2 Crucial Tips to Refurbish Vintage Metal Chairs

Before we refurbished these vintage metal chairs.

I have been on the look out for vintage metal chairs for a looonnggg time. But every time I found some, they were either too rusty to salvage or the person selling them wanted a LOT of money.

Apparently, they’re popular right now in this mid-century modern craze!

I finally found some during our trip to the Round Top Antique Show. They’re not a matching pair, but I was still excited! I paid $45 each and it was my favorite find of the whole weekend.

How to Refurbish Vintage Metal Chairs: the Before Picture
(The before picture.)

This project was pretty straight forward. Refurbishing these vintage metal chairs was a simple 2-step process:

  1. remove rust
  2. paint

However, here are some things that we learned during this process that made things easier.

How to Refurbish Vintage Metal Chairs: the After Picture
(After: they look brand new!)

Skip the Sander


But sanding is arguably the most important part of prepping any refurbish project???

That is true.

However, these chairs had 70-ish years of rust and MULTIPLE layers of paint on them. My orbital sander didn’t stand a chance.

I wasted way too much time trying to sand these things down before my husband saved the day. We ended up using his angle grinder and flap discs to get the job done.

Switching out these two tools, cut our prep time in half!

If you are ever trying to remove yearsss of rust and paint from metal surfaces, I highly recommend this approach. We were able to bring these chairs to a nearly bare metal surface and this gave us a beautiful finish after painting.

Use an angle grinder and flap disc to remove layers of paint and rust from vintage metal chairs.
(This angle grinder and flap disc made removing layers of paint and rust so much easier!)

Use Primer

Unfortunately, this was a lesson that we had to learn the hard way.

We thought since we had removed virtually all of the rust and bought a spray paint/primer combination that we didn’t need to use a primer.

However, lead paint (especially red) is HARD to cover. No matter how many layers of paint we put on these chairs, an orange-y, pink stain bled through.

After about 4 layers, we did a light scuff sanding and added a layer of primer. And FINALLY we were able to cover those stains.

It would have saved us SO much time (and paint!) if we had started with primer at the beginning!

Use primer when painting vintage metal chairs to prevent bleed through.
(You can see the old red lead paint bleeding through MULTIPLE layers of the new blue paint.)

I absolutely LOVE how these chairs turned out!

They are a bright, beautiful addition to our back deck and the finish is nearly FLAWLESS.

These vintage metal chairs were a lot of work and hard to find, but they were worth the wait!


  1. November 11, 2022 / 10:58 am

    Your chairs look fantastic! I have been refinishing this type of chair too and I love them. How do you get the bottoms not to chip? Thank you

    • findingmandee
      November 14, 2022 / 8:37 pm

      Thank you! So far there hasn’t been any chipping, but I have noticed a little bit of rust on the backs. But we made sure to get ALL of the old paint off with a wire wheel/drill and the angle grinder with a flap disc and that made a HUGE difference.

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