A little paint can give an old folding chair new life.

How Do You Paint Metal Folding Chairs?

by Brynne Chandler

Metal folding chairs are sturdier than most other kinds, but that doesn’t mean that they’re indestructible. Weather, time and over-enthusiastic use can all take their toll. When painting metal it is crucial to use paint specifically formulated to adhere to that surface. Regular oil or latex paint will go on smoothly over a primer but it won’t stand up as well over time, so use both primer and paint that are formulated for metal.

Protect your work area with a drop cloth. A plastic tablecloth or old sheet will work, or use a painter’s tarp.

Scrub away any visible rust with a wire brush.

Dilute a healthy squirt or two of dish liquid in a small bucket of warm water. Dip a sponge into the warm soapy water and clean the chairs thoroughly. Dry them with shop cloths.

Sand any surfaces of the chair that you intend to paint with 220-grit or finer sandpaper. Wipe away all sanding dust with a tack cloth.

Remove the little rubber or plastic caps on the bottoms of the chair legs. Tape off any parts of the chair you do not want to get paint on with masking tape. Use a utility knife to trim the masking tape so that it only covers the areas you wish to protect.

Put on your protective gear. This should include old clothing, a painter’s mask, goggles and latex gloves.

Turn the chair on its side so that you can prime the undersides. Shake the primer can vigorously and coat the chair in long, even sweeping movements. Let the primer dry thoroughly according to the time recommended by the manufacturer.

Turn the chair on its other side and complete the primer coat. Let it dry thoroughly.

Paint the chair with metal paint using the same long, sweeping motions you used with the primer. Let the chair dry for at least 24 hours before deciding whether it needs a second coat. Let the final coat dry for at least 48 hours before using the chair.

Items you will need

  • Drop cloth
  • Wire brush
  • Dish liquid
  • Sponge
  • Shop cloths
  • Sandpaper, 220-grit or finer
  • Tack cloth
  • Masking tape
  • Utility knife
  • Painter's mask
  • Goggles
  • Latex gloves
  • Metal spray primer
  • Metal spray paint


  • Sand between coats of paint for a super smooth and glassy finish.


  • Never sand or use spray paint without wearing protective gear and making sure your work area is well ventilated.

About the Author

Emmy-award nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and varied cooking, fitness and home & gardening enterprises. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco's Bay to Breakers run, Chandler works as an independent caterer, preparing healthy, nutritious meals for Phoenix area residents.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images