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topic 52605

How do I protect chrome chairs for use outdoors in all weather

A discussion started in 2009 and continuing through 2020 so far.
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July 14, 2009

Q. I have just brought expensive chrome plated chairs and a table with a metal base which I want to use in the garden. Any ideas on a clear coating I can apply to protect the metal from the elements - stop pitting - or do I have to accept that the surface will deteriorate over time.


Polly Carmichael
Gardener - London

July 14, 2009

A. Hi, Polly. Sometimes I really hate chrome plating. And the reason is that a truly high quality chrome plating job like on an automobile grill or a truck bumper will last a decade or more in the worst imaginable environment, whereas a low quality chrome plating job will actually accelerate the corrosion of the underlying steel, making it rust in a couple of months -- and it's about impossible for a consumer to tell the difference. I would regularly apply chrome polish and car wax, and hope for the best.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

July 19, 2009

Chrome plated chairs for year round exposure to the outside elements? Not good. You can do as Ted says and keep them cleaned and waxed. Even then, well who knows.
Since the chairs are wire weldments all of the areas where the wires collect together will always be the weak spots. Due to low density these areas do not get as much plating. Plus they are more prone to moisture gathering and laying in the welds. Then soon followed by rust.
Since they are already plated this becomes a moot point.
If I had a customer bring these chairs to me for chrome plating and the customer told me they will be exposed to year round outdoor exposure I would explain to them that they would have to be nickel plated for three or four hours of nickel plating maybe more. Followed by a very heavy chrome plate.
The two dip nickel process (duplex) is fine for production line plating where it is not practical to leave parts in nickel for many hours. When I have a customer bring in parts such as this for year round outdoor exposure I will plate them in my bright nickel bath for three to five hours. Then chrome plate them for about five minutes in hex chrome. Tri chrome will not hold up near as long.
I know many platers will say a duplex nickel will hold up better using the same amount of nickel time in a duplex system. But since most duplex systems cannot dedicate their whole plating lines for this long on just a few parts it would be impractical. A small hand carry custom plating plating shop could most likely have given what was needed for this application. They could put the parts in nickel. Go out for a long lunch and maybe catch a movie and then come back and finish them out in chrome. Ideally a job for a small low volume high quality to order custom chrome shop.
And no. a heavy copper plating first will not match the same amount of time spent in the bright nickel. I know I will get a lot of disagreement about that statement. Copper is great on a well maintained part that is not just left to sit out and take care of it self in the elements.
I have done work on art displays that spend years out side in places where they are subjected to year round exposure to the four distinct seasons in the midwest.
Very few shops that do duplex nickel will be able to leave parts in their dull nickel for hours and then do the same in their bright nickel. At least not for any practical price. Although who is to determine what a practical price is on something they really want.
However I believe a small very flexible shop that is used to dealing in low volume high end quality work is the best place for a job like this. If that shop should happen to run a duplex nickel system then all the better. But in any case these chairs should have been plated for a very long time in nickel(at least 3 hours) even if duplex is applied. In order to make them somewhat maintenance free outdoors year round.

Frank DeGuire
- St. Louis, Missouri, USA

July 19, 2009

Thanks for the detailed answer, Frank, which is far better than mine! Because, after reading your answer and thinking about it, the truth is that the chances are very slim that these chairs can survive long outdoors, isn't it?

Polly should try hard to find an indoor application for these chairs :-)


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

July 22, 2009

Precisely. Keep those chairs inside and they should last a very long time. But alas may lie another rub. Forgive the terrible pun. People sitting in the chairs are going to me moving around or occasionally twisting in the seat. After a given amount of use they might rub through the chrome and have nickel start showing. Then of course the dulling begins. Even though it may detract from the esthetics I would suggest a thin cushion on the seat if they are going to be used very much.
I have seen chrome worn through on motorcycle side covers caused by pants legs rubbing against them. I have chrome plated seat pans on motorcycles were they don't upholster them. The rider just sits on the chrome plated pan. It only takes one good season of riding to start seeing the nickel rubbed through the chrome. A little rough on the butt , too!
Something to think about.

Frank DeGuire
- St. Louis, Missouri, USA

August 5, 2020

Q. Hi I'm Mike from UK, I am using leather straps with chrome buckles in a outside environment. What is the best way to protect the chrome from tarnish please ?


August 2020

A. Hi Mike. Chrome plating is designed to be a final finish. High quality chrome plating on automobile grills, chrome plated bumpers on trucks & classic cars, and chrome plated Harley components can last decades against the worst environment the world can throw at them. But chrome plating can also be designed for interior, casual use, and not be able last even a single day outside. Please see our "Introduction to Chrome Plating".

The right way to solve the problem is with chrome plating designed for use outside. Clear coating low quality chrome plating will help a bit, so you can certainly try it, but it's hard to miss no spots on a buckle, and get sufficient adhesion, and the big problem is that once the plating is perforated, the presence of the nickel & chrome will galvanically accelerate the corrosion of the underlying steel. A low quality chrome plating job is a worse starting point than no plating at all :-(

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading


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