How I Refinished Our Dining Chairs

11 Materials
3 Days

This could be called the 3rd installment of my dining set makeover! In case you missed the dining table & buffet bleaching & refinishing posts, you can find them on my page. Our dining set has been well used and well-loved for many, many years! Mom said it had been stored in a barn prior to being given to them. Mom & dad used it for over 25 years and then gave the set to me.

When we were given the set, several of the chairs were in need of repair. We used a couple of them for about a year but then gave them back to my folks to store for us.

Since we weren't using the chairs that went with the set, we needed to find others to use with the table. Over the years, we've had 3 sets of dining chairs. This is what our first set looked like; it is also our 3rd set.

This is the 2nd set of chairs.

When I decided to refinish the table and buffet, I also decided that it was time to have the chairs mom was still storing shipped to us. It's so hard to believe that she has stored them for over 40 years! Once I made the decision to have the chairs shipped, I contacted mom to let her know. When she went to look for them, she found only 3! Both of the captain chairs and one of the regular ones are missing!!! Neither of us knows what happened to the other 3 chairs. Arghh!!!

Here is a fuzzy picture of the top of what the original chairs look like.

Now that I knew that I would only be getting 3 chairs from mom, I started looking around for more to add to the set. Since the chairs are antiques, many that I found online were quite expensive and a lot of them were in England. So, I decided to look locally for similar chairs but not antique ones.

I found one chair at a local thrift shop and bought it for $11.

After finding that chair, I found a dining set on Facebook Marketplace for $100. I didn't need the table and all the chairs so I asked if they would be willing to sell just the two captain chairs and one regular one. They responded that I could have all 6 chairs for $50 if I was interested. Yes! At such a great price, I decided to take them all. I'm not sure what I'll do with a total of 11 chairs (once the ones from mom arrive) but I figure I can always donate a few. Below are pictures of the chairs. As you can see, they don't exactly match the original design but they are pretty close!

Now that I had chairs - lots of chairs - I had a decision to make; should I strip the ones I was going to use and see what the wood looks like or should I paint them? In the picture of the original chair (sorry that it's so blurry - it's a picture of a photograph), you can see that it is painted red. Mom painted the set back in the '70s when the technique called 'antiquing' came out. When we refinished the table & buffet the first time, we had them professionally stripped because underneath that paint was a black stain that we could not remove on our own. Knowing that the chairs coming from moms will have the same stain, I decided to paint a few of the newer chairs now and the original ones when they arrive.

The first step was to remove the chair cushion. Removing chair cushions is easy. There are 4 screws that hold the wood bottom of the cushion to the chair. I removed the screws and set the cushion aside.

Once the cushion had been removed, using a sanding block, I roughed up the shiny finish on the chair then wiped it down with a soft cloth followed by a tack cloth. I did this process for the 3 chairs that I started with.

For the 4th & 5th chairs, I thought I'd try using oven cleaner to remove the finish. I've been reading about using oven cleaner as a stripper and because this is the first project since hearing about it, I decided to give it a go! I liked the ease of being able to spray the stripper as opposed to brushing on CitriStrip.

I took the chairs outside in the fresh air while I used the oven cleaner. I also wore long cleaning gloves, a mask, and goggles.

I sprayed the oven cleaner onto the wood at the back of the chair and allowed it to sit for about 20 minutes.

I then scrubbed it off with a little brush and a scratchy then rinsed with water. When the wood was dry, I could see that the oven cleaner didn't get off all the shiny finish so I tried a 2nd application. This time, most of the finish came off but just roughing it up with a sanding block was faster. I do plan to try this stripping process on another piece of furniture.

When the sanding was done, it was time to paint! I chose to use the same paint that I used on my kitchen cabinets & hoosier - Pratt & Lambert - Sandhill Crane. This paint is a pretty teal color.

I started the painting in the garage and moved the chairs into the house when it started to get dark. Using a 1 1/2" angled paintbrush (my favorite size), I applied 2 coats of paint. The 2nd coat can be applied after an hour but I allowed the 1st coat to dry overnight before applying the 2nd coat.

I ended up applying a 3rd coat the next day and then let it dry overnight again.

The chair cushions needed to be recovered (as will the ones I get from mom). I initially thought that I would use fabric because it is usually more comfortable to sit on than vinyl. However, as I was walking past the fabric section of Walmart one day, I saw this adorable chicken & rooster print in vinyl! I loved it at first sight!

When I looked closer at the print, I was surprised to see that one of the roosters looked just like my metal one, Sam!

Yes, I named him...please don't judge me :)

The vinyl was only $2.97 and 54" wide! I bought what was left on the roll - 6 1/2 yards. I didn't know just how many chairs I would be recovering and figured I could use the remainder as a tablecloth - if there was that much left.

There are a couple of ways that you can remove the old covering on a chair cushion. You can cut the fabric close to the staples with a pair of scissors or razor knife. Or, you can remove the fabric by removing the staples from the board the fabric has been stapled to. While it is faster and easier to cut the fabric and leave the staples, it is cleaner to remove the staples

Removing the staples will give you a smooth surface for when you attach the new material. I have always removed the staples when replacing a chair cushion. To remove the staples, use either a flathead screwdriver, a 9 in 1 painter's tool or a staple remover to loosen the staples then pull them out with a pair of pliers.

Sometimes it's easier to loosen the staples by pressing the flathead screwdriver under the material between the staples and pulling up.

After you remove the old cushion covering, check the condition of the foam. If it is not in good shape, you will want to replace it. Foam can be found at your local fabric store or online. The foam on these cushions was in really good shape so I didn't need to replace them. If you removed the fabric by removing the staples, you can use that piece as a pattern to cut the new cover.

If you cut the fabric away from the staples, you can use the cushion to cut the new piece of material. To use the cushion, you'll turn your fabric/vinyl the wrong side up, lay the cushion on top of it and pull the fabric up around the cushion and mark the spot where you'll be stapling the new piece to the board. See pictures for details.

To attach the new material to the cushion and board, you can use a nail gun with brads or a manual staple gun. I tried using my brad gun but the force of the brad made it cut right through the vinyl (if it were material, it would have worked just fine). With the cushion laying on the wrong side of your material, center it on your material.

If your material has a pattern, flip the cushion & material upright to check that your pattern looks like you want it to.

Turn the cushion back so you can attach the material. You'll start securing it at the center of each side by pulling the material taut and stapling it into place. You may need to hammer some of the staples a little to make them flush.

Work your way from each center to the corners. Trip excess material as needed. When you get to the corners, fold the excess material to ease it around the corner. Be sure to leave the screw holes exposed to make it easier to fasten the seat to the chair.

You can see in the picture below that one of the screw holes is close to the edge of the cushion. I did not trim away the vinyl from this section because it was so close to the edge. You don't need to make the underside pretty unless you want to - no one will see what it looks like.

When you have finished attaching the new material to the seat cushion, using a screwdriver, attach it to the chair with the original screws. I found it easy to attach the cushion by sitting the regular chairs upside down on the top of the table.

For the captain chairs, I used our laundry basket; this allowed the arms of the chair to be lower than the surface of the seat. Even though I didn't think I would use vinyl for the seat cushions, I am surprised at how soft and comfortable it is.

I love the look of the teal paint with the color of the table.


Remove seat cushion using a screw driver

  • Set aside

Ruff up finish on chair

  • With 120/150 grit sandpaper
  • or
  • Easy Off oven cleaner
  • Remove oven cleaner with sponge dipped in water
  • Rinse wood with sponge & clean water
  • Once wood is dry, it can be painted
  • Wear gloves, goggles, mask

Wipe wood with tack cloth

Apply two to three coats of paint using a paintbrush

Remove old material from seat cushion

  • Using flathead screwdriver, 9 in 1 tool, or staple remover

Used old material as a pattern for new fabric/vinyl

Attach new material to cushion using a staple gun

Attach seat cushion to chair using screws

I had all the tools & supplies on hand with the exception of the Easy Off, scrubbers, and vinyl. I used 2 yards of what I bought.

Resources for this project:

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Frequently asked questions

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  1 question
  • Margaret Margaret on Nov 04, 2021

    What kind of paint did u use? And did u put a finish on it?


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4 of 21 comments
  • E95656 E95656 on Nov 13, 2021

    So pretty!

  • Ginger Ginger on Nov 29, 2021

    This is a great finish on the chairs- lots of clashing prints with the out dated 80’s border, rug,chairs & curtains - plus sooo much clutter- will you be changing that too?

    • Jeanne Jeanne on Nov 29, 2021

      Thanks! I love the finish on the chairs too. I do like changing things up, so if I do, I'll probably put it in a post 😉