step will ensure the rust doesn’t damage your paint when you spray over the top of it!

How to Paint Patio Furniture with Spray Paint

For a printable copy of the materials and instructions, scroll down.

Materials & Tools:

Step-by-Step Instructions:

Step 1: Prepare the Furniture

The first step is what we described above – prepping the metal for paint. Be sure you go through those 5 steps to clean, remove chips, sand, wipe down and prime (if needed.)

Step 2: Set Up your Painting Area

Spray paint can definitely make a mess if you don’t do it in an area prepared for it, so make sure you set up an adequate area before you start going!

The first thing to consider is what you’ll set your furniture on top of. Whatever this is, it WILL get a fair amount of paint on it.

You can use plastic tarps, cardboard, drop cloths, whatever you don’t mind getting painted.

When I’m painting old metal patio furniture, I typically use just painter’s plastic when they’re upright and then add some cardboard when they’re turned upside down to protect the tops from sticking to the plastic and peeling paint off.

Also, I like to spray paint my furniture on top of our grass since I know any overspray will get cut off in the near future.

The next thing you need to consider is “overspray” – this is the paint that will inevitably get into the air and could blow onto surrounding items.

If you’re painting outside, the plants are too big an issue, but things like vehicles should be moved away from your painting area.

You can also use a painting tent to keep the overspray contained if you’re in an area where you can’t give yourself a lot of room.

Step 3: Paint the Top

Now that your furniture and area are prepped, it’s time to get painting!

Start by setting your furniture up-right on top of your plastic.

Spray everything you can see from this angle with your spray paint.

Patio Furniture Refresh

Spray Painting Tips:

  • Shake the can for a full minute before starting and then around 20 seconds every so often. This keeps the paint mixed and gives you a nicer color coat.
  • Spray in short, side-to-side or up-and-down motions, letting up on the button at the transition of direction. Being methodical about how you apply the paint will give you a cleaner and more uniform coat.
  • Don’t overpaint the first coat. Go slow and steady and just give it a decent (but maybe not completely covered) coat. You don’t want to put so much paint on it that it ends up dripping.
  • Keep the spray can at least 8″ away. It seems like too far in the moment (because it doesn’t drench the metal furniture in paint) but keeping this distance will help you not overpaint and give it the light coat it needs.
  • Resist the urge to repaint areas again before it dries. This is CRITICAL if you want to avoid drips! Giving them a second coat of paint while it’s still wet will almost always cause the paint to drip.

After you’ve applied a first coat on the top of your furniture, let it dry completely (check the paint can for this duration) and then move on to the next step.

Step 4: Paint the Bottom

Turn your furniture upside down and, using the same painting technique as described above, paint a coat on the underside.

I typically only give the bottom side of my furniture one coat since it’s rarely seen when the furniture is in use, but if you prefer, you can give it a second coat after it dries completely.

Patio Furniture Refresh

Step 5: Paint the Top Again

Again, after the bottom is completely dry, turn your furniture back to right-side-up and give it one final coat of paint.

Patio Furniture Refresh

Step 6: Seal the Paint (Optional)

This final step is optional, but if you would like to seal your paint with a protective top-layer, I recommend painting over both sides of the furniture with this clear enamel spray paint.

This can be applied using the exact same process as described in Steps 3-5.

And you’re done!

My two chairs took 5 cans of paint (at $3.87 each that gives us a total cost of $19.35!) and with the dry time it probably took about 3 hours.

And now, after just an afternoon of work and less than $20, here’s how they look!

I also knew I wanted a white table or garden stool in my final makeover, so when I spotted this one at Tuesday Morning (with a tiny scratch on the top that got me 20% off) I snatched it up!

I love the way the vertical slats on the back look with the green paint. They really pop!

Patio Refresh

And the cushions cleaned up nicely too, didn’t they?

Patio Refresh

 Wasn’t that easy? And they look so fun!

I’m excited to get the love seat painted black and add in a few other pillows on it with blues and greens.

As promised, here are the printable instructions:

How to Paint Metal Patio Furniture with Spray Paint

Patio Furniture Refresh

Learn how to paint metal patio furniture with spray paint the easy way and give your old patio furniture an update on a budget!

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Active Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $20

Instructions

  1. Prepare the furniture by cleaning it with soap and water, removing loose paint chips, sanding them down lightly, wiping them down with a rag, and priming (if needed.)
  2. Set up your painting area by laying down plastic or a drop cloth and setting up a tent (if needed.)
  3. Spray a coat of paint on the top of your furniture and let dry completely.
  4. Turn them over on top of cardboard and spray a coat of paint on the bottom then let dry completely.
  5. Turn them back right-side-up and paint a second coat on the top.
  6. Finish with an enamel topcoat for added protection.

Notes

Spray Painting Tips:

  • Shake the can for a full minute before starting and then around 20 seconds every so often. This keeps the paint mixed and gives you a nicer color coat.
  • Spray in short, side-to-side or up-and-down motions, letting up on the button at the transition of direction. Being methodical about how you apply the paint will give you a cleaner and more uniform coat.
  • Don’t overpaint the first coat. Go slow and steady and just give it a decent (but maybe not completely covered) coat. You don’t want to put so much paint on it that it ends up dripping.
  • Keep the spray can at least 8″ away. It seems like too far in the moment (because it doesn’t drench the metal furniture in paint) but keeping this distance will help you not overpaint and give it the light coat it needs.
  • Resist the urge to repaint areas again before it dries. This is CRITICAL if you want to avoid drips! Giving them a second coat of paint while it’s still wet will almost always cause the paint to drip.

Our next major task for the backyard is repairing the deck where boards were dry-rotted and building out the corner that’s missing. Then it’s on to painting! Eek! (If you’re just joining us, see this post about the entire deck makeover process.

I did end up re-painting these chairs black to go on our gravel patio years later, and purchased these cushions to replace the older ones.

If you try this tutorial, let me know how it goes! I hope you are able to tackle how to paint metal patio furniture like a champ and get to enjoy your new furniture for many seasons!

As always, let me know if you have any questions.

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