How to bring life back to damaged wicker furniture

This is a thrift hack – buying old wicker furniture and giving it a second lease of life. This is a very simple guide and example on repairing wicker furniture and adding a “distressed” look and feel to it. This technique isn’t to everyone’s taste, but someone may really shine at it!

Wicker furniture has come back into style as popular patio furniture. It has a wonderful cottage feel to it, and the older styles can often be found second hand, though looking out for quality when searching through second hand shops is essential. Look for example for the maker’s name, as Lloyd Loom is rather a good maker, and furniture made by them is likely to be of great quality.

Look also for damage which may be beyond repair. Occasionally, mending can be possible and if this is in an area which can be covered with a great cushion, it is possible to mend broken parts with the use of natural materials such as basket weaving reed of the same thickness. Natural fiber thread such as hemp can be used for bindings on legs, though you really can find some solid bargains where the only wear in the item affects the paintwork, which is easy to repair, even for the enthusiast rather than the professional.

If you find chairs which seem rather worn, this is usually for a good reason. One of the most enjoyable aspects of wicker furniture is that it is comfortable, particularly the armchairs and sofas, and with a little imagination, and the following tools, you can make an old wicker item into something wonderful to enhance the home.

  • Sponge.
  • Soapy water.
  • Scrubbing brush.
  • Spray paint
  • Finishing lacquer.
  • Newspapers.
  • Natural looking hemp twine
  • Basket weaving reed
  • Snips for cane.
  • Scissors for thread and twine.
  • Transparent thread and needle.
  • Medium sandpaper
  • Undercoat
  • Spray topcoat.


Look at the item that you have bought, and examine it for damage. Before we start the repairs, it will be necessary to get rid of built up dirt. Most can be washed off with soapy water, though stubborn areas where there is build up between the weave can be accessed with a stiff scrubbing brush. Be sure to wipe the bottom of the furniture as well as the top as this gives you a chance to examine areas which may need repair.


To repair areas which are damaged, weave new basket weaving reed into places where breakage has occurred and pull the old weave to the back of the furniture so that it will not show as much. Weave in and out and make sure the ends of your cane are neatly tucked in. If the breakage has occurred in a difficult place which requires a lot of bending of the reed, pre-soak the reed to give it more flexibility.


Strengthen any ties which are loose by tightly winding natural hemp twine around the joints in legs. Stitch this off firmly with a strong thread which is transparent. A darning needle may be used for this, and you may even find that you can get a twine which can be thread through the eye of the needle.


When the furniture is repaired and dry, you can choose the color of paint you wish to use. From experience, those paints with a mat or satin finish don’t last as well as paints which are gloss finish, although the look they give is nicer. Since the procedure is so simple, it’s not such a bad thing that the chairs may need re-spraying every five years or so, as this gives you a chance to update your choice of colors. Not everyone likes it.


For the painting, place the piece of furniture onto a newspaper, and preferably perform the spraying job outdoors to avoid damage from the paint on other surfaces and to help you avoid intoxication from paint spray.

Undercoating is needed, as this will kill the original color and make the surface of the item accept the final color in one spraying.

Color the undercoat to a similar color to the top coat by the addition of colors available in do it yourself shops, or buy undercoat which is already colored. After the undercoating has dried, shake the can for the topcoat, and be sure that you are spraying in an area where nothing will be painted other than the item in question.

It may be advisable to wear a small mask, and if you have one available do use it, since this stops you breathing in the odor from the paint.

Holding the can away from the furniture, try on the bottom of the furniture until you are comfortable with the distance at which to hold the can.

Spray the underneath of the furniture, and then turn it over. Spray the last coat.

Always make sure that you spray in a dry atmosphere, and if spraying outdoors, that you do this during a period of good weather, so that the item can dry easily without being hampered by dampness in the atmosphere.


The next part of the process is the fun one. You can lightly distress the surface if you like the modern distressed look simply by rubbing fine sandpaper randomly over the finished surface, exposing the undercoat in places.


Then choose a material and make padded cushions for chairs that suit the style of the area in which you are going to house the chairs. For tables, add little bits of weave in different contrasting color at this stage if you wish to, and to make wicker tables more substantial for indoor use, you can always add a nice glass top, with polished edges, and glass suppliers will be able to supply this to measure.

Be sure to explain your needs to them and they can quote you for finished glass which poses no threat to users of the table and has a great finish at the edges.


Even the old wicker chair which you first saw in an antique shop or bought in a garage sale can have a new lease of life with a little care and thought, and will perhaps not only become useful but is likely to become your favorite piece of furniture.




  • If there are pieces of the Wicker material that need mending then never trim them away! They are part of the structure of the item and if you get rid of them to tidy it up you will be weakening the structure.
  • Instead use some wood glue where appropriate to stick loose ends back where they should be. If needed use a clamp to hold glued areas in place until they are dry. You can repair splits in the Wicker in the same way.
  • If the joints of the furniture needs some work then you can re-wrap them with sweet grass or use some flat reed.
  • To clean your furniture, before using any form of cleaning product or water, use a small brush and the vacuum attachments which are meant for such purposes and which are contained in most vacuums.
  • After this, ascertain whether your furniture needs further cleaning. If it does then use a damp sponge or cloth and use a tiny brush to work into the crevices. A very mild soap solution is all that you will need to make your sponge or cloth wet. Then wring them out before use, unless your furniture is absolutely filthy in which case you will need more water than this.