How to Restore an Old Chair (It's Not as Difficult as You Might Think)

13 March 2017
 Categories: , Blog


If you've ever wondered if you can restore an old chair yourself, the answer is… perhaps. It entirely depends on your level of skill (although adding new fabric to an old chair is not as difficult as  you might think). It's also possible to refinish old wood using materials you probably already have on hand. Although when the chair in question is particularly delicate, if it has a number of ornate fittings that require a specialist touch, or if you are dubious about your ability to do the job yourself, then it can be better to call a furniture restoration professional. So what are some of the easy ways in which you can do some of the work yourself?

Refreshing the Wood

If you are happy with simply refreshing the wooden sections of the chair without changing the fabric, then you can quite easily do this yourself.

Take the chair outside or into your garage. The necessary materials can be quite pungent, so you don't want to do this inside your actual home.

  1. Carefully cover the fabric of the chair with newspaper or plastic.

  2. Mix a solution that is three parts olive or vegetable oil to one part white or cider vinegar. Liberally apply this solution to the wooden portion of the chair, using a small paintbrush so that you can control the application.

  3. Allow the solution to dry to check the results. Apply another coat if necessary.

Once you are satisfied with the results of the wood refinishing, it's time to turn your attention to refreshing the fabric. Rent an adjustable wet dry vacuum cleaner and clean the fabric. Use the lowest possible setting so you don't damage the fabric. It won't be the same as replacing the fabric, but it will look noticeably refreshed.

Changing the Fabric

If you want to totally replace the fabric on the chair, then this is certainly possible if you have a staple gun and enough fabric in your chosen design. If refinishing the wood using the oil and vinegar method, then do so first and allow to dry. But what about the chair's padding? If you are concerned that this will become loose or unevenly distributed when the original fabric has been removed, you can simply apply the new fabric over the top. If doing so, it can be important to use a boldly-coloured fabric so that the original fabric does not show through. This is merely to ensure that the padding remains as smooth as before.

If you feel that the project is too complex to do yourself, then it's wise to send the chair to a professional, but there are some simple restoration jobs that you can easily do at home.