Furniture Woes: Chairs with Loose Legs

Everyone has sat down at a family dinner or friend's house and found themselves with that most familiar of furniture woes: chairs with loose legs. It's something that can be embarrassing for both the sitter and the owner and even, in certain circumstances, be dangerous. For that reason, this article will address common chair leg types and simple tips to tighten them down.

Dowel-Style Legs

Many living room furniture legs are attached with wooden dowels that fit into a hole in the base of the chair and glued to secure the fit. These tend to be the strongest of the joints, but on occasion they either don't get enough glue during production or have worn down. To fix this problem, first see if the dowel has begun to wear down. Fit the leg into place and if it seems to be a tight fit then your solution is easy–just add some glue to both the dowel and the hole, fit the dowel in the hole and wipe off the excess glue. If the fit seems sloppy, you will need to make a shim for it to tighten that fit. A shim can be as simple as a layer of paper around the dowel, or a match book cover cut to the size of the dowel or you can cut thin wood shims to place around the dowel.  All it needs to do it take the play out of the fit, then add the glue and wait.

Hanger Bolts Assemblies

The second leg assembly often seen in living room furniture is the hanger bolt and t-nut.  This is a really nice set up: a double-ended bolt (one end has wood screw threads and the other end has machine threads) fits into the leg and the t-nut (a nut that sits flush in the frame of the furniture and has sharp teeth to hold it in place) receives the hanger bolt. The nice thing about this set-up is that when a leg comes loose, all that has to be done is to tighten the the leg up by spinning it.  If it continues to come loose, however, an easy fix is to get some locking bolt gel from your local hardware store and apply it to the threads, then tighten it in.

Legs with Pocket Screws

The third common fastener system for furnitue legs are pocket screws. These are screws that are drilled in at a hard angle between the leg and furniture base, and usually countersunk. Often when they become loose it is from wear and tear, on the furniture that opens the screw hole larger. A quick fix is to get a larger-diameter screw and replace the loose one. A more involved fix, if that doesn't work, requires you to drill out the hole larger and use a dowel and wood glue to fit inside the hole, making the leg and frame one solid piece.

Corner Plates

The final fastening system we'll cover is corner plates. These are usually made of wood and have either screws or bolts attaching them.  These plates attach to the sides of the frames at a 45-degree angle and then are fastened directly to the leg. As long as the plates themselves don't break, either tightening the bolt or repairing it similar to the pocket screws is the easiest fix. If you have to replace the plate, however, try metal–it holds up much longer and can usually be found in hardware stores.