Refinishing Kitchen Chairs and Stools

A little time and elbow grease will help give tired chairs a fresh look.

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Refinishing kitchen chairs and stools can give new life to old furniture.

So you've got some kitchen chairs that are sturdy and made in a style you like, but the finish leaves a little to be desired? No worries. Refinishing kitchen chairs and stools can transform them into furniture pieces you'll be proud to have in your home.


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Wood, metal, even plastic chairs can be refinished, if you know the proper tool and paints to use. The most common type of chair to refinish, and perhaps the easiest, is wood. If your chairs are sturdy but just need a fresh look, you can strip them to the bare wood and either paint them or stain and seal them to allow the natural beauty of the wood to show. You'll need to clean and sand the wood, then apply a stripping agent to dissolve the remaining paint or stain. Then, after cleaning off the stripping chemicals, you'll apply stain and sealer, according to the package directions. If you've decided to paint your chairs, apply a primer then 2-3 coats of paint in your chosen color.

If you're refinishing a metal chair, you may have rust that needs to be removed. This will often be the case with cast iron chairs, as these are more likely to rust than aluminum or steel. To clean the chairs, use a metal polish such as Noxon, which is available at most hardware stores. You can wipe down your chair with this ammonia-based polish, and gently scrape where the rust is easy to remove. Avoid scrubbing the pieces with steel wool, as that can leave tiny scratches in the metal and invite further oxidation. You can use bronze or brass wool, which is softer than steel wool.

If you want to paint your newly clean metal chairs, you'll need to prepare them first by giving them a good washing to remove any oily residue that has accumulated, then roughing up the metal so that the paint will adhere to the surface. If your chairs are assembled with screws, you'll need to take the pieces apart and remove the cushions, so the spray paint will cover all of the nooks and crannies. Spray with a primer first, even if the paint you'll be using has primer. This will keep you from having to use several cans of paint. Expect to apply at least two coats, letting the paint dry completely between treatments.

You can also paint plastic chairs. Clean the chairs first, then use a fine-grit sand paper to rough up the glossy surface. After wiping away the grit, use an enamel spray paint that has been formulated for use on plastic. Apply two to three thin coats of the paint, allowing about an hour to dry between each coat, following instructions on the can.


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