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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, you can paint over rust. First, 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.

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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. The coat of primer will serve as a solid base, giving your new paint color something to stick to. 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. Conventional spray paints don’t need primer and work best for painting outdoor furniture made of wicker, wood and metal. If you’re looking to paint plastic outdoor furniture, look for a specially formulated spray paint made specifically to work with plastic.

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Use the Right Tools

Using the right painting tools for the right project can keep you from some serious headaches. When painting smaller, more intricate pieces of furniture, smaller brushes and rollers are better. A paint roller may be the best choice if you’re painting something and need to cover a large area like a tabletop.

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paint supplieskobeza/Shutterstock

Choose a Finish

If you’re painting wood or metal, it doesn’t really matter which finish you choose—whether it’s gloss, satin or eggshell—as long as your paint is made for outside use. Keep in mind that 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 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 apply at least two coats of paint or stain, although be sure to consider any additional instructions on the can. Don’t be tempted to apply thick coats to get the job done faster. Instead, apply thinner coats because they will dry faster and more consistently.

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choose paint colorSyda Productions/Shutterstock

Choose a Color

Your options are virtually endless when it comes to choosing a paint color. One easy way to choose a 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: find a color that you like and then pick the corresponding color directly across from it on the wheel.

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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

If you want 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 painter’s tape or masking tape to create a design on a tabletop. You can easily create striped or checkered patterns without having to do any intricate painting. Choose two or three colors to paint patterns.

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.