How To: Strip and repaint wrought-iron furniture


Wrought-iron furniture. (Reader photo)
February 5

Question: I have a wrought-iron kitchen table and chairs with paint that is chipped and flaking. I read your How To column from April 2010 and considered powder coating, but that would cost more than what I paid for the set at an antiques store years ago. I use the pieces indoors, so I think simple enamel paint would last. But the design is too intricate for me to sand and repaint, plus I don’t want to use all that spray paint. Can you suggest a place that can strip the existing paint and refinish it?

— Bethesda

Answer: ChemStrip in Upper Marlboro (301-420-9112; www.chemstripmd.com) can do this, but it might not be as cheap as you want. The intricate details that make your set so appealing also make refinishing more complicated.

Stripping the paint with chemicals and removing any rust spots would cost about $160 for the table and $50 for each chair, ChemStrip owner Eric Whitesell estimated after seeing the picture you sent. “Every inch has to be pressure-washed several times,” he said in an e-mail.

He agreed with your hunch that enamel paint should stand up fine indoors, though for exterior use he would recommend powder coating, a solvent-free process that uses electrostatic charge to get dry paint particles onto the metal, reducing the risk of voids where rust could start. ChemStrip could spray enamel paint onto your pieces for about $310: $60 for the paint and $250 in labor. That would bring the total refinishing cost to about $670.

That’s less than the $1,000 you might spend for sandblasting and powder coating at a shop that specializes in top-quality, custom work, such as Dominion Powder Coating in Manassas (703-530-8581; www.dominion
powdercoating.com
), which was mentioned in the 2010 column.

But that’s not the only option. When customers can’t afford its services and don’t demand a perfect finish, Dominion Stripping suggests checking out American Stripping, also in Manassas (703-368-9922; www.ascoweb.com), which focuses more on industrial-caliber jobs. Michelle Corum, customer service representative at American Stripping, also took a look at the picture you sent and estimated that sandblasting the existing paint and repainting via powder coating would cost $140 for the table plus $85 for each chair, for a total of $480 for the set. And if you paid them just to sandblast, the cost would drop to about $275.

If you decide to do the painting yourself, you don’t need to spray. People painted wrought-iron furniture, by brush, long before aerosol spray paint became popular. Start with primer tinted as closely as possible to your final color. Working on one part of a piece at a time, use a mini-roller to apply the paint efficiently. Then immediately follow with a small brush to get paint into the details. Smooth the section with a few quick, long brush strokes. (maybe use a wider brush for this.) Then go on to the next part of the chair or table.

Don’t worry if you still see brush strokes; they will flatten out as the paint dries. Once you finish an area, if you see spots you skipped, resist the temptation to go back and touch them up. Instead, wait for the paint to dry. Then go back and touch up spots or add a second coat, depending on how many bare spots you see.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

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