How to Refurbish High Back Chairs

Written by brenda priddy | 13/05/2017
How to Refurbish High Back Chairs
Refurbishing a high back chair gives it new life. (antique carved back kitchen chair image by Scott Williams from

High back chairs come in all sizes and shapes. Many high back chairs have wood backs with cloth seats, such as dining room chairs and rocking chairs. You can easily refurbish these chairs and make them functional and attractive once more using a series of methodical repair steps. Start by repairing the structure of the chair, then move to aesthetic improvements on the chair seat. Take your time in refurbishing the chair. Expect to spend one or more weeks working on the same chair. You can also refurbish several chairs at once in the same period.

Inspect the chair for signs of damage. Note any missing wood pieces or cracked or broken wood.

Remove any damaged pieces of wood. Unscrew any screws holding the wood together and gently pry the pieces apart. If the pieces will not come apart easily, cut through the damaged wood with a band saw and remove it by force. Wear thick work gloves to protect your hands.

Cut new wood pieces to replace the damaged wood. Use a sound piece of the original chair as a template for the new wood.

Glue together weak joints with screws or wood glue. Hold the pieces together with a large clamp.

Sand all the wood to remove old paint and varnish. Repaint or stain as desired. Cover all screws and holes in the wood with wood putty. Allow the wood to dry for 24 hours before using the chair.

Remove the seat from the chair with pliers, a hammer or pry bar, depending on how the seat is attached.

Remove the upholstery fabric from the seat. Remove the padding and discard.

Cut a new piece of foam to act as the new seat. Glue the foam to the seat with spray adhesive.

Cover the seat with new fabric. Stretch the fabric over the seat and staple it to the bottom of the seat with a staple gun. Screw or nail the chair seat back in place.

Things you need

  • Thick work gloves
  • Band saw
  • Replacement wood
  • Table saw
  • Screws
  • Wood glue
  • Large clamp
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint or stain
  • Wood putty
  • Pliers
  • Hammer
  • Pry bar
  • Scissors
  • Foam
  • Spray adhesive
  • Upholstery fabric
  • Staple gun and staples

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