Restoring an Old Metal Folding Chair

There’s a store strange, magical place in Berkeley called Urban Ore. Basically, you donate your old…anything…and Urban Ore will sell it. It’s like Goodwill, but on a larger, wilder scale. You can find treasure there, but because it is in Berkeley and because it is an “Ecopark,” you can also find rat shit and old batteries. If you love scavenging and maybe finding rad old things, or if you need a new toilet tank lid, you should definitely go.

I found this chair there:

And I loved it. But I wanted to use it, and I wanted to use it without needing to get a tetanus shot. So then I did this:

Keep reading for how I did it. Please don’t ask how long and how many trips to the hardware store it took me, because the answer is embarrassing.

Step 1: Take It Apart

But first, take pictures of the chair in its original form. These can be used for gratifying Before & After comparisons, and/or while reassembling it later. For me: Both. I used pliers, screwdrivers and fingernails. I also labeled the hardware as I removed it, because lord knows two days later after the new paint has dried I won’t remember which screws go to the seat and which to the backrest.

Step 2: Take It Apart Some More

This means removing fabric and probably some nasty old cushion foam. Really nasty. Pliers and a flathead screwdriver are my go-to in this department, but maybe there’s a more professional way to do this? Please tell me if that’s the case, because it takes for-goddamn-ever. Save anything you remove to use as a template later.

Step 3: Clean It

I scraped away built-up rust with a wire brush then painted on rust remover. I scrubbed with water and soap, then wiped down the entire chair, seat, and backrest with cleaning solution. Basically, get rid of the chunks before you paint.

Step 4: Buy New Stuff

This meant replacement hardware for some pieces that had been rusted beyond repair, new seat material, paint, chair feet, shorter staple gun staples, and new liners for the steps.

Step 5: Repaint

I used Rustoleom White Gloss spray paint for this guy. No pictures, because it was outside, and my hands were covered with spray paint or carrying the chair. Definitely do this outside.

It’s spray paint. You know how to do this. If you don’t, never attempt any DIY project ever ever ever. Ever.

Step 6: Re-cover

I put the new cushions (cotton batting and polyfill) on the seat and backrest, then recovered them with the new vinyl. I used my staple gun (god, best tool ever) for the whole deal. One tip is to be generous with the staples – no one’s going to see them, and the fabric will look and feel better if it’s tightly fitted to the seat.

Step 7: Put On New Feet & Step Lining

I bought rubber feet that fit over the existing rusted-out messes that are currently on the bottom of the chair. I don’t have the knowledge or the welding tools to remove those, so they just got a cover-up. The steps were re-covered with an adhesive cork liner, and I used the gross old rubber ones as templates.

Step 8: Have a Seat


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