Home & Garden

Restoring old chairs

Restoring old chairs

Author: Canadian Living

Home & Garden

Restoring old chairs

At almost any yard sale you can find a kitchen chair, ladder-back or bent-wood – sans its seat – that's going for a song. Here's how to rescue and restore one of these four-legged classics without stripping it down to the bare bones.

Before you buy it, sit in it – is it comfortable? With feet flat on the floor, push back and forth – is it solid? Stand up and run your hands along the chair to check for cracks. Any loose rungs can be reglued, but beware of broken legs, snapped joints or gaping cracks.

In the workshop, wash it. When dry, lightly sand to smooth edges. Using carpenter's glue, reglue any loose joints. If the original cane or woven seat is gone, decide whether you want to reweave it or replace it with a solid surface. For the latter, trace the outline of the seat onto ©-in plywood, then, using jigsaw, cut out. Sand edges smooth, then, with edges flush, glue to chair; clamp until dry. Paint with a high-adhesion primer.

Grab a chair and make it the best seat in the house
Click here to see finished chairs.

Chair 1
To make a dust ruffle, measure around seat, then double measurement for length. Measure from seat to floor, then add 2.5 cm (1 in) for width. Cut fabric piece with this length and width. Press under 1.3 cm (? in) twice along 1 long and 2 short edges; stitch. Butting short edges at centre back, gather and tack raw edge around seat. Glue braid over raw edge. Make matching pillow; position across chair rail and wrap fabric strip around pillow and rail to form bow shape.

Chair 2
To reweave a seat, cut 5 cm (2-in) wide strips each approx 51 cm (20 in) longer than seat width or depth, from scraps of medium-weight fabric. Press 1.3 cm under along each long edge, then, with long raw edges inside, fold so pressed edges are even and press again. At 1 end of each, knot strips side by side along back rung of seat (squirt glue into each knot as it's tied). Stretch strips to front rung; knot remaining ends in place. At 1 end of each, knot second series of strips along 1 side rung, then weave remaining ends over and under first strips; knot along other side rung.

Chair 3
If the chair is covered with layers of chipped enamel, sponge-paint it to hide blemishes. For the “cloudy” chair, brush on 2 coats of satin-finish blue paint, letting dry after each, then sponge-paint with white. Note: Avoid high-gloss paints or varnishes, which will emphasize imperfections.

Chair 4
To dress up a plain or dented chair, brush on a few coats of satin-finish paint, letting dry after each. Using artist's paintbrushes and acrylic paints, dab on flowers (they'll hide dents) in desired pattern to create a colourful folk-art chair.

To pad and cover a plywood seat, cut 1 piece of 3-in-thick foam and 1 of quilt batting, each approx 2.5 cm smaller than plywood around edges. Centre foam, then batting on seat. With corners centred at front, back and sides, stretch a hemmed square of sturdy fabric over batting and foam and tack in place at edge of seat.

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Restoring old chairs