Painting a metal bed frame

How to Paint a Metal Bed Frame | DIY Project

Upcycle an old metal bed frame with this painting project guide. In this guide, we explain all the steps from choosing paint, prep and priming to painting.

Painting a metal bed frame

Have you recently fallen in love with the look of metal bed frames? Not only are they sturdy and long lasting, but they also lend a nostalgic, vintage look to any room. But have you seen how expensive new metal bed frames are? No thanks!

Metal bed frames appeal to certain tastes more than others. You may love them but heaps of people don’t, and for that reason you often find them in second-hand junk stores and markets. Save yourself the expense, and get a preloved one instead.

Why get a brand new metal bed if you know how to paint an old metal bed frame? 

It’s a simple DIY project, and once you paint the frames, no one will even notice that you picked it up from the rubbish tip. Not only is it cheap, it is good for the environment too, since you’re choosing to recycle and keep that perfectly functional metal frame in action. Not to mention, you can choose your own colors to match your decor or personality.

Below we explain the steps for painting a metal bed frame, and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to a brand sparkling new bed (or one that looks like it, anyway).

Can You Use Any Paint on Bed Frames?

A short and straightforward answer would be ‘No, absolutely not!

Not every paint is going to adhere to the metal frame. As discussed in our article on enamel vs latex paint, an oil-based enamel paint is your best choice, or a spray paint suitable for metal. An enamel paint will be tough, durable and add a nice smooth gloss to the metal frame, enhancing that like-new look.

As well as an oil-based paint, you should use an oil-based primer. Search for primers that are particularly designed for metal, since those stick to the surface better and are specifically designed for that purpose.

Before you get started, think about what color you want for your bed frame, as well. Perhaps you want to stick with one color, or two. Will your color match your decor, or be a simple neutral like black or white? Or make a statement with hot pink and gold! Either way, you want to make sure it complements the rest of the colors in your room. If you have trouble deciding, try one of these color-picking apps to help you choose.

How to Paint a Metal Bed Frame

Well, below are the steps you’ll need to follow to make sure you can paint your metal bed frames right. Give these steps a read, and you’ll realize how easy it is.

1. Gather the Things You Need

To start, put the metal frame on a plastic sheet, drop cloths or newspaper sheets, outdoors.

Then, you’ll need the following things:

  • Oil-based primer
  • Oil-based enamel paint or spray paint
  • Sandpaper and sander
  • Paint stripper and scraper, or heat gun and scraper (to strip old paint)
  • Synthetic paintbrush (if brushing paint on)
  • Rubber gloves and eye protection
  • Stiff brush (to remove rust)
  • Rust treatment (optional, for heavy rust)

2. Clean the Metal Bed Frame

The first step is to clean the bed frame metal surface, using detergent and water. For instructions on cleaning your frame, see our article on cleaning furniture before painting here.

Next, run over it with sandpaper. This will be much faster using an electric sander, rather than by hand. Sanding will roughen up the surface, to help the primer and paint adhere. This is especially important if the metal is very smooth.

3. Remove Rust and Old Paint

There are several techniques for removing old paint, and one common solution is to use a paint stripper and scraper. Another is using a heat gun and scraper. Instructions for stripping paint with a chemical stripper or heat gun are available on the Home Depot website.

If you want to use a more manual process, you can remove the old paint with steel wool and rough sandpaper, but this can be a very physical and arduous task. I’d suggest one of the above methods instead. Another option is sandblasting the old metal frame, but that isn’t an option for most home DIY’ers.

If the frame is rusted, make sure you scrub away as much rust as possible. If it is heavily rusted, you may also want to apply a chemical rust treatment. You can pick this up from any hardware store, just make sure it is ok to use with your primer and and paint. Krylon has a good guide on treating rust before spray painting, that is worth exploring if rust is an issue for you.

4. Apply the Primer 

Next, apply a coat of primer to the metal bed frame. Depending on what you pick up, this could be a spray or brush on.

Allow to dry, according to the manufacturers instructions. Ensure the primer is fully dry before proceeding.

5. Paint the Metal Bed Frame

Next, we come to painting. Be prepared to apply 2-3 coats, as the color of the paint doesn’t really pop with just one pass.

As discussed above, choose a high quality oil-based enamel paint or metal spray paint, in the color of your choice.

Spray Can: If you’re using a spray can, hold the can about 1ft (30cm) away from the frame, moving across it in a smooth, even fashion. Do not make the first coat too thick; if it is dripping, it’s too thick. Allow it to dry (check the can) then apply the next coat. Inspect, and if needed, apply a third coat. Make sure you dry properly between coats, according to the can instructions.

Enamel Paint: If you’re using enamel paint from a can, apply a single coat evenly using a paintbrush. Allow it to dry between coats, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

When applying the paint, pay careful attention to the curves and other rough places.

Ensure the paint does not gather up at different places of the frame, such as corners. With each coat aim for a light, smooth coating; do not try to pile it up in one pass. This is why we do multiple coats. A little patience here will produce a much better finish.

6. Dry Fully and Pack Up

Once the bed is fully dry, you can put it back in your bedroom!

Oil-based paints are very odorous, so make sure it is fully dry before putting in your house. I would personally allow at least one full day before putting it in the house, to make sure all traces of fumes and odor have dissipated. After all, you don’t want to sleep while breathing in paint fumes from your freshly painted metal bed frame.

In the meantime, clean up and pack up your paints, and you’re done.

Paint a Metal Bed Frame – Final Thoughts

As you can see from this guide, painting a metal bed frame is not that difficult. It may be time-consuming, but I hope you too feel that the gains you get from using an old recycled bed frame, as opposed to buying a new one, are worth the work.

When shopping for a metal bed frame, check it for rust. Skip any frames that are too rusted, as these will take too much work to prepare, and may not hold up very well in the long run. And make sure to use a spray paint suitable for metal, or an oil-based enamel paint which is suitable for metal.

Happy DIY’ing!


  • Todd Davis

    A jack of all trades, Todd has been a DIY enthusiast, traveler, and writer for many years. He has a deep understanding of all types of painting tools and door hardware, and has shared many articles on these topics throughout the years.

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