What Kind Of Paint Can You Use On Outdoor Furniture?

Summer's coming, but is your patio ready? If you're already pulling things out of storage and realizing that you're going to need to do some painting, have no fear. It happens to the best of us, and we're here to help you get your outdoor furniture in tip-top shape. We've consulted with paint experts on how to fix up your patio set and just what kind of paint to use on outdoor furniture.

Most people find spray paints the easiest and most durable for outdoor furniture. Be sure to pick the right paint for the material; whether your paint is metal, wood, or plastic, use a paint that is compatible with the surface. Enamel exterior paints are usually ideal. These strong and durable paints can meet the demands placed on hardworking outdoor furniture. 

Keep reading to learn how to prep your furniture for painting, what paint is compatible with each type of furniture, and how to protect your furniture once you're all done.

Modern patio next to swimming pool with outdoor furniture, What Kind Of Paint Can You Use On Outdoor Furniture?

How To Paint Outdoor Furniture

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Regardless of the material, you need to prep before you paint. This means cleaning it off - but don't soak it with water. If you do, you'll have to let it dry before painting. If the surface is wood, it can take forever to dry. Plus, water isn't that healthy for wood.

Instead, take a clean rag and lightly spray a cleanser on the surface. Diluted vinegar works well. Simply remove dirt and dust until the surface is clean and ready for paint. Then, sand lightly to remove any rust and roughen the surface. Even for plastic furniture, light sanding can help paint adhere to the surface.

What Is The Best Paint To Use For Metal Outdoor Furniture?

For outdoor metal furniture, always use a primer especially made for metal. It should contain a rust-inhibitor to preserve your hard work. After your primer is dry, apply an exterior grade enamel paint - spray paint is fine. Make sure the paint is also rust-inhibiting. 

Click here to see this primer on Amazon.

For the best results, do several thin coats and let each coat dry. Also, try to get the job done in one day. Sometimes, rusting can re-occur or spread very quickly if you leave the project sit. This condition is called flash rust.

Click here to see this enamel paint on Amazon.

What Is The Best Paint To Use On Outdoor Wood Furniture?

If your furniture is flexible wood with movement, such as wicker, you'll need to be sure to use oil-based paint. Oil paints have more flexibility and won't peel and crack with motion. For solid wood that has no flex, either oil or latex paint is fine.

In either case, start with an exterior primer and follow with exterior-grade paint. Spray paint marked for outdoor use is fine and convenient for refinishing outdoor furniture. Alternatively, you might prefer to use a stain instead. To compare the two, see "Staining Vs. Painting for Outdoor Wooden Surfaces."

A combined paint and primer like this one would work. It's available in multiple colors and finishes:

Click here to see this paint/primer on Amazon.

What Kind Of Paint Can Be Used On Plastic Outdoor Furniture?

As always, be sure to pick an exterior paint and primer that is designed for use on plastic.  If you make sure to properly apply plastic primer, you can get away with using any outdoor paint - even one not made for plastic. The paint is, technically, resting on the primer, not the plastic, and will still adhere.

Click here to see this all-purpose primer on Amazon.

Click here to see this plastic paint on Amazon.

What Kind Of Finish For Outdoor Furniture?

Wooden outdoor dining furniture with wooden flooring

Exterior paint is, in itself, a finish. Typically, you don't need another coat of sealer. But if you think that the piece will be under stress or used heavily, it doesn't hurt to add an extra protective coat.

In this case, you'll want to use polycrylic for latex paints. Polycrylic is an acrylic/polyurethane blend. Since polycrylic is water-based, it won't work on oil paints. It works best on flat paints - avoid glossy paints, as the polycrylic might not be able to bond and stick.

Click here to see this polycrylic sealer on Amazon.

For oil-based paints, the compatible sealer is oil-based or solvent-based polyurethane. Again, you can't mix water-based sealers and oil-based paints because flaking and peeling will occur as the two materials do not bond correctly. 

Click here to see this polyurethane on Amazon.

Can you use chalk paint for outdoor furniture?

Chalk paint can be used outdoors, though it may be too soft. Chalk paints tend to scuff easily, and outdoor furniture tends to take a lot of wear and tear. It's also worth noting that chalk paint doesn't actually protect the surface underneath the way exterior paints do. If you're really set on chalk paint, you'll want to be sure to protect the item first. For example, use a rust inhibitor on metal or an exterior primer on wood before adding the chalk paint's decorative finish.

Can you use acrylic paint for outdoor furniture?

Acrylic, like chalk, can technically be used with a sealant. Most acrylic just isn't made to be as durable as outside use requires, which is why you'll want to protect it with a sealant. You may have better results with an item called Patio Paint - it's acrylic paint but specially designed for outdoor use.

Click here to see Patio Paint on Amazon.

Does Exterior Paint Protect Against UV Rays?

The pigments in exterior paint do provide a layer of protection against UV rays. The surface pigment prevents the rays from reaching the material underneath. Clear finishes do not have the same protection. If you want to keep your furniture safe from the sun, use a clear finish with UV absorbers.

You'll also need to consider protecting against water if your furniture is wooden. Once water penetrates the wood, it can cause the paint to lift and peel, reducing any UV protection. Read here for "3 Methods To Waterproof Wood Furniture For Outdoors."

What Paint Colors Fade Faster In Sunlight?

Reds and similarly oranges and yellows are the most susceptible to fading. As the sunlight changes the chemicals in the paint, it begins to lose its color. Pigments can also react with chemicals in the environment, which causes fading.  This is one of many reasons why it's important to be sure to stick with exterior paints. Exterior paints tend to be of better quality and are specially formulated to reduce fading.

In Closing

Beautiful exterior view of modern villa with terrace with wood furniture for outdoors, 3 Methods To Waterproof Wood Furniture For Outdoors

When painting outdoor furniture, the most important thing is to always use exterior paint that is compatible with the material being painted. There are all-purpose primers and paints that stick to wood, metal, and even plastic. Or, you can pick one specially formulated for your material. With metal furniture, this is often the best solution. Paints for metal surfaces contain rust inhibitors, which keep you from having to repaint as soon.

In most cases, finish is not required. Exterior paint protects against UV rays and acts as a finish by itself. However, if you prefer an extra durable topcoat, use polycrylic for water-based paints and oil-based polyurethane for oil-based paints. Have fun and happy painting!

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