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Repaint old rusted patio furniture

Dear Ms. Builder: We have painted metal deck furniture and have neglected it for several years. Some of it is pretty rusty now. Is it possible to salvage rusted furniture and, if so, how do we repaint it? - Brenda H.

Dear Brenda: Your neglect is very common, so don't feel bad. There is no worse job on a hot summer day than trying to clean rust off of old steel patio or deck furniture. It is one of those jobs that always seems to get put off until tomorrow.

Whether or not you can salvage your furniture depends on how badly rusted it is. In your favor is that rusting problems usually look much worse than they actually are. Rusty water runs down and stains the lower portions making it appear that they are rusted too.

First, use the furniture as you normally would to see if it is still rigid and strong. Rusted metal has very little strength. Drag your husband away from the sports on TV and have him help you. If a chair is badly rusted, it may collapse when you sit in it. Have him prepared for the worst.

If everything seems sound, take a pair of pliers and gently squeeze on any of the spots that seem rusty. Apply enough pressure to see if any spots are nearly rusted through, but not too much to crush and damage a good area.

Another, less potentially damaging, method is to hold a magnet against the rusty areas. Rust (iron oxide) is not magnetic. If you feel no attraction of the magnet in certain areas, they are probably too rusted to repair.

Assuming you found some pieces still in repairable condition, the first step is to clean off as much of the rust as possible. Although with the new rust-inhibiting paints, it is not necessary to remove every speck of rust, try to remove as much as possible.

Use a large wire brush by hand first. This will remove any of the large loose flakes of rust. Brush hard. You will not hurt the good steel underneath. Use a smaller (one-inch-long head) stainless steel wire brush in the tight spots. All hardware stores sell these. Use a small file in very tight spots.

If you have access to compressed air, use a sandblaster. A sandblaster attachment is inexpensive, at a store like Sears, and will definitely clean off all the rust even in tight spots. Since you are blasting hard steel, you do not have to be particularly concerned about damaging the good metal.

People are often intimidated by sand blasting, but don't be. Do it out in your backyard. Wear safety glasses, gloves and a breathing mask. The white sand is extremely fine. Every home center store sells bags of sand. Scrub the entire piece with detergent and water when done.

Now with all, or at least most of the rust removed, it is time to start the paint process. This is a two-step process - 1) a rust-inhibiting primer and 2) a protection finish coat of the color of your choice. Oil-based primers seem to work the best. Make sure the paint can has the words "rust inhibitors" on it.

The following companies have very good rust inhibiting paints - Coronado Paint Co. (904-428-6461), Fuller-O'Brien (800-368-2068), Kurfees Coatings (502-584-0151), MAB Paint Co. (800-622-1899), Rust-Oleum (800-553-8444) and Sherwin Williams (800-336-1110).

As with any paint job, carefully follow the instructions on the paint can. People often forget to pay attention to the recommended temperature range for application. Also, be precise about the length of time between coats of paint or its effectiveness can be greatly diminished.

Tools and materials required: large and small wire brushes, small file, pliers, sandpaper, sandblaster (optional), detergent and water, spray rust-inhibiting primer, spray finish paint

Send your questions to Ms. Builder, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com/msbuilder.