How to Repair and Update Broken Cane Chairs
Posted By
Larissa Haynes
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Materials Needed: 
  • Super Finish Max Extra with Blue Tip
  • Medium Spray Shelter
  • Chairs
  • DIY furniture turn table (optional)
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Upholstery
  • Stapler/staples
  • Glue gun/glue sticks
  • Respirator
  • Eye and ear protection

Project Steps


Maybe you have anitque or vintage chairs with caning in them or just plain have a set that needs refreshed. In either case, you can update and refresh your chairs with this DIY tutorial and the right tools. It's easy, affordable, and can be done in a day. Follow along to see how.

Step 1

It's often that I will be on the hunt for a chair to pair with a piece (like a desk or vanity) and I can't find one to save me. However, it's always often that as soon as I need one I find a pair. ahem. That's what happened when I came upon this duo set out of the curb along with many other choice furniture items. Isn't that the haul of the century? I love city spring clean-up!  I've been working through this stash and you can see my other end results over HERE on my blog.

Step 2

For today, I'm all about restoring and refreshing this antique pair of caned back chairs. As you can see, both backs are broken, but the rest of the chair is sturdy and fine. There's no need to toss them out, but rather give them new life. While I could have repaired the cane, I realize not everyone has the ability to do such repair work. So, instead, I thought I would show you what you can do with that empty cane space.

Step 3

First, I used my putty knite to remove as much of the caning as possible. It will break off easily and then we can move onto the next preparation steps. Also, I could have filled in the caning remnant with wood filler and sanded smooth and just painted. However, I'm choosing to go the upholstery route.

Step 4

Next, I use sandpaper to knock down any damage that I see, like the legs, and also give the old finish a bit of tooth for my next steps. Paint is not always necessary, but I wanted a complete new look. I had hoped to set up my Medium Spray Shelter outside, but the winds were just too much. However, the shelter also works well for indoor projects as seen here in my Faux Map Cabinet video tutorial. I set up the chairs on my DIY Furniture Turn Table (get the tutorial HERE)

I have my favorite HomeRight Super Finish Max set up to apply the stain-blocking primer. This part is crucial if you are dealing with a mahogany or cherry stain as it will bleed through your paint. My sprayer is set up with the blue tip and black nozzle which is perfect for my application. You can see my video tutorial how to set up the sprayer in this post.

Step 5

Once my primer had cured, the weather finally let up so I could move outdoors. After I cleaned the sprayer from primer I sprayed my first coat of basic latex paint. Note: you should clean the sprayer after each type of product you use, or if you need to wait longer than 20 minutes between coats.  I waited two hours for the first coat to cure, and then applied a second coat. 

Step 6

Once the paint cured, I use a homemade glazing to give depth to the turnings of the chairs, since I'm after an aged appeal. You can make your own glaze with 1 cup latex paint to 1/4 teaspoon water. Brush on the glaze, and then wipe off excess with a damp cloth leaving as much glazing behind as you desire. See the unglazed on the left and the glazed on the right?

Step 7

Next up is upholstery. Again, this design is totally up to your taste. I prefer a farmhouse style for my own home, so I used my stapler and gray ticking fabric to line the back side of the chair back. That way you would see the ticking from behind.

Step 8

After our upholstery backing is in, it's time for adding webbing and batting using our stapler. The key to this is to make it taught so it will support a person's back. Notice how each piece is woven over and under. On top of the webbing, we add plenty of batting to fill in the cavity and then some to that when we add our top upholstery it's nice and cushy.

Step 9

Last, but not least, I added a Faux Grain Sack Stencil to a few pieces of twill for my backing. Then, I topped the grain sack upholstery with gimp and glued in place with my hot glue gun. I also had to cut new seats from plywood and covered those in new foam, batting, and linen up holstery. The chairs are now done and ready for a great many more years of service in home decor.

Step 10

My goal is to inspire you to see past the broken and latch on to the potential found in these quality pieces. Most often they just need some love, and certainly having the right tools and know-how helps. The HomeRight tools are prefect for making that happen. Feel free to ask me any questions. I do hope you will come pay me a visit and check out my other pieces redone in this haul over at my blog, Prodigal Pieces. Until next time!

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