How to Refresh Vintage Metal Lawn Chairs

Lora Bloomquist
by Lora Bloomquist
3 Materials
4 Hours

Don't spray paint over all the wonderful time-earned character of vintage metal lawn chairs! Do this simple, easy refresh instead to embrace their colorful past lives! If you like perfect, you can always buy new, but these old classics look better showing off their age.

Using an electric palm sander and 100 grit sandpaper, sand the rusty spots till smoother. Sand around the edges and on any details to make them stand out more. Sand the body of the chair, too, to reveal any colored layers of paint. Work outside and wear protection.

Once you've achieved your desired effect, blow off the dust and wipe down with water. Dry quickly with a cloth, so rust will not reappear. Dry thoroughly in the warm sunshine.

Once metal is warm, brush on an outdoor, water-based polyurethane, making sure not to let drips form. Begin on the bottom side. You could also spray them, but brushing will provide a more even coverage and be thicker. Once dry, add 1 or 2 more coats. Let dry thoroughly in a warm (70 degrees plus) environment for at least a day.

Do the same for the tops of the chairs. The poly will seal in all the rust and bring out the beautiful colors revealed from sanding!

Whether your chairs have 1 layer of paint, or 5, it's fun to see all the years these classics have lived!

To keep your vintage metal lawn chairs looking their best, tip them up so water doesn't settle on them. Give them a fresh coat of poly every year or two to keep everything sealed and protected.

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Lora Bloomquist
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6 of 27 comments
  • Elizabeth Daniel Fulton Elizabeth Daniel Fulton on Jun 10, 2019

    Wish I had not painted mine now! Can you still sand them down?

    • See 2 previous
    • Lora Bloomquist Lora Bloomquist on Jun 19, 2019

      Right...that's why I don't paint them. I prepare the surface with sanding and scrubbing and then seal it all in with outdoor poly. I give them a fresh coat each season to keep them from peeling more. The rusty edges also look beautiful this way.

  • Sharon Sharon on Jun 16, 2019

    I have an antique 3 piece set handed down to me well over 100 years old. It has the round cafe table . It moved all over eastern Canada with me and we’ve finally ended up in central Florida. it is a beautiful coral, for now!!