Caring for Antiques
Keep metal garden furniture in tip-top condition
Most old metal garden furniture is made either from cast or wrought iron. Cast-iron furniture, made by pouring molten iron into a mould, is bri!le and fractures easily. Wrought-iron pieces, made by heating the iron and working it while it’s still hot with a hammer, is more malleable, less prone to fracture and generally more robust. Both types of furniture are vulnerable to corrosion if bare metal is le" exposed to air and moisture. It’s also common to see accumulated layers of #aking paint concealing intricate decorative details, spoiling the visual impact.
To keep metal furniture looking its best, you should strip old paint, sand away any rust, prime and apply a layer of new protective paint. If the piece dates from the early 19th century – especially if it is made by a known manufacturer such as Coalbrookdale – it’s advisable to seek professional help before a!empting renovations.
1 If the paint is in reasonable condition, start by giving the furniture a thorough wash with a sponge and warm soapy water. Use a fungicidal detergent if there is any evidence of algae.
2 Remove all loose flakes of paint with a steel brush or scraper and a sanding block, as necessary. Wash thoroughly again, then dry carefully with a lint-free towel, taking care that all crevices are completely dry before painting exposed spots with primer and the final paint top coat.
3 If the paint is in poor condition, use wire wool, a wire brush or paint stripper to remove it entirely, wearing protective clothing and goggles to do so. Cast and wrought-iron corrode quickly if left exposed to air, especially in moist conditions, so make sure the surface dries as quickly as possible (use a hair dryer if necessary) before applying a layer of anti-corrosive primer, and a paint suitable for metal. (You can buy direct-to-metal, anti-corrosive paints in a limited colour range.) Sand gently between each layer of paint and leave to dry thoroughly before applying the next coat.