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Upcycled Metal Rolling Cart Plant Stand | Pretty Handy Girl

This past summer I spied a metal cart in a dumpster. To be frank, I have never truly actually participated in dumpster diving. The thought of actually climbing inside a dumpster has never been on my acceptable things to do list. But, this metal bar cart was floating on top of the trash pile. It was (to quote a Seinfeld episode) above the rim! And it was begging to be upcycled into a beautiful plant cart.

So, I convinced myself it was okay and wasn’t officially dumpster diving. Feel free to debate this fact in the comment section.

I brought it home and knew I could do a quick makeover with some spray paint. But, first it needed a good cleaning and some prep work. The tops of the shelves were very rusty:

Upcycled Metal Rolling Cart Plant Stand | Pretty Handy Girl

Upcycled Plant Cart Saved from “Above the Rim”

And the undersides were filthy. But, the end product was worth it! Here is how to upcycle your own little metal rusty bar cart into a beautiful plant stand!


Upcycled Metal Rolling Cart Plant Stand | Pretty Handy Girl

  • 1 Discarded rusty bar cart (rescued from above the rim)
  • Socket set
  • Hammer for coaxing rusty bolts loose
  • Can of Rustoleum Heirloom White spray paint
  • Can of Krylon Copper Spray paint
  • Sander/sanding block
  • Fine grit sand paper
  • Wire brush
  • Rag and/or damp wipes
  • Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloth
  • Scraps of wood to elevate while painting
  • Optional: Drill

Upcycled Plant Cart Instructions:

Loosen corner bolts with a socket wrench or drill and socket bit. Hammer out any that are too rusty to budge.

Upcycled Metal Rolling Cart Plant Stand | Pretty Handy Girl

Once the legs are free, use a wire brush to loosen any flaking metal bits and then sand the legs.

Upcycled Metal Rolling Cart Plant Stand | Pretty Handy Girl

Use a power sander to sand the shelf tops. You want to get rid of as much rust as possible.

Upcycled Metal Rolling Cart Plant Stand | Pretty Handy Girl

Use fine grit sandpaper to finish sanding the shelves, especially on the sides or grooves that couldn’t be reached with the power sander.

Upcycled Metal Rolling Cart Plant Stand | Pretty Handy Girl

Wipe everything off with a damp rag and cleanser if necessary. Before painting the legs, tape off the wheels with painter’s tape.

Upcycled Metal Rolling Cart Plant Stand | Pretty Handy Girl

Prop legs off the drop cloth with scraps of wood (so the legs won’t stick to the drop cloth after you paint them.) Spray one light coat of copper spray paint on legs. Allow the coat to dry and repeat. Flip the legs over and paint the other side with two coats.

Upcycled Metal Rolling Cart Plant Stand | Pretty Handy Girl

Spray one light coat of Heirloom White onto the cart shelves. After the first coat dries, repeat with a second and third coat.

Upcycled Metal Rolling Cart Plant Stand | Pretty Handy Girl

Once everything is completely dry, remove the painter’s tape from the wheels. Reassemble the cart.

Upcycled Metal Rolling Cart Plant Stand | Pretty Handy Girl

Fill the shelves with your plants and wheel it into a sunny spot ;-).

Upcycled Metal Rolling Cart Plant Stand | Pretty Handy Girl

Remember where we started?

Upcycled Metal Rolling Cart Plant Stand | Pretty Handy Girl

Was it worth my first “dumpster rescue?” Can I still claim to have never been dumpster diving? Or am I no longer a dumpster virgin?

Have you ever been dumpster diving? How was it? Did you get caught?



36 replies
  1. Catherine
    Catherine says:

    Well, I don’t think that is officially dumpster ‘diving’ so your reputation is intact. 😉 But so glad you saved it! I totally would have pulled that out of the pile too. Your makeover looks fantastic!

  2. Linda White
    Linda White says:

    I love this! Would also work with an old utility cart! My mama had one when we were kids that we kept the toaster and toaster oven and misc on in the kitchen. Wonder where it is now? Havent seen it in many years now! Will have to ask my daddy!

  3. seansmom
    seansmom says:

    I hate to break it to you, but you are now no longer a “dumpster virgin”. :>) #2 rule of dumpster diving says that if you took it out of a dumpster, then you “dived” for it.
    My best “dive” rewarded me with a hundred year old hand done quilt in MINT condition! Rule #1 says “Just because it’s in a dumpster doesn’t mean it’s junk.”

  4. Colleen Taylor
    Colleen Taylor says:

    That’s a wonderful dumpster diving find Brittany! Wow, great transformation & awesome tutorial. I needed some smiles to day & this & your Seinfeld snippet gave me some chuckles. Thank you!

  5. Gail
    Gail says:

    I drove past a dumpster, and on the top, I saw a victorian era child’s rocker with one arm missing. By the time I got home, I had forgotten about it. A few days later my husband was dropping me off at a yard sale, and we passed the dumpster. I pointed out the adorable old chair. After I left the yard sale I decided I would get the chair on my way home, but I was disappointed to see that it was gone! I walked over to the dumpster and said to a neighbor, “Oh, too bad. I guess somebody else got that chair on the top.” She replied, “Yeah, your husband.”
    We have to get the chair repaired, but it will be perfect for our grandchildren, and we’ve learned that it does have value!

  6. Peggy
    Peggy says:

    Nothing wrong with dumpster diving, keeps things out of the landfills right? Although I’ve never actually climbed into a dumpster I have taken things out I could reach. A shall remain nameless base we were staioned at had dumpsters for people to recycle magazines. The dumpsters were very clean and had magazines discarded in them; and I confess to lifting my then 8 year old son into them to pick through some of the magazines. We hauled new magazines that looked like they just came out of the store home to peruse. He’s now 20 and recently brought that up to me. We laughed about it and he doesn’t seem to be scarred from the “ordeal”.

  7. michelle f.
    michelle f. says:

    One person’s trash is another’s treasure. I have been known to dumpster dive on occasion. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it.

  8. Catherine
    Catherine says:

    Oh well, mine too then! I ran down the street with a bar cart one of my neighbour’s left out for rubbish collection. Ha ha! My husband was horrified when I asked him to go and pick up a dresser left out for free on another neighbour’s driveway (he chickened out and drove the car down 3 houses to collect it rather than use our hand truck – apparently he has more dignity than me….).

  9. Diane
    Diane says:

    Great find and the makeover is wonderful! I’ve never actually climbed INSIDE a dumpster, but I’ve rescued a few cool objects that deserved a better fate~ a huge framed movie poster for my son; a giant metal Crab wall-hanging, also for my son. And I have a great bakers rack that I rescued from my neighbor’s trash and cleaned up & repainted. I say go for it!

  10. seansmom
    seansmom says:

    If you come to stay at our guest house, the quilt is on the bed in the big bedroom upstairs. You’ll have to come and see it for yourself. I’ve gotten tons of compliments on it and people can’t believe where I found it.

  11. Patricia Brannock
    Patricia Brannock says:

    Well I found one of these carts before you posted this and didn’t quite now how I was going to restore this and then low and behold you posted this blog! After saving it for a couple yrs (pls don’t laugh sometimes it takes me yrs to get to something) I am finally ready to restore! I will post photos as I go and post them when I am done. Thank you for the tutorial on this I am so excited I love this cart!

  12. Marti Bowland
    Marti Bowland says:

    I also have one of these 40’s era carts that was in the barn when we bought our place. It was originally a deep green, then someone painted it powder blue, over-which someone painted a tired orange. I have taken it apart, cleaned it thoroughly, and today I am beginning the sanding portion. You didn’t mention using primer, but I intend to start with an automotive flat grey primer since I’m painting metal. I’ll paint the three trays a linen white and the support bars oil rubbed bronze. I just finished ordering a stencil for the top tray that I’ll stencil black, then coat it all with spar varnish so it can be used inside or out. I’ll add a picture of before vs after. It’s fun to bring vintage items forward, isn’t it?!


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