Just about every summer my GeeGee would paint the cement floor of her back patio. It was always this glossy battleship grey. We kids loved it because when it was wet it was damn near a slip-n-slide – are those things even around anymore? There’s also a great family story about my Grumps once painting a car – with a brush and leftover house paint. Therefore, when I claim that I come from a long line of DIY painters, I’ve got legit street creds.
Back in college, furniture rehab was a necessity. I tricked out entire apartments with cast-offs, hand-me-downs, and rehabbed dumpster contents. Nowadays here in the middle-aged cheap seats, my fascination with fixer uppers is more of a hobby. It’s a genuine thrill to give something new life via a few coats of paint. Hubs once noted that I’d probably spray paint the cat if she’d let me. I’m always scourging thrift stores, estate sales, and yes even the occasional trash heap for old tables, rusty wrought iron benches, and used book shelves.
Before any wood lovers out there panic, I do have respect for antiques and I would never paint a piece that only needs a bit of cleaning and perhaps some wax or polish. My best gal pal Dani is a wooden furniture fan and I think she’s sometimes quite alarmed when she sees the spray cans emerging.
Over the years I’ve learned a few painting rehab tricks that I thought I would share. Please know that any products mentioned are not paid endorsements: it’s just stuff that’s worked well for me over the years.
Always look for good bones. You’ve got to look past chipping paint, faded upholstery, and a few scratches and dents. For example, I picked this entire patio furniture set out of a neighbor’s trash. It did need some work including lots of sanding to get rid of the flaking black finish. But after a little TLC this set now has a new home in my son’s backyard.
Prepping is key. Have I mentioned sanding? I highly recommend spending a few bucks on a sanding block (about $5, so not a big investment) or you’re going to end up with some bloody knuckles and a wreck of a manicure. It’s vital that you create a smooth, clean surface. Also, I’ve found that it’s worth the time to create a base with a product called Kilz. It comes in both a can and as spray paint. Make sure you give it plenty of time to dry – the instructions note at least 60 minutes, I give it several hours.
Sunshine and no breeze. Where you paint is equally as important as the prep. If it’s the least bit windy you’re going to waste a lot of paint. Paint in the wind, all we are is paint in the wind… you’re welcome for that little earworm. Make sure the surface is clean and dry and before you aim that nozzle at your target, test out a few sprays on the drop cloth. If the paint spurts or drips, it’s a defective can; exchange it for a new one. Trust me, this has happened to moi more than once.
My favorite product. Here’s another product tip: invest $2 and buy a spray can gun. This will be the one and only time I ever encourage anyone to purchase any kind of gun. A spray paint can gun helps distribute an even coat of paint and helps ease up on the hand cramps. Especially for us midlifers, the paint gun is a very handy tool when our hands don’t work quite as nimbly as they used to.
Buy extra paint. Chips happen. I rehab a lot of outdoor furniture and each season brings its share of wear and tear. The nice thing about painted furniture is that you can clean it, spruce it up with a few paint touch-ups, and you’re good to go for another year. Having the matching paint on hand will save you some headaches trying to find the same paint a year later. At about $4 a can, you can afford to have a few extras stashed in the garage.
Take your time. Slow and steady wins the painting race. It also might take more than one coat to get the finish you want. Don’t rush the coats or you’re going to end up with drips.
Here’s my latest little work-in-progress. Whatcha think?
Oh, and for the record, I was joking about the cat.
Are you a fan/member of the DIY tribe? What has been your favorite fixer upper project?
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