What Paint to Use on Metal?

Properly painted metal can extend the life of outdoor metal furniture.
Properly painted metal can extend the life of outdoor metal furniture.

Painting is a good way to improve the look of metal furniture or objects. You can paint a metal object after a thorough cleaning. Sand off all rust, or the rust will continue to deteriorate the metal after it is painted. In most cases, priming the metal first is a good idea. In some cases, you may want to have a piece of furniture or metal powder coated for durability.

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Although not always required, using a rust retardant primer is a good way to create a good,base for your paint. Primer and metal paints are best sprayed on in a series of thin coats. Allow each coat to dry before applying the second coat. Either consumer grade rust resistant primer or automotive primers will work well. Once the metal has been primed, you can apply your paint and be ensured a good paintable surface.


Rustoleum or Krylon are two common brands used for painting metal. If you prefer, you can use an enamel paint over a rust retardant primer. Although metal paints with rust retardants come in many colors, enamel paints can be mixed to match a custom color to better fit your color scheme.

Powder Coating

Powder coating consists of putting a powdered paint material over prepared metal. It's a new method that can only be done by a specialist. The specialist heats the metal, causing the paint to fuse to the metal. Powder coated surfaces are very durable and will last much longer than painted surfaces. However, powder coating is more expensive than painting.

Problems With Other Paints

Paints not designed for metal can have some inherent problems. Soft paints can scratch easily, thus allowing water to reach the metal and possibly cause rust. Porus paints can also allow water to seep through. Once rust begins to form under the paint, in most cases the metal will have to be stripped, sanded, and treated with a rust retardant.


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