Left outdoors in rain and shine, metal deck and patio furniture takes a beating. Frames accumulate unsightly nicks, scratches, and rust; vinyl straps discolor and loosen; mesh slings rip; fasteners pop out.
But that doesn’t mean you have to toss the old aluminum patio chairs and buy new. For a fraction of the cost of replacement, you can tackle basic repairs yourself. “This is something homeowners can definitely do,” says Steven Gentino, owner of The Chair Care Co., an outdoor-furniture refinisher in New Haven, Connecticut. “It takes a little muscle and a couple of hours, tops.” Gentino’s company is one of many nationwide that can supply the necessary materials, fasteners, and even touch-up paint. You can also try contacting your chair’s manufacturer for a list of authorized repair services.
Here, once you have your parts, learn how to revive two types of painted aluminum chairs; one with a vinyl-strap back and seat, the other with a one-piece mesh sling.
Steps for Repairing Aluminum Patio Chairs
Step 1: Order a new sling (for mesh sling replacement)
Before you get started on your patio sling chair repair, you have to measure your chairs and order replacement sling. To find the width, measure from the center of one rail to the center of the opposite rail at the bolt locations typically found at the top and bottom of the sling. To find the length, lay a cloth tape measure along the top face of one rail so it follows the rail’s curvature.
Step 2: Cut the old sling
Slash the old sling down the middle with a utility knife. (A damaged sling cannot be saved.) Remove the end cap on each side rail.
Step 3: Remove the old sling
Slide the two halves of the sling out of their tracks in the chair’s rails. Loosen but don’t remove the bolts that attach the rails to the chair frame, then pop out the spreader bar.
This is the best time to retouch or repaint your frame. Go to Frame Touch-Up Techniques for how-to and tips.
Step 4: Slide the new sling on
Remove one rail entirely. Hold the sling with its hem side to the back and slide its nylon rod into the track of the rail that’s still attached to the chair frame.
Step 5: Secure the new sling
Slide the detached rail over the sling’s other nylon rod. Bolt this rail back on the frame. Tighten the loose bolts on the opposite rail to make the sling taut.
Step 6: Reattach the spreader bar
Reinsert the spreader bar. Use a pipe clamp to spread the rails slightly; if need be, bend the bar a bit to make it fit, then hit it with a rubber mallet to restore its shape.
Step 7: Trim the rods
With a wire cutter, trim each rod flush with the end of the rail. Push the end caps back on the rails.
Step 8: Order new straps (for vinyl replacement)
For a single-wrap strap (one with exposed plastic pegs or metal clips), measure across the frame from hole to hole with a cloth tape measure wrapping around the outside of the frame. A double-wrap strap (shown) covers the fasteners. Start at one hole, loop the tape measures fully around the frame, then pull to the opposite hole and repeat.
Buy enough straps and pegs to redo the entire piece. (Metal clips can be reused.) The supplier will cut each strap to length and punch a hole for pegs or attach edge clips on both ends.
This is the best time to retouch or repaint your frame.
Step 9: Attach the strap
Make the straps flexible by soaking them in hot (not boiling) water; never use a hair dryer or heat gun. Attach the strap end by pushing a peg through its hole and into the hole on the back of the frame.
Step 10: Wrap the strap around the frame
With the peg seated firmly, wrap the strap all the way around the frame, covering the peg. (For a single wrap, simply go halfway around the frame and pull to the opposite side.)
Step 11: Stretch the strap to the other side
Grab the strap near its middle and stretch it to the opposite side of the frame. Hold it tight against this side with one hand; use the other to loosely wrap the strap’s free end around the frame 1½ times.
Step 12: Secure the strap
Keep tension on the strap as you push a peg through the free end and into its hole. Slide the loop up over the peg with your thumb, then let go of the strap. It will tighten as it cools. Repeat this process for all straps.
You’re done reviving your vinyl strap chair.
Step 13: Frame Touch-Up
The time to touch up nicks and scratches on the frame is after the old straps or slings have been removed and before the new ones go on. The method to use depends on the type of metal to be painted. For aluminum, rough up the surface slightly with 100-grit sandpaper, then smooth it with 220-grit paper. There’s no need to prime—just apply exterior-grade acrylic enamel paint. Use a tiny touch-up brush on nicks, and a spray can on bigger scratches.
For wrought iron on tubular steel, use a wire brush and sandpaper to sand any rust spots or chipped paint down to bare metal. Next, brush or spray on a metal primer, then apply an exterior enamel topcoat. (A coat of rust converter such as Rust Reformer stabilizes rust without sanding, but a rough, crusty look will remain.)
When a painted frame is covered with scratches or caked with rust, it’s probably time for a professional overhaul. Factory-authorized refinishers like The Chair Care Co. will sandblast and repaint furniture with a tough, powder-coated finish that will last 15 years or more. “The pieces come out looking brand-new,” says owner Steven Gentino. The full-body treatment—blasting, repainting, welding, repairing straps, slings, or cushions, and replacing fasteners—runs about $120 for a typical chair. That’s still only one-third to half the cost of buying new.
Once the paint is dry, continue restoring your outdoor furniture with these tips.
Step 14: Care and maintenance
The plastic components of outdoor furniture (shown)—vinyl straps, plastic pegs, and mesh slings—last about 10 years. In the meantime, the easiest way to keep outdoor furniture looking good is to give it a quick scrub down with mild dish soap, followed by a water rinse. In addition, each material has its own particular needs.
Straps and Slings__Both are made of vinyl, which suntan oil stains, sunlight fades, and dirt and mildew stick to like magnets. A spritz with a vinyl cleaner such as FeronClean or a mild all-purpose cleaner like Fantastik or Formula 409 and a swipe with a cloth is the best way to remove grime. Never use abrasives, bleach, or ammonia, all of which strip vinyl of its UV protection. Exposure to pesticides and fertilizers does the same thing. Encourage sunbathers to cover chairs with a towel.
Metal__Touch up the paint as soon as it’s nicked. Do not apply car wax, which will leave a cloudy buildup.
Storage__The best place for furniture in the winter is a dry spot indoors. If it must remain outdoors, wrap each piece in a breathable vinyl cover (available at outdoor-furniture distributors) that doesn’t touch the ground. That way, moisture can escape, preventing mildew and rust.