How to Renovate Adirondack Chairs

How to Renovate Adirondack ChairsIt all started out with a Craigslist pickup gone wrong. Dun dun dun! 

For months, I had been scouring Craigslist for two white rocking chairs for our front porch. I finally found two, selling for $75, so I arranged to pick them up from the seller. When I arrived (after an hour’s drive, mind you), he told me that they weren’t for sale after all. Actually, it was slightly more complicated; he was selling them for his mom, who decided that she didn’t want to part with them, yada yada. He was a very nice guy and visibly frustrated with his mom, otherwise I would’ve been more annoyed. But we ended on friendly terms, and I drove the hour back home, mostly bummed to have missed Brady’s bedtime for nothing. Back at square one. 

After a little more thought, I realized I should just refinish our adirondack chairs and accomplish two things at once. We had two adirondack chairs, received a few years ago as gifts, that didn’t age very well in the Chicago winters. They were in rough shape and needed TLC if they were going to survive. And, they could serve as our front porch seating. Win win! 

Here are the chairs before: 

adirondack chairs: beforeAnd after: 
adirondack chairs: after

Similar to any home reno project, the basic steps are: 

  1. Sand
  2. Prime
  3. Paint
  4. Seal

Plus special exceptions for adirondack chairs…

What a difference a little sanding makes!

What a difference a little sanding makes!

Sanding: Home Depot rents power sanders for $12/day, which I used when renovating this dresser for a changing table.

This time around, I went to three different stores without finding a rental, so I just bought my own for $40 (which I see online is now $30…drat!). The Black & Decker Mouse Sander is just my speed – heavy duty enough, simple to use, and it comes with a “finger attachment” to access small spaces. Exactly what you need to get between the chair slats. 





What a difference real paint makes vs. spray paint

What a difference real paint makes from spray paint

Painting: Don’t make the mistake I made and use spray paint. Spray priming worked fine, but I started to spray paint and it looked AWFUL. I used two cans and probably would’ve needed at least 20 more to get any kind of uniform, solid color. So I went back to Home Depot to buy a can of paint, and it looked better instantly. 

Sealing: I didn’t seal these chairs, since the paint I bought recommended against it. Actually, it said I didn’t need to prime, either, but I had already done it. Check your paint cans to see what they suggest for the best application! I was happy to skip a step after struggling with step #3. 





  • Sander: $40 (now on sale for $30; rentals available for $12/day)
  • Primer: $6 (turns out it was unnecessary with my paint)
  • Paint: $28 (I bought a gallon which was wayyyyy too much. Buy a quart or pint and save money)
  • Used my own paint brushes
  • Sponge sander: $4

 Total: $78. Huh. Should’ve just worked harder to keep the Craigslist chairs. Kidding! These are much higher quality, and it was a fun weekend project. Plus as you can see above, I wasted a lot of money. 😁 You could do it for as little as $26 (renting a sander and buying just a pint of paint). 

At last, step-by-step instructions. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below! Happy painting. 

Renovating Adirondack Chairs

Renovating Adirondack Chairs


  • Hand sander (rent or purchase - I used Black & Decker Mouse sander with available finger attachment)
  • 1 fine grit sanding sponge
  • 2 cans spray primer (I used Zinsser Cover Stain Primer)
  • 1 pint can of paint (I used Behr Waterproofing Wood Stain in white, colored with Sherwin Williams True White)
  • paint brushes
  • goggles
  • dusk mask


  1. If your chairs are cracked, patch holes or cracks with wood filler. Let dry.
  2. To sand:
  3. Sand entire surface area of chairs. This will remove any old paint or stain and smooth the wood grain if the wood has become rough and weathered. You will most likely need a power sander for adirondack chairs, preferably one with a "finger attachment" to fit between slats. I suggest wearing eye protection and covering your mouth with a dusk mask or respirator.
  4. Wipe off dust residue.
  5. To prime:
  6. Apply spray primer evenly over the chairs. Spray primers are easy and cut down on equipment, but a paint primer is fine, too. Apply to top and bottom of chairs, with extra emphasis on the seating area.
  7. The primer will make the wood grain rough again. Sand the entire chair again (it won't take as long this time around!) with a fine-grit sanding sponge. Take extra care to sand the seats and armrests, or anywhere else people will be touching, until they're very smooth.
  8. Wipe down dust residue with a clean cloth.
  9. To paint:
  10. Paint chairs using a larger brush for the large surface areas and a smaller brush for the corners and crevices. I painted the "top side" of the chairs and then flipped them over to paint underneath. When flipping back upright, make sure to touch up the areas that had been resting on the ground.
  11. Follow the instructions on the paint can for applying a second coat. Two coats will create a nice solid color foundation.
  12. To seal:
  13. Most projects have a final step of applying sealant. It wasn't needed for my paint, so I skipped this step. Check your paint can to see if this is recommended.
  14. Follow the instructions on the paint can before touching or using.


I would NOT recommend using spray paint on adirondack chairs. It's not thick enough to create a uniform color. Save yourself the frustration and use regular paint.

adirondack chairs: before and after

finished adirondack chairs

September 10, 2016

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