One often overlooked way to outfit a beautiful exterior space is to bring pieces of old or unwanted indoor furniture outside—you simply have to know how to prep and paint it. Whether you’re repurposing a budget dresser into an ice chest, transforming an old door into a bar or turning a curbside find into an exterior storage bin, the possibilities are endless! While interior furniture doesn’t last as long as outdoor pieces that are made with treated lumber and exterior glue, you can get a lot of use out of a discarded indoor piece with the right treatment.
Once you’ve found a piece, simply follow these simple steps to prep and paint it.
Part I: PrepStep 1: Clean. Your surface should be as dust- and dirt-free as possible. We recommend a diluted solution of TSP (tri sodium phosphate) or dish detergent to help it along.
Step 2: Repair. This step is only applicable if your piece has any damage that needs attention. In many cases, minor wear and damage can add character to an older piece, so it’s not always necessary to address. Glue down corners where the board is coming loose and patch holes with wood putty. If your piece is in good shape to start, you can skip this step.
Step 3: Sand*. After you have a clean, repaired surface to work with, a light sanding will help create a better bond for the finish you’re about to apply. Clean off any residual sawdust before proceeding to the next step.
Part II: PaintStep 4: Select. Choose a paint that’s made for exterior use and suitable for furniture like Glidden High Gloss Trim, Door & Furniture .
Step 5: Coat. Your goal here is to coat every surface that would be exposed to the elements. You don’t just want to cover it, you want to encapsulate as much as possible. The more protection you can provide the wood, the longer your piece will last outdoors.
Step 6: Cure. You probably know it takes anywhere from a few hours to a few days to dry, depending upon the type of finish and relative humidity. But you may not know that your paint needs far more time to fully cure. So while it may feel dry to the touch after a short period, you’ll want to give it the time it needs to completely settle onto your furniture. If at all possible, store your drying piece in the garage or shed for a few days to a few weeks for best results.
Step 7: Enhance. After your piece has cured, it’s a good time to add any other decoration or enhancement you would like, including further paint treatments and decorative trim.
Part III: CareAs noted above, an interior piece of furniture will not last forever when it’s outside, even when all of the above steps are followed. Sunlight, moisture and temperature fluctuations will all contribute to damage over time. So when possible, using the piece on covered porches and patios will prolong its life. You can also recoat every few years or as needed. In either case, you can always give an old or unwanted piece of furniture new life outdoors while adding character to your space.
As always, safety first! Please refer to the Product Label, Technical Data Sheet (TDS) or Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for safety and detailed application instructions.
*WARNING! If you scrape, sand, or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. LEAD IS TOXIC. EXPOSURE TO LEAD DUST CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS, SUCH AS BRAIN DAMAGE, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD ALSO AVOID EXPOSURE. Wear a NIOSH-approved respirator to control lead exposure. Clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop. Before you start, find out how to protect yourself and your family by contacting the National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or log on to www.epa.gov/lead
Stefanie Schiada is author of the lifestyle and design blog Brooklyn Limestone. Started to record the renovation of a 100-year-old home, her blog also includes DIY projects, travel and entertaining.