I have some dining room chairs that are probably over 40 years old.. The backing on the chairs is mostly caning with a wooden frame. It needs replacing in almost every chair. I am thinking it would be smarter to just buy new dining room chairs. Two of them have already separated within their wooden frames.
I can understand your dilemma about your dining chairs. I had a set that my grandmother had given me that was about 40 years old. I stripped and refinished the table and the hutch but I didn't bother with the chairs. They were very wobbly and I sat on one, it broke, and I ended up on the floor! I think that the cost of professional repair would be too high, and you could buy new chairs for the price of the repairs. I do think, though, if you were going to do the repairs yourself it would be worth keeping the old set. Instead of re-caning the backs of the chairs maybe you could cut wood to fit and upholster over it and re-upholster the seats to match? I certainly think that you should get a quote from a professional refinisher about your chairs and then with that price in mind go to the furniture store to see what new chairs would cost you.
We used some old oak chairs of my grandparents for many years. They were part of a kitchen set from the late 30's. I also had the table but one day it just split in two. My grandmother had kept laundry detergent and other "junk" on it in her basement for too many years. Well anyway, my husband refinished the chairs and I recovered the seats and those chairs were put with a unfinished round pedastal table my husband finished off. We used those same chairs for roughly 25 years. My hubby had done repairs to them over the years, tightened them up and such till they could be tightened no more. I recovered the seats more than once too. I then bought a new kitchen table and chairs and donated the old ones to charity.
My advice would be to go buy a new set if you can afford it or look in the paper or thrift shops for a new set. If you can't repair the chairs yourself, it will be very costly to hire it done. If the chairs do not have sentimental value to you, you may as well replace them. I'd replace the table too. Get a whole set that matches...you only live once.
I used those old chairs of my grandparents so many years when I'd probably rather have had something nicer....we could have afforded it but just didn't get around to it and kept using what we had.
Life's too short not to have something nicer, something safe to sit on and eat at....something you can be proud of when you have company.
Just my humble opinion :-)
You can find directions on the internet for repairing caning yourself there are kits etc out there that can help you. If your chairs are from the 20s they may be worth more than you think they are. Where yours is in the shape that it is in though I would probably go with cutting a piece of thin plywood to fit the wood and upholstering it. As to replacement cost versus repair cost you need to realize somethings and decide what is important to you. Finding good furniture that is actually solid wood and well made these days is very difficult to do if you are buying new. There is no longer really a good quality economy version it's either expensive solid wood or cheap particle board covered with veneer. Repairing chairs really isn't that hard you don't have to hire someone to do it unless you have an ornate and extremely valuable antique. Anybody can take a chair apart sand all the joints and put it back together with dowels etc. and glue and clamp it its not as difficult as it seems. There is also a glue that you used to only be able to get in Canada that you put in the joints that actually causes them to swell and fit again I don't remember exactly what its called something like Yancy's. Learning simple furniture repair is really just a matter of a little internet and Library research. If you really don't like the chairs though why not just give them to charity and seek out a good used set, or check the Penny's catalogue they often have good sales on medium quality furniture but for a decent set for six you going to pay at least 900 dollars also check eBay sometimes even with shipping it can be worth it if the quality is really good. However in the spirit of thriftiness and self sufficiency I would see about learning how to repair chairs myself. As it sounds to me like all they need is to be taken apart the joints sanded and a swelling wood glue used along with dowels to make the joints tight. Good luck!
Holly, Hi. I like Paula's ideas about replacing the cane with other materials. Have you given any thought to taking a refinishing class at a local community college or tech. school? The cost for such a course would be minimal and you could learn to refinish your chairs instead of trying to replace them.
This is in response to jmz2005 and the broken cane backed chair. Maybe you could make a slip cover (like a big pillow case) and slide it over the back of the chair to hide the broken part. Or, cut fabric to the shape, fold over the cut edge, and hot glue it all around the broken cane. If you have a thin, flat piece of wood cut it to the shape of the chair back, cover it with batting, and a piece of fabric over that, turn it over and staple all around the fabric pulling it nice and smooth. Cut another piece of fabric a little larger than the replacement board, fold over the cut edges and glue the fabric down. Use small nails or even reupholstering tacks to attach it to the chair. When I say to use fabric, you could use anything you already have like old sheets, or old draperies. I saw furniture covered once with denim that had been cut from jeans and sewn into strips to form a big sheet of denim, then that fabric was made into cushion covers. I recently recovered an old 1950's upholstered chair with a gingham sheet and it came out really nice. You never know what you can do until you try.
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