Here's How: Refinish Old Metal Deck Furniture
Dear James: My old steel deck table/chair set has some rust and is discolored. I might be able to repair it. How should I prepare the surface for a new coat of paint? -- Yvonne G.
Dear Yvonne: Patio furniture made with steel frames can be very attractive. With the high strength of steel (much stronger than rustproof aluminum), more intricate and finer frame designs can be used. The drawback to steel furniture is that it will rust if the painted surface gets damaged.
Furniture often looks very bad, but it might not actually be as damaged as it appears. Much of what you are seeing may be rust stains below the damaged areas. Remove the cushions from the furniture and spray it with a pressure washer. It should not harm the painted surfaces where the paint is still adhering well.
There are two common types of rust damage. One is where the surface was scratched which you may be able to use just touch-up paint. The other type of damage is where the paint was not applied properly at the factory and entire areas will be rusty. This later damage will usually require repainting of the entire frame.
If the rust looks severe, probe at it with the tip of a screwdriver. Don't worry about pushing hard and damaging it further. When the rust has damaged it to the point where you can penetrate the steel, it is probably too weak to support the weight of a person and you should discard it. Another way to check it is with a magnet. Rust is not magnetic, so the magnet will not be attracted to a heavily rusted area.
Use wire brushes to clean off as much of the loose rust as possible. A large wire brush with a wooden handle will allow you to apply plenty of pressure over the rust. You will also need a smaller brush, usually plastic with stainless steel bristles, to clean the tight areas. You can find both of these at any hardware store.
Once you have wire brushed it, sand it with coarse and then medium sandpaper. It is important to remove all the rust because rust feeds on itself and it will just form again. A sand blaster, powered by an air compressor, is most effective, but it can be dangerous if used by a novice.
Naval jelly can be used to remove the last of the rust. You just spread it on the rusted areas, wait a while and then wash it off with water. After this, the rust should be eliminated. Naval jelly is somewhat caustic and can burn your skin. Follow its safety instructions.
Special primers are available which convert any remaining rust to an insoluble compound so it will not promote further rusting. These are not just rust-inhibiting primers. Several trade names are "Extend" and "Rust Fix".
The next step is to use a rust-inhibiting primer. If there are large areas to fix, just plan on painting the entire frame. Even on good areas, apply a coat of the primer to make the finish coat look uniform. Spray on the finish coat of paint.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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