Inside: Tips on how to clean, prep and paint vintage metal lockers or anything made of hard metal. A full before & after reveal with a supply list.
This project was a bit of a Hail Mary. Why? Because admittedly, we were cutting it REALLY close to Baby Go time. (Like uncomfortably close!) Truth: As I write this post, I am 40 weeks pregnant and still no baby. We might have a baby by the time you’re reading this… Such is the magic of my calendar and blog scheduler 😉 Truly, I felt like the ol’ blog needed a bit of a Baby break… and this project is one of my favorites of the entire year.
Here are the supplies you’ll need to paint metal furniture:
Here’s what we used for this entire rehab project:
- Stain sealing primer
- Rustoleum rust blocking paint
- Rustoleum Chalked paint in pre-mixed colours Linen White, Serendipity Blue and Aged Grey
- Nuts and Bolts
Once again, we teamed up with the folks at The Home Depot Canada and Rustoleum on this project. I’ve actually done a few ‘metal look’ painting projects before, like this metal card catalogue painted to look like galvanized metal, and I rarely shy away from metal accents like on these mint tables – but these lockers were a bit intimidating.
This is how they started out.
I snagged them online from an old auto body shop for a cool $25. TWENTY FIVE BUCKS!! Okay – I did buy my friend Dave a case of beer to deliver them to me in his truck… so $25 plus a case of beer. Not too shabby.
Okay wait. Actually, REALLY shabby. These babies were RUSTED some fierce.
Methods for Painting Metal | The Expensive Professional Way
We went through a few options in terms of finishes before settling on the method we used. We looked into sand blasting them – ummmm, can you say EXPENSIVE? And probably not worth it. So that option was out.
Then we looked at ways to sand down the rust and finish ourselves. Ummm… too much work with no guaranteed pay off. Plus, I wasn’t convinced there was a safe way to sand these down in a house or yard anywhere near a pregnant lady or a baby. So for Mamma-freak-out-reasons, we quickly ruled out sanding them ourselves.
All we really wanted was for them to retain their cool factor and be clean and a bit more organized. So, we settled on treating the rust and then painting them ourselves with the best option for paint we could find.
Methods for Painting Metal | The cheap diy way
That’s how we landed on Rustoleum…and we’re so glad we did. It is economical, designed for EXACTLY this purpose – where you have rust damage that you need to seal and cover – and in the end, it was a fairly easy DIY rehab. Plus, Rustoleum has just released their new Chalked line of chalky, ultra-matte, finish paint, which I knew would work well for maintaining the vintage vibe we were going for.
First things first, we cleaned the lockers thoroughly (and in some cases had to scrape some goo off with steel wool… I guess those auto body workers had mirrors in them!) and the entire front got a couple coats of stain blocking primer. While the Chalked Paint doesn’t necessarily need primer (like say if you’re using it on pre-painted furniture or another more normal surface!), we wanted that little extra layer of sealer, just in case.
The other sorta annoying prep step was removing all the ‘insides’ with a socket wrench. There were some hooks and shelves in there that were pretty tightly fused on with fancy nuts and bolts. Dan decided it would be easier to remove them, save them and REUSE them instead of trying to a) drill new holes through the metal to create new shelves or b) try to find matching bolts cuz these were weird looking and we assumed not-standard. So we spent the extra hour wrenching them out and saving them. A few unsavory words were spoken. But all is well. We saved the nuts and bolts.
Then it was painting time!
We did the inside with the grey, the inside doors with the soft blue (just cuz I wanted something purdy) and the outside in the crisp white. We ended up brushing on two coats of each colour plus a few touch ups here and there.
We waited until the very end to do the toe kick. It was the rustiest part and Dan had to flip the entire unit on its back to make sure he could paint it properly. But it worked like a dream!
The sides of the lockers were incredibly dented. We hummed and hawed and even tried to pound out the dents, but decided it wasn’t worth it. Instead, we warmed them up by cladding the sides with 1/4″ plywood! Drilling holes to match the previous bolt holes, we used the salvaged bolts to stick the ply to the lockers. Inside, we added pine shelves.
Once we are actually able to finish the floors down here, the wood and metal mix on the lockers will pop even more. I can’t wait.
For now, I’m using them for… All. The. Things!
Truthfully, I’ll likely use them for all my decor and paint things. They are magnetic, of course, so I can hang things on the insides – just like high school! LOL
I’m trying not to show off too much of the rest of the space down here in my studio. It is really coming together. I’d say we are about 65% of the way to completion. It’s been a slow, but very rewarding process. Next up will be hanging new drywall just to the right of the lockers. Off in the background of this next picture, you can see my wrapping paper station shaping up. It’s still in progress though. Meantime, I’m genuinely happy I’ve been able to review and recommend this new Rustoleum product to you. I think I’m most often asked about affordable options for chalky finish paint, so this is definitely one to keep in mind for your next project.
Here are some other projects you might like
Here are other great metal painting posts from around the Internet too!
- Simple steps for painting metal like a pro
- How to paint bare metal (Popular Mechanics)
- Refinishing rusty old furniture (Creek Line House)
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This post was made possible through a sponsorship with The Home Depot Canada. We were reimbursed for the purchase of products to complete this project. You can see our full privacy and disclosure policy here.