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7 Fast Furniture Fixes

Don’t toss that old piece of furniture. Give it a facelift with these tricks for giving new life to your old favourites.

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Follow the Antique Furniture Golden Rule

Do as little as possible to change the original construction and finish of your antiques. By stripping a finish and putting on a new finish, you can drastically reduce the value of antique furniture. If a chair is a little loose and creaky or a table’s lacquer top is cracking, that’s okay.


Protect fussy antiques without the fuss

Contrary to what the makers of those lemon-fresh, spray-on furniture polishes claim, you don’t need fancy chemicals to clean and protect wooden chests, desks, tables, and chairs, even if they are your prized possessions. In fact, those products can do more harm than good.


“Some sprays have additives that will never come off,” says Nancy Rosebrock, conservation manager at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. “They crosslink chemically over time and become insoluble. A lot never completely dry, and they attract dirt, darkening the finish.” And that, she says, can decrease the value.


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Keep It Simple

Do this simple regimen of preventive care and cleaning for your wood furniture:

1. Protect the wood from moisture. Use coasters, wipe up spills, and avoid cleaning with water.

2. Dust regularly with a soft, dry white cloth.

  3. Wax once a year with a furniture wax-but only if the wood’s finish is intact. The paste wax, which protects the finish without penetrating the wood, keeps dust from binding with the surface the way car wax makes water bead. Pick a wax that matches the colour of the wood (for instance, a lighter wax for maple and a darker one for walnut). If the wood finish is cracked or rubbed away, skip the paste.


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Mask Wood Furniture Scratches

Furniture refinishers would prefer to have your business, but you can save hundreds of dollars by hiding scratches using one of several inexpensive methods. Drop by the hardware store, and pick up a putty pencil or scratch polish. Make sure it matches the colour of your wood finish. Apply as directed, and presto! The scratch disappears, not your money. 




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Steam Out a Dent

A dent on a wooden surface can often be fixed by swelling the compressed wood fibers back to their normal size using moisture and heat. Prick the varnish finish of the dented area several times with a fine pin so that moisture can penetrate into the wood. Then cover the dent with a pad of wet cloth, put a metal bottle cap on top of the pad to spread the heat, and apply a clothing iron on a high setting for a few minutes. Be careful not to scorch the finish. Afterward, when the wood is completely dry, fill the pinholes with a thin coat of fresh varnish.


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Tighten That Sagging Chair Seat

Like any seasoned craftspeople, furniture restorers have their tricks. Here’s one that will save you money the next time your wicker chair seats stretch and droop. First, make sure the chair is made of some natural material, such as rattan or bark (and not paper rush). If so, then turn the chair upside down and wet the bottom for a minute or two by wiping it with a clean sponge dipped in warm water. Once the bottom is soaked (the top should remain dry), then right the chair. When the woven seat dries, it will be tighter.


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Repair Frayed Woven Chair Seats

If you have a chair with a woven paper rush seat (wicker made of twisted paper), you probably already know that the paper has a tendency to tear in front, where legs constantly rub it. Here’s a quick cosmetic fix: Squeeze a bit of white craft glue underneath the torn strands, and tape it with masking tape to hold it in place. When the glue is dry, remove the masking tape, and no one will ever know the strands are broken.



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Revive Your Wicker

Wicker furniture can be a challenge to clean. But that’s no reason to pay a professional. Stephen Berne, a Vancouver-based antique chair restorer who is especially knowledgeable about chair caning, Danish cord, and wicker repair, offers these insider tips:


1. Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to lift dust, dirt and lint from within the woven reeds.


2. Wipe wicker with a clean cloth moistened with paint thinner (first try a little thinner on an inconspicuous spot to make sure it does not harm the finish). For stubborn stains, lightly rub with a green pot scrubber moistened with paint thinner.


3. To bring up the sheen on wicker, apply furniture wax with a clean cloth.