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Hidden Treasure: Refinishing Metal Bed Frames

Written by Carla Hill on Tuesday, 09 May 2006 7:00 pm
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After the moving costs, closing costs, and the first mortgage payment, you may not have extra money for decorating, but a simple -- and cheap -- do-it-yourself can be change your old bed frame to new.

You can find old metal bed frames at garage sales, antique shops, and even in newspaper ads -- and usually pretty cheaply. The only problem, many have been painted hideous colors of yesteryear, or are in states of rusty disrepair.

But refinishing an old frame with a new coat of paint is really pretty simple, and inexpensive. All the supplies you'll need you can find at your local home improvement store for about $20, enough to redo any sized bedframe.

You'll need:

  • Light sandpaper (rusty metal will take a larger grade paper)

  • 1 quart oil-based paint (glossy will leave the best finish)

  • 2" oil paintbrush

  • Dropcloth

  • Ventilated room/garage

  • Empty plastic container (juice bottle with top cut off works nicely)

  • Paint thinner

  • Paint stirrer (usually free when you buy the paint)

  • Flat bladed screwdriver

First, make sure that you work in a well-ventilated area -- such as outside or in an garage with the doors and windows open. Fumes from paints and paint thinners can be dangerous if the products are not used correctly.

Start by wiping down the metal with a dry, clean rag. Remove any dirt you find. If the frame is especially dirty you may need to actually soap, scrub, and rinse the frame and then let it dry completely.

Next take your light sandpaper and rub the entire frame. Every area that you need to paint needs to be rubbed. Why do you need to use sandpaper? The paint that you will be using needs a readied and "rough" surface to adhere to. Just as you need to scrape a house before painting, you need to sand a frame.

Lay a drop cloth down under the frame. You'll want the bedframe in an upright position. An easy way to accomplish this is to lean the frame against two full cardboard boxes, but any heavy item you don't mind getting paint on will work.

Get out the screwdriver and work your way around the top of the can, leveraging the lid open. Stir. Now you're ready to paint!

Oil based paint seems to cover easily, so don't load the paintbrush up with paint, rather dip on a small amount and see how it will cover. If you need more -- go for it. But the less is more theory will eliminate drips. Work your way from the top of the frame down, so you can smooth out and drips that occur. Do the front of the frame, let it dry (for several hours), and then carefully turn it around to paint the back.

A good test to see if the frame is dry and ready to be painted with another coat is the "finger" test. Press your finger on the frame for about 3 seconds. If you leave a fingerprint in the paint -- or any paint transfers to your finger, the frame needs a bit more time to dry. Painting on dry, hot days will speed this process up, as will painting in the sun, or pointing a fan at the frame.

Look out for missed areas. If you sit on a bench or the floor when you paint, you'll only see the frame from one angle or level. Once you've completed a side, move around the frame, checking all areas for missed spots.

You'll probably find it takes several coats to cover the frame, but the result is well worth the time.

Enjoy your bargain treasure!

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