Outdoor furniture can take a real beating from harsh weather conditions. Let me show you how to paint a wooden rocking chair the easy way so that you can enjoy your furniture for a long time to come.
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I love this outdoor rocking chair from Lowes. For around $129, it was a bargain, so I ended up purchasing a set for our front porch.
What I didn’t know about our porch when we moved in, was how crazy the wind could get with storms. We’d have the whole chair blowing off the porch, or at times busting into the window screen and shredding it.
You can imagine how that paint job held up over time right?
By year four, they started looking pretty rough. I’m talking cracks, chipped, peeling paint and a lot of wear.
I didn’t want to spend the money for new furniture, and decided if I’m able to salvage these guys, that I’d take much better care of them during storms. I now lay them on their sides when I see bad weather approaching. Fingers crossed.
I’m no stranger to painting furniture and I’ve developed a pretty easy process. So let’s break down exactly what you need for this project and how to do it.
- Paint Sprayer (I used this one and love it for furniture projects)
- Drop cloth
- Electric sander or orbital sander
- Spray Shelter (This one from Wagner is amazing)
- Medium Grit (80 grit) sandpaper or sanding sponge
- Fine Grit (220 grit) sandpaper or sanding sponge
- Putty knife
- Microfiber cloth
- Krud Kutter or other degreaser
- Paint color of choice
- Wood filler or spackle
What kind of paint do you use on wooden rocking chairs?
While I’ve painted plenty of indoor furniture, this was my first time ever painting anything for outdoor use. So I was a little hesitant to settle on anything at first.
I really didn’t want to trust this project to regular old latex paint.
And the folks at Home Depot assured me this cabinet and trim enamel was perfect for outside use, so I gave it a shot.
I chose a satin finish in the color “limousine leather.”
I know, I know, I chose to go with another black color instead of spicing things up a bit. But if you’ve been here awhile, then you know my love of black paint runs deep.
Plus, I needed a classic timeless look and white would just get too dirty.
How to paint outdoor wooden rocking chairs in 5 basic steps
Step 1 – Clean your furniture
The most important prep work you can do before painting any piece of furniture is to thoroughly clean it. This ensures that there’s no remaining dirt or residue to prevent your fresh coats of paint from sticking.
I like to use a degreaser like Krud Kutter for this part, but I have an entire post of other options including natural degreasers here.
This step is pretty straight forward and only requires a clean rag to complete it. Simply spray on the Krud Kutter to cover the entire wooden surface and wipe off.
It’s that simple, and no rinsing is needed. You’re ready to sand.
Step 2 – Sand imperfections
I prefer to sand my piece before I begin making any repairs, because in most cases, a lot of minor knicks and scratches will smooth themselves out and not need filling.
You can use a medium grit sanding sponge for this process or an electric sander. I used a combination of both for those hard-to-reach areas between the spindles.
Lightly go over your entire piece, just enough to scuff up the previous finish and smooth out any rough spots. There’s no need to sand down to the bare wood since we’ll be painting it.
If you have any cracked or peeling paint areas, this is the perfect time to go over them and feather them down to a smooth finish. I like to use a fine grit sandpaper such as 320 grit on these areas.
The last thing you want is your old peeling paint bubbling up under your new coat.
Step 3 – Make any necessary repairs
Depending on the amount of wear of your outdoor wooden rocking chairs, you may find that you’ll need to fix and deep gauges or racks.
In this case, a simple wood filler will do the job just fine.
Once you’ve patched any areas and allowed it to dry, you can lightly sand over it with your fine grit paper to smooth it down.
Lastly, I like to go over the entire piece with a damp cloth or tack cloth to remove any dust particles that can get in the way of a good paint job.
And you’re ready to paint!
Step 4 – Prime it
While you can certainly get away with using a simple paint brush and roller for this job, I chose not to go that route because of all the tedious hard to reach areas on my rocking chairs.
I always recommend using a paint sprayer if you have one on hand. They’re very DIY friendly and it makes the painting process go so much faster.
Nothing beats a sprayed finish either.
I love to use my Wagner flexio 3500 for furniture projects because it comes with a very fine spray tip which allow for a very smooth finish to the paint job.
Not to mention, it tends to dry quicker as it uses less paint. And I’m all for saving time.
Here’s an important paint tip for you don’t aim to cover the entire piece of furniture with paint in your first coat.
It’s always best to do multiple coats of very thin layers then to try to apply it on thick and cut down on the time.
I applied two coats of primer with maybe just a few hours of dry time in between.
If I were using this piece indoors for everyday use I would recommend sanding between each layer of primer. But for this purpose, since I’m using the chairs outdoors, I was completely fine with just sanding down lightly with a fine grit paper after my second coat.
Step 5 – Paint it
The final step is to apply your coats of paint.
I ended up applying three coats. Since these were outdoor chairs, I wanted the finish to be super durable.
I did save time in between the coats by not standing.
I know that’s sort of a controversial tip, but I wasn’t looking for perfection on this finish and honestly, they came out pretty darn good to me.
However, if you want to get the best results and a super smooth finish, then I would lightly sand with a fine grit sandpaper in between each coat. This will of course add on the additional cleaning step to remove any dust, so you’ll want to weigh how important this really is to you.
You do not need to sand after your final top coat. Once you apply your top coat, which I would recommend doing it as your third coat, you’re finished.
You can let your paint cure for a few days and enjoy your outdoor furniture.
I found that this Behr enamel paint hardened up nicely after a few days, so I would definitely allow for enough time to cure before you expose your newly painted furniture to any outdoor elements.
I love how easy this project was and after a few storms, I can safely say that the paint finish has help up beautifully to getting knocked over onto my concrete porch. Although, I don’t want to make a habit out of it.
Have a question? Drop me a comment below!
In the meantime, you can shop my front porch looks below or in this spring porch reveal here!