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Add New Life to Old Metal Bar Stools

One way to give your kitchen a new look on a tight budget is to get some cheap metal bar stools from a thrift store or yard sale. Or you could check out your local Freecycle network and you may be lucky enough to find someone giving away some old stools for free. The only drawback of secondhand furniture though, is it has probably seen better days. It's likely you'll have to put in a bit of time and effort to give your stools a makeover.

Chrome bar stools are great for a kitchen counter or breakfast bar as they are light enough to move around and easy to wipe clean. However, if your bargain secondhand stools have been stored in a garage or shed for a while, chances are they'll be a bit rusty. Here are some tips on how to clean up metal bar stools.

  • Before you attempt to remove the rust, detach the seats if they're made of fabric, or if you can't remove them, use masking tape to protect them. The easiest way to remove rust is to use a rust-dissolving product such as Naval Jelly. You can apply this with a brush or sponge, but be careful as it contains phosphoric acid. You'll need to leave it for a few minutes to loosen the rust - follow the manufacturer's directions.
  • Next, use an emery cloth to rub off any remaining rusty patches and make sure the entire surface of each stool is smooth. An emery cloth is better than regular sandpaper as it's designed especially for sanding metal surfaces. Once all traces of rust have been removed and all the surfaces have been sanded, use an old cloth and a small amount of paint thinner to wipe your stools completely clean.Bar Stool
  • You're now ready to apply a sandable, rust-inhibiting primer. This comes in a spray can and you should be able to find it in your local hardware store. Follow the instructions on the can and take particular care not to spray too much in one go as that can cause runs and make a mess. It's best to apply a layer at a time until all the surfaces are covered. You'll need to be patient here. One way to do this is to turn each bar stool upside down, spray all the visible surfaces, leave to dry and then turn them the right way up and repeat the process.
  • When the primer is dry, if there are any runs or uneven areas, you can gently sand them off with 240 grit wet/dry paper and a drop of water. The final stage is to spray on a metallic paint to get a chrome finish, such as the Rustoleum brand. Again, you'll need to be patient and apply several coats. Try to avoid overspraying and making runs.
  • Once your stools are dry, you can replace the seats and try them out in your kitchen. All your hard work should make them look almost as good as new, and it's pleasing to know that you've given your kitchen a stylish new image for only a few dollars.

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Last Modified: 24 March 2020

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