Spray painted outdoor lantern

Outdoor light fixtures brighten up your property but their surfaces can become dulled by the elements over time. Freshen them up and make them look new with a coat of spray paint this weekend. Keep reading to find out how.

Step 1: Remove the Fixtures or Mask around Them

Before painting, you must either take the fixture down from its mount or mask the surrounding surfaces. It’s usually easier to paint the fixture if it’s removed, but if you can’t remove it or don’t want to, you just need to make sure you don’t paint the wall to which it’s attached or any adjacent surfaces. Pick a warm, dry day to tackle this project. Avoid painting when surfaces are damp, when the humidity is more than 80 percent, if the temperature is less than 50 degrees or if the object you're painting is directly in the sun.

If you will be taking the fixture down, start by turning off power to the fixture at the circuit breaker or fuse box. Verify that the power is off using a high-voltage neon circuit tester. Only then is it safe to remove the light fixture.

Safety Alert!

Working with electricity can be dangerous. Follow all safety precautions. If you’re unsure which circuit to deactivate, turn off power to the entire home. Padlock the circuit panel, if possible, to avoid anyone accidentally turning it on while you’re working or notify everyone in the home not to reactivate it until you’re done. Cover the breaker switch with a piece of tape for another reminder.

Make sure the circuit is truly "dead" before touching any wires or terminals. Also, check that your tester is functioning by first trying it in a live receptacle.

Unscrew the fixture’s mounting plate from the wall using a screwdriver and carefully disconnect the fixture from the mounting plate until you can see the wire connections inside. Unscrew the wire connectors that are connecting the fixture wires to the circuit wires and the fixture should now be free.

Remove the glass shades from the fixture’s frame. If you cannot or do not want to remove the shades, you will need to mask them before painting. Clean the shades with an all-purpose cleaner and water, then dry them with a towel and set them aside. Otherwise, use masking paper, cut to fit the shade, along with painter’s tape, or simply use painter’s tape to mask the shades and keep them paint-free. Remember to cover the ground or floor of your workspace with drop cloths or tarps. Choose an open area in which to work to avoid overspray onto surfaces you don’t want painted.

If you want to paint the fixture without removing it from its location, you must mask around the fixture to protect adjacent surfaces from paint spray. If your fixture is attached to the siding or brick wall of your house, cover the area with enough masking paper to protect the surface. Be sure the paper covers all brick or siding around the fixture and use painter’s tape to secure the masking paper to the wall. You will also need to mask the fixture shades as explained above, if they cannot be removed before painting.

Step 2: Clean the Fixtures

Clean surfaces with a vinegar and water solution (50/50) or use water with an all-purpose cleaner and a scrub brush or rag to remove dirt and grime. If there is mold or mildew on the fixtures, clean them off with a bleach and water solution or use a commercial mold remover.

Step 3: Remove Any Paint or Rust

Paint will not adhere well over rust, so the rust must be removed along with any old, flaking paint. You can remove both rust and paint using a stiff wire brush or an electric drill equipped with a sanding pad or abrasive discs. Emery cloths (cloth-backed abrasive sheets) can be used when there is minimal rust. A scraper can come in handy as well.

Safety Alerts!

Wear a tight-fitting dust mask, safety goggles, and appropriate clothing that covers your skin for the entirety of the project.

After you've removed flaking paint and/or rust, brush on a commercial rust remover. When applying rust remover, always follow the manufacturer's instructions on the label. After it has dried, wipe the surface down with a rag to remove any leftover dust or debris.

Step 4: Apply Primer

Spray metal surfaces with a primer made specifically for metals, such as True Value X-O Rust rust-inhibiting primer. For best results, apply two coats. When spraying, "back-brush" (painting over just-applied paint before it begins to dry) to work the paint into the surface so it will adhere better and any drips will be smoothed out. Allow primer to dry thoroughly for at least 24 hours. Primer does not always feel wet or tacky before it is completely dry.

Step 5: Apply Topcoat

Now it’s time to paint. Consider how you want the finished product to look. Aerosol paints come in flat, semi-gloss or high-gloss finishes. Also, take some time to think about the color you want and how the color will work on the fixtures and with the rest of your house colors, patio décor, etc.

Spray on a coat of True Value X-O Rust Paint & Primer in One. Hold the can about eight to 12” from the object you're painting and keep the can moving to avoid excess paint that can drip. Apply several light coats. If you've painted furniture or an appliance, let the paint dry for at least 24 hours before using.

Helpful Tip

For best results, apply a second coat of paint within 1 hour of applying the first coat.

After using aerosol primer (or paint), tip the can upside down and depress the nozzle for a few seconds until paint stops coming out. Next, wipe off the nozzle with a cloth. This prevents the nozzle from being clogged the next time you use the can.

Using X-O Rust Paint & Primer in One allows you to skip priming in most cases, as it is formulated to be both a paint and primer.

Step 6: Finish Up/Reinstall Fixtures

If you took down your fixtures to paint them, reconnect their electrical wires to the circuit wires. Connect each fixture wire to its corresponding circuit wire by twisting the wire ends together and then fastening them together with a wire connector. Push the wiring into the hole and then put the fixture’s mounting plate in place. Use a screwdriver to reinstall the mounting hardware. Next, install the fixture shade or shades, depending on the type of fixture. Remove all painter’s tape and masking materials.

Great job! You’ve refinished and refreshed your outdoor light fixtures with a couple coats of spray paint.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.