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15 Tips for Painting Outdoor Furniture

This year, consider giving your outdoor furniture a fresh look with paint. Whether you're working with wood, metal or plastic outdoor furniture, here are 15 tips to consider when taking on this DIY task.

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Grandpa Man fixing a bench painting outdoor furnitureBudimir Jevtic/Shutterstock

Evaluate Your Furniture

Take a good look at your furniture and decide if painting or staining is even worth it. You can certainly fix a wobbly chair or repair scratches and dents, but if a chair is rotted or the plastic leg of a table is cracked and falling apart, it may be time for new furniture.

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Remove Rust Family Handyman

Remove Rust

If your furniture is metal, remove all the rust before painting. You can do this without chemicals—you’ll just need to grind, scour and sand off the rust with a tool such as a sander, oscillating tool or drill.

Here are some tips for using your oscillating tool.

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remove paintDan Kosmayer/Shutterstock

Remove Loose Paint


If you’re painting or staining wood or metal, you’ll need to remove any loose or peeling paint from both the furniture and any hardware before applying on a new coat. Try using sandpaper and a little elbow grease for this job.

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paint primer on woodBohbeh/Shutterstock

Consider Primer


If you plan to use brush-on paint, consider applying a coat of primer before you apply the color. Use a high-quality paintbrush or roller for a smooth finish.

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spray paint chairLevas/Shutterstock

Spray Paint Patio Furniture


If you’re using spray paint for outdoor furniture, you can skip the primer. However, to achieve a top-quality spray paint job, follow these tips. Conventional spray paints work best for painting outdoor furniture made of wicker, wood and metal. There is special spray paint formulated for outdoor plastic furniture.

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paintbrushPS.PeeM/Shutterstock

Use the Right Tools


When painting furniture, smaller brushes and rollers are better. If your paintbrush is full of dried paint, you can revive it with a soak in brush cleaner. A paint roller may be the best choice for a tabletop.

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paint supplieskobeza/Shutterstock

Choose a Finish


If you’re painting wood or metal, it doesn’t matter what finish you choose—whether gloss, satin or eggshell—as long as your paint is made for outside use. If you’re painting plastic, you’ll need a paint specifically designed for plastic to ensure it bonds correctly to the surface.

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backyard patio stuccoPhase4Studios/Shutterstock

Consider Climate


Depending on where you live, you may need more protection from the elements when painting outdoor furniture. Some paints have ultraviolet protection. If painting metal, consider using a paint that is rust inhibiting. Staining is also an option that holds up well to the elements.

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staining outdoor wooden furniture Freedom_Studio/Shutterstock

How Many Coats?


A common rule of thumb is to use two coats of paint or stain, although consider any instructions on the can. Apply thinner coats because they will dry faster.

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choose paint colorSyda Productions/Shutterstock

Choose a Color


Your options are endless when it comes to choosing a paint color. One easy way to choose color is to go with something that compliments your home’s exterior. If you’re unsure about paint color combinations, use the color wheel method: Pick colors that are directly across from each other.

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bright multicolored folding chairsKelly vanDellen/Shutterstock

Multiple Colors are OK


Don’t be scared to choose a few different paint colors. For an eclectic look, mix and match multiple colors. You can even use that can of frozen latex paint in the garage!

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remove hardware paintFamily Handyman

Remove Hardware


Before you get started painting your outdoor furniture, remove the hardware (if possible) from the furniture. If you get paint on the hardware, you can remove paint with a hot water bath.

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painting suppliesNatasa Adzic/Shutterstock

Avoid a Mess


To paint without making a mess, have all your supplies ready to go before you get started. Move any furniture or planters away from the painting area so you don’t get paint on them. Cover the area with drop cloths so you don’t get paint on the patio, deck or garage floor.

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paint outdoor furnitureBillion Photos/Shutterstock

Consider the Weather


If you can, paint in the fall or even during the winter when you’re not using the furniture. Paint may dry too fast in the summer heat. If you have to paint inside, make sure your workspace is well ventilated.

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duct tape Carolyn Franks/Shutterstock

Try Something Different


For a unique look, use painters tape or masking tape to create a design on a tabletop. Choose two or three colors to paint patterns.