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Painting Metal Outdoor Furniture Techniques

Katherine Kally

Transform your old metal outdoor furniture with a fresh coat of paint. Painting metal outdoor furniture is simply a process of proper cleaning techniques, followed by an application of primer and then finishing with one or two coats of paint and polyurethane.

Whether you spray, roll or brush on your color, painting your outdoor furniture will brighten up your patio.


Removing any rust, peeling paint or debris from your metal outdoor furniture prior to painting is the key to a smooth and durable finish. The best way to remove rust from metal is to go over the affected areas with a wire brush. This technique is a simple, but important, part of painting your metal furniture. If you leave rust on the surface, it will show through the primer and the paint, creating rough spots on the surface of the furniture. After removing all of the rust and debris, spray the furniture with water to remove the loose particles. Let the metal dry completely, and then wipe the furniture with a vinegar dampened cloth to remove grease and grime. Primer will not adhere to a wet surface, so make sure to let the furniture dry completely before you prime.


Prime the surface of your outdoor furniture with a primer specifically formulated for exterior metal applications. If your furniture has intricate designs, you may prefer a spray on primer as the application is easier than with a brush on product. You can find primers and paints for metal at your local home store. If you're spraying, apply a smooth coat with a side-to-side motion, beginning at the top and working your way down the furniture. Be careful to keep the spray can moving; leaving it focused on one spot too long will result in a paint drip or run. If you're using a paint brush to apply your primer, the best technique is to dip the brush into the primer, remove most of the paint by scraping the bristles on the side of the can and then brush on the primer with smooth even strokes. Removing most of the primer before applying it to the furniture will help prevent paint runs. You should let the primer dry completely according to the manufacturer's directions.


Painting your metal furniture is very similar to priming it, but the paint will go on more smoothly and easily than the primer. Make sure to use a paint formulated for outdoor metal applications. Select your paint applicator based on the design of your outdoor furniture. Again, spray painting is the way to go if your furniture has intricate curves, but you could also apply the paint with a small roller on a flat surface or a paint brush on curved legs or chair backs. For a mesh metal table top, rolling the paint is the simplest and fastest technique to use. Roll underneath the table first, flip it and wipe the top surface with a damp cloth to remove any of the paint that came through the mesh. Let the surface dry before rolling the paint onto the table top. After the paint dries, apply another coat if needed. Once you're finished painting your metal furniture, let it dry completely and apply an exterior grade polyurethane topcoat to protect the paint from moisture and other outdoor elements. You can spray on the polyurethane for a quick and easy finish.