The Right Way to Repaint Your Outdoor Furniture (So You Don’t Have to Replace It)

The Right Way to Repaint Your Outdoor Furniture (So You Don’t Have to Replace It)
Photo: aceshot1, Shutterstock

You need comfortable furniture on your deck or patio if you’re planning to do entertaining in the warm weather, but because they’re exposed to the elements, these pieces can wear out over a season or two. If some of your outdoor furniture is looking worse for wear, don’t run out to buy new versions just yet. Save yourself some money and freshen up your patio set with a coat of paint.

Prepare your furniture’s surfaces

When painting, the most effort actually goes into prep. Properly sanding and cleaning before you apply paint can make the difference between a flawless result and a mess. For larger pieces of furniture, consider a power washer for this part, but for smaller ones, some detergent and water scrubbed on with a stiff-bristled brush will do the trick.

If your piece already has a layer of paint, it’s important to remove as much of it as possible so that the new finish will go on smoothly, so start with a paint scraper or five-in-one to remove large paint chips and flakes. For wooden furniture, start with a 100- or 120-grit sandpaper, and work down to a 180- or 220-grit sandpaper. For metal furniture, use a wire brush and a drill’s wire wheel attachment to remove any loose paint and smooth the surface. Folding sandpaper over a screwdriver or file can help you get into smaller curved areas or cracks.

Finally, if your furniture is vintage — dating back to 1978 or earlier — you should test for lead and follow safe handling practices if any is present.

Some tools you’ll need to repaint outdoor furniture

After your surface is prepped, you’ll need to determine which kind of paint will work best for your piece. Since different types of paint work better with different types of materials, picking the right one for the surface you’re using will get the best results in the end. Your hardware store should carry separate paints that are designed for wood and metal and they should be easily differentiated, but ask someone for help if you’re not totally sure.

You’ll also need the following tools:

  • a drop cloth
  • a clean rag
  • some gloves

How to repaint wooden furniture

For wooden furniture, choose primer and paint products intended for outdoor use. While some types of paint claim to work as paint and primer in one, if you’re changing colours or starting from bare wood, a primer will make your work much easier. If you’re covering over stain or oil based paint, you might need to use an oil-based primer, but most of the time a water-based option works well and is simpler to clean up.

Once you’ve chosen your colour, you’ll need to brush your primer onto your prepped surface and let it dry overnight, or at least for a few hours. Once the primer is dry, apply brush on your paint and let that dry, too.

How to repaint metal furniture

For metal furniture, spray paint is a good option. It can often cover your project in one coat and will hold up well outdoors. Make sure to only use spray paints in a well-ventilated area and to use drop cloths to control overspray. Put your furniture onto sawhorses or blocks before spraying so you can get at all the angles and surfaces, too. That said, if you can’t do that or still need to turn your piece over to reach all the sides, begin painting on the bottom, then do the top so any overlap in coats will be on the less-visible side.

Hold the can away from the surface a little bit and paint a light, even coat to avoid drips. It’s always better to go back and do a second coat than to have to sand down drip marks and start from scratch. To make sure the paint goes on evenly, try doing a test patch on piece of cardboard first. You can also choose to brush paint on instead of spraying, in which case, you should use direct-to-metal exterior paint for best results.

How to repaint plastic furniture

Plastic furniture poses a challenge: It can be difficult to get paint to stick to a non-porous surface. One of the advantages to having plastic furniture, though, is it’s easy to clean because the surface is slippery and doesn’t hold onto dirt easily. Plastic furniture is also better for use in places where it rains a lot or gets really warm, as it doesn’t rust or hold onto water and won’t be too hot when you sit on it. It’s easy to see why you’d want plastic furniture on your patio, even if repainting it is a pain.

There are spray paints and brush-on paints that will bond to plastic, but roughing up the surface just a little bit with some 180-grit sandpaper will help the paint to really stick.

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