Can I spray paint my garden chairs?

We’ve published a number of articles in recent months that have focussed on ‘up-cycling’ old garden chairs and tables. However, whilst we’ve touched on it, one question we’ve shied away from doing a full article on is can I spray paint my Garden Chairs?

I suppose the main reason is that of all the mediums, spray paint is the most difficult to apply. Most of us are comfortable with picking up a tin and brush but a rattle can or spray gun is a little more intimidating.

So, I thought it only right to look at it in a little more detail, try and demystify the aerosol. After all, if you want a professional looking finish on metal, spray painting is one of, if not the, best options. 

If applied with care, it leaves a smooth, even coat, which simply can’t be achieved with the traditional roller, sponge or brush.

Lazy Susan Garden Chairs
So, in answer to the question of can I spray paint my garden chairs? The answer is most definitely a yes. And whilst I will primarily focus on metal garden chairs and tables in this post, I will touch on plastic and wood too, as they can all be restored, refinished and up-cycled with spray paint.

I want to also take a good look at the reasons why you should use spray paint, highlight the things you need to be aware of before you proceed, and look at the ‘how to’ with some of the different types of garden chair material.

The advantages of spray paint

First up, let’s discuss the advantages of using spray paint:

  • Finish
    Spray paint provides an even more professional finish. No need to worry about brush strokes, hard to reach corners/decorative elements and an uneven coat. 
  • Primer
    If there’s a need for primer, then again, it is much easier to apply a spray primer and achieve a smooth professional finish. 
  • Speed
    Once setup, you can spray paint a garden chair in minutes. It is much quicker than applying with a brush, roller, cloth or sponge.
  • Tough & Durable
    Spray paint is typically oil/solvent based and supplemented with additives that offer protection to the metal. It is much more durable than regular outdoor paints and that ease of application/even coat helps to further up the protection to the metal underneath.
  • Different Types
    Specialty spray paints can be used to transform not just metal though. There’s products specifically for application on most outdoor furniture materials, from plastic/resin and wicker/rattan to metal and timber. 
  • Quick Dry
    Spray paint dries much faster than brush applied paints and stains. The will often need 48 hours to fully dry with even the quick dry formulas requiring a couple of hours to be touch dry. Even without an additive, spray paints are often dry to the touch in 30 minutes, 1-2 hours to handle and be fully dry in 24 hours.
  • Easy to Apply
    With a spray paint gun or can in hand you can transform a garden table and chairs, no matter how complex or ornate the design, in a matter of hours. Of course you can do the same with a brush but to get a similar finish will take more prep and a number of coats carefully applied to avoid leaving strokes/marks.
  • Quick Clean
    Clean up is quick and easy as there’s no brushes to clean or buckets to wash.


The disadvantages of spray paint

Of course, as you’d expect, there are aspects of using spray paints that can be perceived as a disadvantage. I will of course share them now but I will also try to address some of them:

  • Less Colour Choice
    Compared to outdoor paints and stains (especially when it comes to wood) there are maybe not as many colour choices. However, brands such as Rust-Oleum have been keen to address this in recent years.
  • Cost
    Spray paint is more expensive per square foot of coverage.
  • Ventilation
    Spray paint requires ventilated area in which to work.  You can’t use it indoors. 
  • Drips
    Drips are tricky. I use my finger to wipe up drips, but they take away from the smoothness of even coverage.
  • Avoid Contact
    Spray paint is typically oil/solvent based, so clean up on your hands requires mineral spirits or really strong exfoliation.
  • Toxic 
    Spray paint is extremely toxic (therefore, wear a mask).
  • Trigger Finger
    Without a spray paint nozzle gun, your fingers can cramp.
  • Bad for the Environment
    Theres no getting away from the fact that many aerosol cans are bad for the environment. However, manufacturers are making strides in improving the levels of toxicity, etc. My advice, before you spray, please do a little research. The Greenest Way to Use Aerosol Spray Paint article by Networx is a great place to start.


Be careful… Lazy Susan’s methods and tips for applying spray paint

So we’ve looked at the pros and cons. If you believe the positive outweigh the negative and you want to proceed, then these are some of Lazy Susan’s top tips for spray painting metal garden chairs. 

And as I say, when it comes to metal, if you can get over the cons and are confident, spray painting will always give you the most professional finish.

Now this where the article takes a little detour. When it comes to spray paint most people just think aerosol can. However, the other option is a Spray Gun.

Now when I say detour, of course you can use an oil/solve based paint such as those found in an aerosol. But you can also use it to apply other types of outdoor paint.

Paint sprayers can be used to spray chalk paint, latex paint, primers, and even stain (yes, I've tried it on fencing, and it gave great results). 

In fact, I would probably recommend only spraying water based paints with them, as when I used one to spray oil/solvent based, the cleaning up was a nightmare. However, the fact remains that you can spray different products, so it opens up the possibilities further.

Now it is not for me to say which and what is best. That is for you to decide. I’m simply trying to present the facts her. Making that decision is done by locking off the following:

  • What are you comfortable doing?
  • What finish do you want to achieve?
  • What condition is garden table and chairs in?
  • What space do you have available to safely spray the garden chairs and table?


Answers to the above are achieved by doing some research and testing before you commit. Check that you’re happy with the method of application and confident you have the skills to get the desired finish.

How to “upcycle” garden chairs with spray paint

When it comes down the actual spraying, caution and preparation are key…

Make sure you’re in an open well ventilated space, and use plenty of plastic sheeting to protect that area from over-spray. It is vital the space is also clean and dust free, don’t spray outside on a windy day.

If using an aerosol can, it is all down to the shake, and lots of it. With a spray gun a new or clean nozzle is recommended. But with either format don’t be tempted to get too close or apply too much paint in once pass. Two thin coats is better than one thick coat where you up the risk of drips.

Always spray at least 15cm away from your garden chair or table, and move back and forth in a light, smooth, steady sweeping motion. Not too slow, not too fast. 

I will always test spray in an inconspicuous spot such as the underside of a chair or even on an old piece of card in case it sputters out of the can too. Even a new can or new nozzle can take a few sprays before the flow regulates itself.

Quality of product varies greatly too. Avoid a DIY own brand rattle can is my advice. Go for one of the market leading brands such as Rust-Oleum. By all means shop around and test but for me they have the best choice and their products produce great results.

My final piece of advice when it comes to the ‘how-to’, is to always wear a mask, disposable or otherwise. Many are highly toxic so read the product advice and don’t cut corners. It’s also important you dispose of any old aerosol cans in the correct manner. This is usual a case of popping to your local waste disposal site, where you’ll find a section for paints/toxic waste.

Spray painting metal garden chairs

This is a bit of a tricky one to put in words, which is why I started with the section above. The benefit of my wisdom if you like. 

I think the best way to actually demonstrate is to share some of the great videos that are available on YouTube, and the video below from the Home Repair Tutor would be my recommended starter:

It shows you how to refurbish metal garden chairs in less than one day. Taking them about 2 hours to get their chairs looking as good as new. 

The Home Repair Tutor advises you start by scraping the old metal paint with a wire brush and finish off with a random orbital sander to smooth out the surface. 

After the sanding, they wash down the chair with warm soapy water and a sponge. Let the chair dry and onto the painting, where they’ve also opted for Rust-Oleum and their Oil Rubbed Bronze with Primer

Spray painting wood garden chairs

Spray painting is an easy way of achieving a smooth, even finish on not just metal, but wood furniture too. 

Whereas painting with a brush, roller or sponge can result in drips and brush marks, not to mention the time factor, spray paint can give you a great flawless finish.

The method of application is much the same as metal, and prep is also just as important. The smoother the surface the better the spray paint will adhere, and the better the finished surface.

Again, there’s loads of great demo videos on YouTube. Start with the video from Tracie's Place below:

Tracie shows you how she revitalised a couple of old Adirondack style Garden Chairs with Rust-Oleum’s Painters Touch Primer, Comfort Grip Spray Handle (an accessory which basically turns your regular aerosol can into a spray gun) and their Painters Touch Ultra Cover Clear Coat.

Spray painting plastic garden chairs

Again, spray paint is another great option for plastic/resin pieces. In fact for me it is the only option. You can use a brush but brush marks are always most visible on plastic.

The big difference with metal and wood is you can’t sand, especially if there’s a textured surface. In this instance, primer is essential.

You can get 2-in-1 paint and primers for outdoor plastics, however, if you want to use a colour that’s not available for direct application to plastic, then apply a plastic-specific primer first.

My advice with plastics is to go for a matte or satin finish only. Anything high gloss I find is very difficult to get the desired finish. 

On trend is to go bold with the colour choice too. Bright lime greens, oranges, dark blues, anything non traditional can really make your pieces pop and add a splash of colour to your outdoor space. 

I’m a big fan of the Krylon Fusion All-In-One™ range, they have some incredible colours to choose from. As for a good ‘how’ video, start with the following from Robbie and Gary at Gardening Easy and take it from there:

If you're in the market for new Garden Chairs and you don't fancy spray painting, then our Garden Chairs: A Buying Guide article is a great place to start.