A few weeks ago, when I revealed our low-budget, high-impact kitchen makeover, I shared that the vintage faux bamboo chairs I found for the kitchen ended up having a major flaw…
While the double-sided caning was in perfect condition, the frames were structurally sound, and even the fabric was in great shape, I neglected to actually SIT in the chairs when I met the Craigslist seller at his storage unit. You guys, I was so excited I blithely handed over my money and completely broke the Craigslist 101 rule of always actually trying out the furniture.
I got them home, arranged them around the kitchen table, and was talking Bryan’s ear off about what a find they were, how thrilled I was, how perfect they were for the space. And then he sat down with his bowl of cereal and loudly exclaimed, “I’m falling through the chair!”
I sat down myself.
It was true.
While the foam cushions still appeared plump and supportive, any support beneath had apparently given up the ghost long ago.
Now, here’s where I tell you, truthfully and honestly: I have a history of talking myself into buying “project pieces” and then letting said “project pieces” languish in the garage for years because I’m too busy/unmotivated/intimidated to actually tackle them.
I know this about myself. And Bryan knows this.
So over the years, he’s instituted and enforced a very strict “No project pieces” rule… because he loves me and wants to save me from myself. If I don’t have a definite plan of attack or know exactly what I’m going to do to fix up, refurbish, and actually use something – it doesn’t come into our home.
But these project pieces were already in our home. Sitting around our kitchen table. Roped off with imaginary yellow “Caution” tape, sure, but possession is 9/10ths of winning the argument, right?
I spent the next several weeks combing Craigslist for alternative chairs that wouldn’t need to be stripped down to their bare bones and rebuilt using skills I may or may not possess. (With these chairs, I wouldn’t know what was required until after I gutted them and potentially rendered them un-re-sellable.) No suitably perfect replacements presented themselves, and I got closer and closer to wrapping up the kitchen.
Finally, I stumbled across the most perfect upholstery fabric in the universe one evening and just knew it was meant for my kitchen chairs. Faux bamboo kitchen chairs, with double-sided caning on the backs.
“I’m keeping those chairs! And I’m going to figure out how to fix them!”
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You Will Need:
- Upholstery staple remover tool – absolutely essential and a complete life-saver! I purchased one with a wooden handle, but I would recommend a different handle to help prevent blisters.
- Needle nose pliers
- 5 mm underlayment or 1/4″ plywood – I purchased a 2’x4′ “Project Panel” at my local hardware store, which was enough to fix the seats of my four chairs.
- Wood glue
- Replacement fabric – check out this guide to help you figure out how much yardage to purchase
- Upholstery staples + stapler – I have an electric staple gun, but I find it doesn’t do as a good of a job as my little, manual stapler. For upholstery, I use light duty 5/16″ staples. Occasionally, I need to follow up with a hammer to make sure they go in all the way. A pneumatic stapler is the gold standard for upholstery, but I just haven’t pulled the trigger (hehe) on this purchase yet, since it requires an air compressor as well.
Step 1: The Night of 1,000 Staples
It was time to actually assess the situation. No turning back.
I unscrewed the chair seats from the chairs and began removing staples with this miraculous little tool.
Most of the time, it popped the staples up enough to use a pair of needle nose pliers to fully remove them.
Once I had the black fabric dust cover removed, I could clearly see the saggy-bottomed culprit:
The wooden seat frame was hollow in the middle, with a piece of rubbery mesh that I suppose at one time had been elastic enough to provide support, but which was now stretched out and disintegrating.
I’ll tell you a secret: normally, when I re-cover dining chairs, I just stretch the new fabric over the old fabric (as long as the old fabric is in decent shape) and staple it on.
But in order to actually fix the problem with these chairs, I needed to completely strip the chair seat down to the wooden frame.
Between the dust cover, the piped trim, the upholstery fabric, a layer of batting, and the disgustingly crumbling rubber mesh, I spent a little over an hour on each chair seat, pulling out five separate layers of hundreds of staples to free the wooden seat frame.
Tip: If you’re extra careful with your staple removal, you’ll be able to reuse pieces like the dust cover and even piping, and you can use the old fabric as a template for cutting new fabric.
Step 2: Plug The Hole
I grabbed my plywood and cut it down slightly larger on all sides than the hole in the wooden seat frame. I used a hand saw because that’s all I have, but it got the job done.
I squeezed a zigzag of wood glue all around the edges and glued the plywood to the TOP side of the wooden seat frame. Then, I stacked paint cans and bricks (really, any heavy objects will do) on top to hold the plywood onto the frame while it dried overnight.
Step 3: Reassembly
The next day, I repeated the steps of the previous day in reverse.
Start with the foam and batting, upside down:
Add the wooden seat frame, and staple the batting to the frame:
Next, use the old upholstery fabric as a template for cutting the new fabric:
Lay face down on the ground, then wrap the edges around the upside-down seat cushion and staple at the top, bottom, left and right sides to hold:
Then, work your way out from those staples towards the four corners, pulling the fabric taut as you go.
This is how I like to fold my corners:
Next, trim any excess fabric away from your line of staples:
And finally, I stapled the dust cover back on. It gives it a nice professional finish, don’t you think?
All that was left was to reattach the seats to the chairs and give them a test-sit…
No sag! No imminent threat of falling through!
And I absolutely adore the vintage Oriental rug-look tapestry fabric! It’s luxuriously heavy weight and the colors are perfection!
Can you believe I was almost ready to just give up on these chairs? This project definitely taught me a lesson in not being so easily intimidated!