Emily Winters: Refinishing The Patio Furniture

We’ve all had those moments. You know, when you’re window shopping online through Crate & Barrel’s clearance section in the middle of winter and voila, all of a sudden you’re imagining yourself sitting beneath a bright yellow umbrella in 80-degree weather eating a fruit popsicle? And then you click buy now without taking any real measurements of what you’re purchasing because there’s still snow on the ground and there’s no way you feel like getting up to measure the size of your current deck furniture because it’s way, way out back in the outdoor shed.

It can’t possibly just be me. In the late winter, during one of those cloudy-headed moments, I bought a bargain-priced outdoor umbrella knowing that it was of great construction and would add the perfect amount of “yellowy-wow” to my deck all summer long. Yes, it’s awesome, and it was a spectacular deal, but there were a few things I didn’t consider:

  • Whoa, it’s big. With a 9′ wingspan, it’s massive compared to the size of my current table.
  • It’s yellow accents are charming, and I love the contrast of its dark brown frame, but my deck set is gray. A dingy-weathered gray.
  • I can’t afford a new table and chairs this season, especially with everything new on the market priced high this time of year. Good luck finding a last year’s model, clearance-priced table and matching set of chairs in May, people.

Original gray deck table and chairs. New umbrella looks out of place!

My solution, after some head-scratching and deliberating, was to refinish the current deck set, to make it look a little more suiting for the big umbrella, and make it last another full season without looking old and ragged out in comparison.

Keep on reading to see the full overhaul! I think you’ll be amazed at the transformation.

My deck furniture is by no means old or in terrible shape, it’s probably only 3 seasons young, but having sat outside from April-November every year, it has taken its share of blazing sun and day-to-day wear.

My biggest ambition this springtime was to overhaul the entire set – the table and all four chairs – to fit in more with the nice dark brown framing of the new Crate & Barrel umbrella.

New Crate & Barrel Umbrella.

It started easily enough with the plan to do one chair a day (you know, keep it manageable so that it wasn’t in the dog’s way while running through the yard, and not overwhelming to me personally). Yes, both my pup and the neighbor’s dog were very interested in this project.

Getting started on refinishing the deck chairs.

I had considered that these chairs might be a little finicky to disassemble since they came straight from the manufacturer in a box almost fully-assembled when I bought it originally. Everyone’s outdoor set is a little different, I’m sure, but in this case, the only part I needed to disassemble was the plastic woven seat back and bottom. They were screwed to the frame quite simply.

My seat and back attach with simple bolts, but everyone's set is different.

The bottom seat ended up being more rigidly attached, so I removed as many screws as I could to expose the frame, and tried to keep the plastic seat out of it. I didn’t want to end up over-spray painting any piece of the chair, but was particularly careful when it came to the woven seat and back being over-painted (my thought was that they could become pretty saturated with too much paint, making them too opaque and not breezy and see-through, changing how the seats actually looked).

My chair's seat and back are attached with bolts.

Aside from using a screw driver to disassemble the chairs, the only other weapon in my arsenal for this project was a Rust-Oleum’s metallic Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint. Actually, 6 cans of it, which totalled just under $42.00 when purchased at my local store. That’s kind of a lot of spray paint, but considerably cheaper than the hundreds of dollars I might have spent on new chairs. I haven’t used this particular bronze color before, but the Universal Advanced Formula has worn well on other projects so I was pretty immediately decided that spending a little more on this product was worth the extra $1.50/bottle. Plus, it does have a nice metallic finish which looks a little more polished in my experience.

Spray paint for the outdoor table.

Spray painting itself can be tedious, but I exercised patience and applied several very thin coats, allowing each coat to dry before adding another layer. Inevitably, as soon as you moved the chair into a different position or a different light, more unpainted spots exposed themselves, so this was definitely not a quick project.

Even though I still see some gray spots in this next picture, it was pretty apparent after Day 1 that the finished frames would look amazing compared to the old dingy gray set.

Comparison: New chair to old chair.

It rained that first evening which made me cringe for a moment because “AHHH I JUST PAINTED THAT CHAIR!” but really, the rain storm was a good test, because the water beaded up on the new chair remarkably well compared the old one; maybe it’ll keep the structure from rusting over time and make them last longer than they might have. High-five.

The spray painted chair is notably more water-resistant, huh?

Fast forward to the next afternoon, and I went all at it. As much as I wanted to do one at a time, the weather was perfectly calm (which is perfect for spray painting) and I was getting anxious, so I engaged in an all-out spray down, gradually changing the position of each chair to reveal unpainted spots as each coat of paint dried. Basically, I spent the whole day looking like I was cleaning up after a raging party. I’m sure the neighbors were curious. And yes, the paint will grow right out of the grass since this time of year we’re mowing three times each week.

Mega spray painting day.

In the midst of working on the chairs, I also began disassembling the table and prepping it for painting. It was pretty easy to remove the glass top from the base, but impossible to remove the glass from the metal framing built around it. To keep things neat and clean, I covered up both sides of the glass with newspaper secured with painter’s tape so that I could spray paint the entire edge with ease without worrying about dirtying the glass itself.

Preparing the glass top table for spray painting.

The chair seats and backs were another step in the spray painting process. Because the back of each seat removed completely from the frame, I was able to lay them flat and spray paint over each piece with light, even strokes. I can’t stress the lightness and evenness of this part of the project; because it’s a fine weave, if you spray too heavily or stay spraying in one spot for too long, the paint will clog in the holes. Imagine trying to spray paint a window screen – it’s just like that.

See how one side is brown and the other side is still gray? I had to do both sides separately, but it’s proven effectiveness.

The woven plastic seats were easy to spray paint too. One side at a time.

Reassembling the chairs was the easy and rewarding part. I had saved every last screw from when I disassembled, so they went back together easily, even though I do look a little strained trying to perch the drill in place while Pete snapped my picture.

Reassembling the outdoor furniture.

How’s this for a finished piece? The seats and back panels were what I was most worried about, but they turned out really, really nice.

Finished chair, very clean, very pretty.

The set as a whole looks great, really. You’d ever know that it was an old dingy set. It looks brand new.

After: Updated outdoor furniture!

And as I hoped, it looks fantastic with the new umbrella in place too.

Finished set with new umbrella.

Anyone else embracing springtime spray painting and trying to make dated furniture last a little bit longer?

Catching the home improvement bug at an early age, Emily Winters is a now a devoted DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects she covers on her blog Merrypad range from painting a wall to building a deck, so it’s only natural she landed at DIYNetwork.com. You can follow Emily on twitter at @merrypad and like her on facebook at facebook.com/merrypad.


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About Emily Fazio 


I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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