Part 1: DIY Patio Chair Makeover- Refurbishing the Chair Frames

Are your patio lounge chairs looking a little worse for wear? Maybe the fabric is worn, torn, or faded, or the paint is chipping and peeling. Maybe the metal is rusted through and they look ready for the trash bin! Don’t throw them out just yet! With a little bit of creativity and some DIY know-how, you can breathe new life into your old patio chairs. In Part 1 of this blog post, I outline the steps involved in rehabbing the metal lounge chair frames, and re-painting them. In Part 2 of the post, we’ll make some custom cushion covers with piping trim, zipper openings and a coordinating throw pillow! Whether you’re a seasoned DIYer or a beginner, these simple and affordable techniques will help you transform your tired-looking chairs into stylish and comfortable pieces that you’ll be proud to show off in your outdoor space. So let’s get started and give those old patio chairs a much-needed makeover!

We happened to run across these chairs just when we needed them! As you might have heard me mention in other posts, we recently made a cross-country move from Ohio to Arizona. This actually involved two moves, since we lived in a temporary rental home the first year, and then a second move when we purchased our current home. We had also just purchased some new patio furniture, but these were the last 2 pieces we needed to complete the poolside patio! Moving and buying new furniture is expensive! I wanted to save some money, so although these were pretty beat-up, I decided to take on the challenge. I assessed the damage, and aside from a little rust on the legs, the frames were in decent shape. Upon closer inspection, I found a rusted out hole in one leg, but did a little research and figured out how to handle that – we’ll talk about that later on in this post.

The chairs before their renovation. Very faded, flat and sad :(.

Step one – Make a plan and gather supplies

After deciding to fix the chairs, I needed a game plan. What color would I paint them? What color would I like the cushions? Do I just re-cover the existing cushions or do I cover new ones? For the paint, I decided I wanted them to be light-colored for two reasons: 1) the sun is intense here in the desert and dark metal gets VERY hot to the touch in the summer, and 2) we salvaged these chairs from our neighbor’s curb on bulk trash pick up day, so my husband wanted them to look very different than they previously had! This second reason makes me laugh, and that’s why I’m including it here. I couldn’t find the exact shade of spray paint that I wanted (to match our other woven wicker furniture), so I settled on a pale shade of driftwood. I also picked up some sandpaper, spray primer and epoxy putty (to fill the hole in the leg) while I was at the store.

I also decided to go ahead and order new foam cushions for the chairs. The old cushions were very flat and my husband thought they looked sad, even if re-covered in new fabric. I thought about repurposing them as the top layer on some new cushions, but they were actually too small for the chair once I measured it. They probably had been purchased as replacement cushions, and judging by their condition, had lived a full life. This was definitely the most expensive part of the project. Quality outdoor foam isn’t cheap, but it was necessary if I wanted them to last. Outdoor foam drains quickly to resist mold if they get wet, and resists breakdown from the sun’s UV rays. So I measured carefully, decided that I wanted 3″ thick cushions, and ordered the foam. While I waited for the cushions to ship, I moved on to the refurbishing the chair frames. I decided to paint the chairs first and then decide on the fabric color after I could see them done.

Step two- Prepare the chairs for painting

The first step I took was cleaning the entire frame of each chair with soapy water and allowing them to dry. Then I sanded all the spots showing signs of rust. You just want to sand lightly until the rust is gone- if you use power tools or a wire brush, it will most likely leave scratches that will show through the paint. Be sure to sand all rusty spots, even if they look minor. Take extra care to check at the bottom of the legs and near the hinges.

During this process, I found the rusted out hole in one leg. It had rusted through the metal and was pretty substantial on one side of the leg, and very small on the other. The leg still felt stable, though, since the corners were intact and it was only 2 of the flat faces of the leg that were affected. I did some research and found the product to fix this was an epoxy putty. I made sure to sand and clean out any remaining loose oxidized metal pieces to prepare it for filling it in the next step. Lastly, I set out large cardboard pieces under chair frames to catch the paint overspray.

There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza…

Step three – Prime and paint

This is the primer I used. Tried and true!

I used Rust-oleum Rust Reformer to prime the entire surface, even the rubber strapping, of each chair. This primer is specifically for stopping the formation of rust. I have had good experience in the past with this, as I had renovated a metal patio furniture set of 6 chairs when I still lived in Ohio. That set was even more rusted out than these chairs, due to the wet Ohio weather. After sanding, priming and painting that set, it lasted me another 15 years!! We had to part with the set when we moved, since we knew we’d be downsizing, but the chairs and their paint job were still going strong! The chairs had only required minimal touch up every ~4 years on any surfaces that got scuffed and allowed moisture to make contact with the metal. Also, you can paint the rubber strapping or leave it – either way works.

Here are 3 of the chairs from the set I covered in Ohio. I actually repainted them twice and changed out the cushion covers, too. If you’d like a blog post about these, comment below!
The primed lounge chair frames.

After checking for even coverage and allowing the primer to dry, it was time to spray with the first coat of color. The first coat always looks splotchy and bad, but resist the temptation to apply a thick first coat. This will only cause drips to form in the finish and will take longer to dry. Once the first coat was fully dry, I added a second coat. Because I chose a light color, and the primer and former metal color was dark, it ended up taking a full 3 coats to completely cover the frames. Keep this in mind when choosing your color as painting a third coat will add time and expense to the overall project! I painted the chairs as weather allowed over the course of a few days.

Be sure to use gloves, goggles and a mask when painting.
First coat will look splotchy and uneven – this is to be expected!
The underside of the chair with the hole in the leg, after a couple of coats of paint.

Step four – Fill the hole

Once the paint was dry it was time to fill the hole. I used a product called J-B Weld SteelStik. It is a steel-reinforced epoxy putty that was made for metal repair and jobs just like this. I followed the directions, and mixed the 2-part putty by kneading with my gloved hand until it was uniform in color and consistency, then began to apply it in and around the hole. I ended up using the entire stick, and it was just enough. You have to work quickly because it starts to set in 5 minutes, and only takes 1 hour to cure completely. I was really happy with how it filled the hole and saved the chair leg!

The filled hole! You can sand the putty flat after it has cured.

Once the hole was filled, I waited a day or two to allow it to cure and fully harden. Then I sanded the bumpy putty flat, and cleaned away all the dust. The next step was spraying it with a quick coat of primer. Once that had dried, I gave it a three coats of the driftwood spray paint, and voila! The frames were now finished! Hooray!!

The refurbished and painted frames are complete! Now they just need cushions…

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first part of this two-part blog post on refurbishing your patio lounge chairs with sewing and painting. With just a little bit of time and effort, you can transform your old and tired-looking chairs into stylish and comfortable pieces that you’ll love to use and show off. By following the simple steps we’ve outlined, you’ll have a set of chairs that look like new and are ready for a summer full of relaxation and fun. I hope you continue reading part two of the blog, where I’ll walk you through the steps of covering the new foam cushions for these freshly painted chair frames!

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