How To Paint Old & Rusty Outdoor Metal Chairs

Because I like to repurpose whatever I can, I now know how to paint metal chairs. I recently  became the proud owner of some fantastic outdoor vintage metal chairs…..okay maybe not so fantastic.  They did have a nice design but they were old….very very old!  In fact, my husband found two of them abandoned in the woods and the other one in a heap in a metal scrap yard.  Not exactly my idea of appealing outdoor furniture, even for a rustic patio!

The good news is that they were sturdy…..probably because two of them had about eighteen million coats of paint on them!

For some baffling reason, I decided that I would tackle the job of trying to restore these babies into their former glory.

I started out very motivated and fully expected that I would get them to look brand spanking new…….

Keep in mind that these chairs were full of old paint layers not to mention quite a bit of rust.

Here is a look at them:

how to paint metal chairs

Yawza!  That wire brush setting in the middle chair is one of the brushes that I had to use in step one for preparing the chairs to paint.  Let me run you through the step by step process.

How To Paint Metal Chairs:

1.  Clean chairs and scrape/sand off all loose paint and rust.  I used a wire brush with a scraper at one end and also a good coarse sanding block for this step.  After scraping for a long time….too long….I decided that my plan for having chairs that looked like brand new was going out the window.  These chairs were too heavily coated with paint.  I did get all of the loose paint and loose rust off but you could see indentations where some paint areas were thicker than others.  I could have used a paint stripper but for these chairs it wasn’t worth the effort.  Instead, I made a change in the type of finish paint I decided to use.  At first, I was going to switch from a glossy yellow to a textured hammered steel color.  However, when I went to the hardware store, I found a different textured metallic paint that actually matched our cabin siding.  The texture of the paint helped to hide some of the imperfections that were left very nicely!

2.  After I scraped and sanded, I applied a rusty metal primer by Rustoleum to the chairs first.  This was to give them a nice paintable surface over the rusted areas.  The primer is a flat black.

how to paint metal chairs

3.  Once the primer was dry, I applied several light coats of my finish paint, which was the textured metallic.

4.  To protect the paint and completely weatherproof the finish, I finished off the process by spraying a couple of coats of clear gloss lacquer by Rustoleum on the chairs.

how to paint metal chairs

They went out on our back patio for now, which is the next project to be worked on!  I plan on adding some decorative pillows and a table and who knows what else I might find for that back area!  I know one thing……there won’t be any more old chairs!

Here’s a little look at the before and after:

how to paint metal chairs

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Creating rustic styling on a budget by giving new life to old things and using the beauty that is already found in nature. Read more about me.
  1. I was wondering if you left them that gray color? I can’t find any more pictures. We are in the process of redoing 4 chairs and a double glider and we are sanding and priming before we paint.

    1. Yes, the primer was the flat black and the finish color was the metallic gray.

  2. What was the brand / color of the textured metallic you used? These look awesome and what I have been searching for! Thanks!

  3. I love these old chairs..I am looking for a some. I just had a tornado tar up my farm on June 24th so right now I am getting ready to rebuild but I will be looking for some of these chairs to put in my yard and I would like to put a could buy my barn when it’s fine. I love your website .. thank you for all your hints 🙂

    1. So sorry to hear about your farm! I hope you find some chairs for your yard. Thanks for stopping by :).

  4. Nice job! As the owner of some old chairs similar to these, they are some of the most comfortable chairs on our front porch. One of these days I may strip ours again and take them over to our local car paint shop (when a special is running)to have that extra-hard paint finish applied.

    1. They are definitely comfortable! I’m glad I went through the trouble of refinishing them :)…although a run through a car paint shop doesn’t sound too bad either!

  5. Wow, that is so amazing!!! What a perfect transformation. I like that it was refinished and the rust and dirt are removed. I will share this information to my husband because we have three chairs that are in our stock room. This can be a good intervention for those chairs. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Glad you like them Joann! Good luck with your chairs and let me know how it goes.

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