thrift store chairs update process
Budget Decor,  Crafts

Dining Room Chairs Makeover

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When I built my dining room table I needed some new chairs to go with it. Originally I planned to build benches, but I realized that while benches look great, they just aren’t very comfortable. So I searched high and low for chairs that fit my aesthetic and my budget.

I came up with nothing. 

Finally, from the depths of Facebook Marketplace I found a set of 5 chairs for around $40. They weren’t the look I wanted and I really needed 6, but I was desperate at this point after going months without any chairs to sit at the table. So I snatched them up and got to work.

dining room table woodworking project, diy, building tips

Once I picked up the chairs, I realized they were pretty gross. The seats had lots of stains, they were dirty and they did not smell great. They also had lots of cobwebs, so who knows how long they had been sitting before I purchased them.

But, they had potential. And that’s what really matters, right?

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Clean the Chairs

My first step was to remove the seats and clean the chair frame. The seats were easy to remove. With the chair flipped upside down there were 4 screws holding the seat onto the frame, one near each corner where the diagonal braces are in the picture of the chair frame below.

After I removed the seats, I cleaned the chair frames with a rag and some water. They were mostly just covered in dirt and dust so water was enough to get them clean. 


Paint the Chair Frame

I knew that I wanted to paint these chairs, but there was no way I was going to take a paint brush to all of those spindles. I didn’t want to spend the time to get in every nook and cranny and I also didn’t want a lot of brush marks. So, I decided to go with spray paint. 


I used Krylon Chalky Finish in Colonial Ivory. I was able to get it for a good price through Michael’s with a military discount. It’s also on Amazon in several shades. I used about 6 cans of spray paint for the 5 chairs. I had to do several coats for each chair and felt like the paint came out a bit thin. 

But, the good thing was that I didn’t have to do any sanding! It’s been almost 3 years since I painted these chairs and they still look great! 

After I spray painted the chairs, I used Minwax Wipe on Poly Finish to protect them. I chose a wipe on poly, because I knew I would struggle using a brush to apply polyurethane on the spindles. The wipe on poly can be applied with a rag and is super easy to use. Just make sure to wear gloves.


Cut New Seat Bases

When I removed the seat bases from the chair frame, I threw away the foam and the fabric cover for the seat cushion. They were pretty gross. As you can see in the picture above, even the boards for the seat bases were stained. Because they were so badly stained I decided to cut new bases from some plywood that I had been hoarding in the garage.

To cut the new seat bases, I traced an outline of the old base onto a piece of plywood with a sharpie. Then cut along the line with a jigsaw to create a new seat base. I have an inexpensive Black+Decker jigsaw,  and it works fine for all my projects. Because of the condition of my chairs I cut new bases for all of them. 

If you’re redoing some chairs, hopefully your seat bases are in great shape and you can skip this step!


Reupholster Seats

For the seats I layered a piece of 2″ upholstery foam, a piece of cotton batting and my fabric on top. I don’t have photos of the reupholstery process, but there are many tutorials on YouTube. That’s what I used when doing this project. This was my first time recovering chair cushions and it was surprisingly easy! It is definitely doable for a beginner. 

This is the exact foam is used.

This is the exact batting I used. But, if you don’t have any other uses for batting, I recommend getting a smaller size. You will have LOTS left over.

You will also needs a staple gun to secure your fabric to the bottom of the seat frame. I have an inexpensive one similar to this that worked just fine.

Choosing Fabric

I chose an upholstery fabric for my chairs that feels a bit like canvas. I wanted something heavy that would last. I chose a darker color so that it wouldn’t stain as easily. 

If you’re unfamiliar with fabric, I recommend going to a physical store to pick out your fabric rather than shopping online. It is helpful to feel the weight and texture of a fabric in store. It can also be difficult to judge the color of a fabric on your computer screen. Lastly, people who work in fabric stores are generally super helpful.

If you don’t have a fabric store near you, here are a couple options:

  • – I’ve ordered through several times and been impressed with the quality. Plus, they have a great clearance section.
  • Fabric Worm – I haven’t ordered from this site yet, but I’ve spent plenty of time drooling over their modern fabric styles! 

So that’s it! And 3 years later these chairs are still around my dining room table. 

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I want to hear from you!

Have you ever redone dining chairs? What furnture updates are you working on?

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