How to Repair a Cane Chair

A chair with cane seating is easier to repair than most people realize as long as the material used was woven by a machine. Machine woven cane is attached with a spline. Spline and cane materials are very easy to remove and replace. They are also easy to make slipcovers for. Sometimes a simple repair can be performed rather than a full replacement.

If you have a cane chair that is looking worse for wear, use the following information to repair or replace the material. You can save a considerable amount of time and money by doing the job without professional assistance.

Tighten and Repair Sagging Chairs

Sagging is one of the most common problems with cane furniture. The seats of a cane chair eventually begin to sag. This type of chair should never be sat on when wet, because the material will stretch and sag. Ironically, water that causes sagging cane seats can be used to repair the problem. If the chair is not sagging too much, then it can probably be restored.

To repair and tighten a sagging chair seat, turn the chair over and wipe the cane with a damp cloth or sponge. Avoid getting water on the frame. Allow the cane to dry for at least 24 hours. As the material dries, it will shrink and tighten, which should repair slight sagging. Mist the cane once a month while in use, and allow it to dry completely before using. Besides keeping the material taut, the monthly misting will prevent cracks and breaks.

Replace a Machine-Woven Seat

Two cane chairs and a table.

Machine-woven cane is similar to screen material. It is attached to a frame using a spline. It can be easily replaced should it require repair. Examine the chair seat that requires repair. Look for a groove on the frame that is filled by the wood spline. The spline can be removed and the material replaced with a few simple supplies and tools.

To replace and repair a machine-woven chair seat, you will need enough cane to cover the seat with an extra 2 inches on all 4 sides. Most sheets are available in both 12 and 24-inch widths. You will also need caning spline, wedges, a mallet, a flathead screwdriver, a sharp utility knife, sharp scissors, measuring tape, wood glue, and fine-grit sandpaper. Also required to complete the repair is a sink or tub of warm water and a large rag or towel. These supplies can be found at a home improvement center.

Begin by measuring the seat of the chair. Cut the material so that it extends 2 inches from each side past the groove. Fill a sink or tub with warm water and allow the cane to soak for 45 minutes or until it is very pliable.

While the cane is soaking, remove the old seating. Using a flathead screwdriver, carefully pry the old spline. If it does not remove easily, use a sharp utility knife to cut around the edge of the spline and carefully pry it with the edge of the screwdriver to break away the old glue. After the old cane has been removed, wipe the area with a clean rag.

Once the new material is easy to manipulate, remove it and pat it dry with a clean towel. Place the material squarely over the seat and gently tap a wedge into the center of one side. Pull the cane taut, but not enough to distort the pattern. Then tap a wedge into the opposite side. The pattern of the cane should be parallel to the frame and not diagonal or crooked. Continue this process until the wedges hold the material in place all around the frame.

After all of the wedges are tapped in, remove them one at a time while gluing the new spline into place. It might be necessary to use a wedge and mallet to push the spline into the groove. Cut the spline to fit and press the last section into place. Allow the glue to dry completely, and cut off the excess material with a sharp utility knife. Lightly sand the seat with fine-grit sandpaper, blow away the dust, and coat the new cane with spray-on varnish according to product label instructions.

Hand-Woven Cane Repair

Four cane love seats.

Hand caning chairs is an art. To maintain the beauty and the character of the piece, this type of repair should be tackled by a professional. Search online or in a local business directory for caning repair professionals.

Cane chairs are exquisite. With proper care and maintenance, they can provide years of beauty and practical use.