How to Paint a Rusty Metal Shed

When we bought our house it had zero storage. No garage, no basement, an attic that isn’t really usable, and no extra closets. We needed a place to store lawn equipment, paint, and general homeowner stuff, so Adam’s parents offered us an old metal shed that was on their property.

moving the shed

We put it on the back part of our lot, filled it with stuff, and promptly forgot about it.

old metal shed

Or at least I forgot about it. My husband on the other hand thought it needed some TLC. He would casually say things like “if you want you could paint that shed.” And I would nod my head and say things like “yeah, maybe” all the while thinking to myself that there was no way he was going to talk me into painting that rusty old thing. But he kept hinting – for years – that he wanted me to paint it, and I kept dodging his subtle pleas with mumbles and side-eyes. About a year ago he got he hint and stopped asking.

Then last month 3M contacted me for a campaign they’re doing about outdoor painting projects.  3M is a great company to work with, so I racked my brain trying to think of something. I wanted to do a project that actually needed doing, not something like painting a pot or outdoor rug that I have no current use for. Finally I gave up and asked Adam if he had any ideas. He thought about it for about half a second, turned to me with a subtle smirk on his face and said “you could paint the shed”.

Dang it….he had me, and he knew it. That bastard outsmarted me. So, without further ado….

How to paint a rusty metal shed

Now, the most important thing to remember when painting a rusty metal shed is NOT to do it in late July in South Texas. Just stay inside, enjoy your air conditioning, and wait till Fall. The second most important thing is prepping the surface correctly before painting. I’ve never painted rusty metal before and Google doesn’t give you a clear-cut way of prepping, but rather gives you about 47 ways you could do it and tells you not to mess up. Since my shed was only lightly rusted I decided sanding it wasn’t necessary and chose to wash it with TSP instead. TSP stands for trisodium phosphate, you can buy it at the hardware store and it isn’t expensive at all. I had never used it before but I’ve heard people sing its praises so I figured I’d give it a go.


I’m now going to become one of those people that sings its praises, because the stuff is magic. MAGIC I tell you. It comes in powder form, you mix it with warm water, get to scrubbing, and the dirt and rust come pouring off. Literally.

cleaning with TSP

Here are some before and after pictures…

Rusted metal before and after TSP

before and after TSP

So much better already, right? I had other prep planned for the shed, but after cleaning it with TSP we (my mom was helping me with the project) decided that it was good to go.

Next up was to prime the shed, I used Behr® Premium Plus® Exterior Multi-Surface Primer and Sealer.

Behr multi -surface primer

I also decided to bust out my Ryobi® Paint Sprayer. I had never used a paint sprayer before (so many firsts in this post!) and was hoping it would make painting the shed go really quickly. Also, my boys thought it was awesome. It looks like a gun and shoots paint…what’s not to like?

spraying an old shed

The paint sprayer was awesome. Seriously, it took me no time at all the paint the whole shed and the finish was smooth and beautiful. That being said, there is a learning curve. I had no idea how much you needed to thin the paint (spoiler alert, it’s a lot), and I spent a lot of time cleaning and unclogging the sprayer.

primed metal

Next up was to prep the shed for paint. For this I used ScotchBlue™ Painter’s Tape for Exterior Surfaces (2097) and taped off the parts I wanted to keep white.

Scotch Blue Exterior tape

I used Behr® Marquee™ (in Oat Straw 740C-3) for painting the shed, which is meant for outdoor things that are going to get abused and ignored.

Behr Marquee

Then I got back to spraying.

By this point it was mid-day and was getting really hot. The kinda hot where you wish you were naked… but also that you were wearing ALL THE CLOTHES so that the burning rays of sun never touch your delicate skin. My peanut gallery of preschoolers had abandon me for dinosaur puzzles in the air conditioning. Smart boys. Not all that loyal, but smart nonetheless.

power spraying a shed

Oh, here’s another paint sprayer tip. Check to make sure that the paint container is locked on before you start spraying. Even if you think it’s good to go, double-check… you know, just in case.

paint splatter

After that I moved my tape, grabbed my favorite Wooster® paint brush, and painted the trim (Marquee™ Ultra Pure White 1850) and the doors (Marquee™ Subtle Touch 790E-1).

ScotchBlue and Wooster

Then I called it a day, abandon the outdoor inferno, and took my sweaty, paint splattered self inside for a shower.

We weren’t finished yet though…oh no.

The next morning my husband got up before the sun to start working on the roof. The roof, you see, was really rusted…way more rusted than the rest of the shed. I had planned on just leaving it (or maybe painting it), but Adam decided it would be a good idea to replace it. “It will be easy” he said, “I’ll just buy some corrugated metal panels to replace it with.” Let’s just skip ahead to the part where I tell you this was NOT easy. As it turns out, roofs on metal sheds are quite structural. In other words, when you remove the roof the walls just kind of flop around and infuriate your husband.

tearing off the roof

So yeah, the roof replacement turned my laid back husband into an angry cursing machine. And while I felt bad that it wasn’t going well, I was also thanking Jesus that replacing the roof was 100% his idea and not something I asked him to do.

putting a new roof on the shed

Eventually he got it on though, and we’re not going to have to torch the shed like he had been claiming was our only option.

Okay, last step for me to add a little barn flair back onto the shed doors. For this I grabbed my trusty ScotchBlue™ Painter’s Tape and an X-acto® knife. I eyeballed the design, taping off the X shape (door on the right) and then cutting out the extra tape (door on the left).

barn doors with Scotch Blue

Then I painted the sections between the tape…

painting crisp lines

And before the paint dry (very important!) I pulled all the tape off and admired my work.

painted X doors

How to paint lightly rusted metal

Now THAT is a painted metal shed. That is what a completed project looks like after years of avoidance. I have to say, it looks good…like really good.

painted metal shed

Adam asked me very specifically to get a glamor shot of the roof, so here it is….

New metal roof

One last side by side, because that’s the best part of any project.

Before and after

This project is actually part of a summer blog hop called “Get It, Got It, Go” and is being hosted by Kate at Centsational Girl. To check out all the other painting projects (three dozen!) click HERE or on the individual projects below..

Follow along and don’t miss a thing by joining The Home Depot’s consumer program and following both the ScotchBlue™ Painter’s Tape’s Facebook Page and the ScotchBlue™ Painter’s Tape Pinterest Page for all the latest ideas and inspiration! Be sure to like The Home Depot’s Facebook Page and The Home Depot on Twitter for all the latest in the Summer Blog Hop.

I am proud to be a 3M, Behr®, and Wooster® – sponsored blogger, and, as part of my responsibilities, I get the opportunity to evaluate products. Opinions are my own and additional product used in the project were selected by me.

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  1. WOW! What a transformation. The part about being glad the roof was not your idea made me giggle :)
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  3. It really looks awesome – your little guy was too cute with the splattered paint all over him (oops!).

    • I worry that water will be able to get in during a heavy rain, especially since there are virtually no overhangs. Not that we ever get rain. It really looks awesome – your little guy was too cute with the splattered paint all over him (oops!).

  4. We just moved into a home with this exact same shed in the backyard (in the before pictures, that is!) You did such a great job painting this, I need to show my husband and try to convince him now. I’ll have to take some tips from your husband on how to persuade someone to paint a shed!

    • Mother Deer says:

      We used a spray-on product called Rust Reformer….which eliminated the need to sand the rusty metal. We were able to paint over it after that, and it’s holding up well…three years now :)

  5. Ah, the angry cursing machine – best medicine-staying AC with dinosaur puzzles.
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  6. I hate to ask this, but are you sure the roofing material is put on the right direction and won’t leak? With the grooves running side to side, I worry that water will be able to get in during a heavy rain, especially since there are virtually no overhangs. Not that we ever get rain….

    • We never do get rain, do we? I’ve basically stopped going outside it’s so hot, and most of my plants are crispy and dead. To answer your question about the shed, no, we aren’t sure it won’t leak. It probably will to be honest. Taking the original roof off was a really bad idea (sorry baby), but at this point it is what it is!

  7. This looks great! I have an old wooden shed that needs paint and new doors built, but I have not been brave enough to get out in the Texas heat – October will be soon enough to get to it :-) By the way, I hope you kept the old rusty metal roof material – I’ve see super cool projects done with it, and have one in mind with my own old rusty tin roof: build raised bed planters with rusty tin sides.

  8. this is a nice way to paint metal shed. paint sprayer plays vital role in painting.
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  9. Wow ,beautiful job ,i would like to do the same may be i will have to buy a spray painter like you .At all ,you apply very well every product and the roof looks pretty good !

  10. We just moved into a home with this exact same shed in the backyard (in the before pictures, that is!) You did such a great job painting this, I need to show my husband and try to convince him now. I’ll have to take some tips from your husband on how to persuade someone to paint a shed!

  11. Great job :) I have a shed like that too, and it spoils my view ;) I will painted using your advice. Thank you.

  12. that was a very nice job.. I am actually buying one off craigs that I was skeptical about until I saw your project.
    thanks for posting.. :)

  13. Ashley, what an amazing work that you and your husband did on that shed. How much paint and primer were used for that shed? Looking at the pictures of your project it reminds me about doing something similar on the metal buildings that my father has in his backyard especially the shed like one.

  14. that shed looks good as new! i’m glad you used a handheld paint sprayer, however one tip i do have from being a professional painter for many years is, invest in a very good quality sprayer like one of the ones on here . with these ones you dont need to thin products which saves time and the quality of paint, you will also never need to buy another sprayer in your life!
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  15. I love spray paint!! I do wish there were a wider range of colors. I’ve learned to do several very light coats to avoid drips.
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  16. I know that it can be hard to paint rusty metal. I’ve tried doing it a couple of times and it hardly ever works out like I want it to. However, you seem to have mastered the art. I like how you mention a specific time to do it. I can see how that would make a difference!

  17. Jason Burgos says:

    Thank you so much! I actually used your blog as a guideline for my shed (which is actually like yours)!

  18. Thank you so much for posting this. We have the same shed. It came with our home and is such an eyesore. I have been meaning to hire someone to work on it but now I think my husband and I can tackle it. We won’t be replacing the roof though. How long ago did you update your shed and how is it holding up?

  19. Kathleen says:

    Love what you did with the shed! Inspired me to paint mine this summer. Just wondering how much paint you used to paint the shed with?

  20. Wow! Such a great metal shed transformation! The after is beautiful. Your hard work paid off! Is the paint still holding up nicely?

  21. Great job. I would like to know how this has held up also because have a rusty metal shed to paint. I want to use latex primer also.

    • We sold that house last year, but when we did the paint on the shed still looked great. I have to admit I was surprised how well it held up.

      • Thank you for your reply :) I am going to do this soon. Glad to know the latex primer worked out!

  22. This gave me hope. My rusty shed is in need of paint badly. These steps will help for sure. Thank you.

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