Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Porch Makeover: A Tragicomedy

My Facebook friends know that over the past week, I began a possibly misguided and maybe doomed effort to rehab this lovely French bistro set by Fermob. It was a freebie we inherited from Sean's parents, who have a matching set at home. It came to us with a little problem area:

This corner had peeled back and rusted (this is after I sanded a little bit). With that little bit of damage, plus a desire to bring some brighter color to our balcony, I decided to spray paint the set. I thought, "What could be easier than spray painting a metal table?" Answer: Many things. Myriad things, even.

I started my journey with a Google search, and read about every tutorial known to man, but especially used one from Centsational Girl. My game plan was this:

  • Sand the table, remove rust as much as possible
  • Find a way to patch the rough spot
  • Spray a primer
  • Sand again, with an extra fine sanding sponge
  • Spray paint in thin, even coats
But as you'll see....it didn't quite add up to perfection.

Per advice from my mother-in-law, I bought a tube of Bondo for about $3. Bondo is used to fill spots and scratches on cars, so we thought it would be perfect for the metal table.

I squeezed out an eensy bit, and used a plastic Bondo spreader to try to even it out, like grout. I then sanded it down. I have to admit, this worked well, but not perfectly. It was very difficult to not have a visible seam where the original paint ended and Bondo began. But once I'd done this step, I was all in.

I spray primed with Rust-o-leum's Painter's Touch Extra Coverage white primer. About midway through the can, I noticed it wasn't spraying smoothly...it was coming out in fits and starts, and I started to get a sore trigger finger. This is what most people would call a BAD SIGN, but what bull-headed me considers a mole-hill to climb over.

So I moved on to spray-painting red and um....that doesn't look so good does it? The combination of sore trigger finger and incredibly bad spray painting technique made the top of it look very uneven. I realized WAY later that I made the fatal error of not starting to spray OFF the object and then moving on to it, so you don't get those obvious start and stop places.

So. That's what I was working with. A constant, desperate effort, spanning several days after work (this was supposed to be a weekend project) of trying to get an even coat. Eventually I just called it quits and I think I might do one more coat, just for old time's sake, someday down the line.

It took me a few days, after that debacle, to work up the courage to also potentially ruin the chairs. Something I realized is that spray paint will NEVER deliver the same finish that powder-coated enamel will, so don't even expect it. Fermob sells touch-up mini cans of paint for $20 a piece, which is incredibly cost-prohibitive. So if you want to spray paint a piece like this, know that the finish will never feel quite as glossy as the enamel finish does.

That said, the chairs went MUCH better, partially because of less surface area and partially because of my new handy dandy tool:

I dropped about $6 (on a gift card, so it was actually $0.00 out of my pocket) for a Rustoleum spray trigger gun thingie that I spotted at Home Depot. It was SO WORTH IT. It eliminated any concerns about trigger finger soreness and allowed me to get much more even coverage. It also didn't get paint all over my hands! Totally worth it.

I primed the chairs with the gray primer, since I was going to be painting white and wanted to be able to see the paint as it went on, and they turned out perfect. Except one eensy little problem: I can't get them to fold now. Cue the womp-womp music.

All told, I still think the balcony looks better, especially with my little rug re-do (more about that later). The table isn't perfect ... yet... and if the chairs never fold again, that's a bummer, but I'm still happy with how it looks and I definitely think I learned some important spray-painting lessons. 

Allow me to share Amber's lessons learned:
  1. If it's going outdoors, prime it to prevent rust. And take priming seriously. I didn't worry too much about the underside of the table and you can TOTALLY TELL. It looks patchy and gross. (I seriously might suck at this.)
  2. Put down drop clothes and wear a safety mask. The dust particles get everywhere, so this is definitely an outdoor project, and you'll need a broom to sweep up the remains later.
  3. Buy the spray gun attachment. Seriously, it makes the job so much easier.
  4. Always shake the can first, and start your spray painting just OFF the piece, then move quickly across it. The spray gun thingie helps to make sure you're spreading an even coat, rather than creating thick and thin stripes like I did the first time.
  5. Allow plenty of time to dry.
  6. Be careful not to get too rough with your piece as you move it. I've already managed to ding the paint off in a corner while trying to move the table and banging into the wall. Seriously, I'm a mess.
So that's the tragic and kind of funny story of my porch re-do. I've learned I have the ideas to do my own crafts, but I need to work on my execution...sort of like a gymnast aiming for the Olympics. Gotta stick the landing, you guys!

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