Restoring Vinyl Strap Chairs

Restoring patio furniture is a new obsession. I inherited the outdoor dining set my parents purchased in 1979. My Dad bought a house in Florida with a beautiful lake view from the back porch. He and my Mom ate lunch out there at least half the year until he passed in 1983.

Since I moved to Orlando, I have owned at least four other patio sets. I started shopping for new furniture when the straps began to break last year on these 40-year-old chairs. To replace the outdoor dining table would cost $1,000 for anything that would last another 50-years. Then I tripped on a company that sold replacement straps, and suddenly, restoring patio furniture became my obsession.

The cost of vinyl strapping was less than $200, including rivets and bolts, tin snips, and a vinyl punch. Each chair has 21 straps. They were yellow and white initially, but I chose burgundy and tan, which complements my pool area.

Why Restrapping My 40-Year-Old Chairs Makes Sense

My Mom and Dad bought this patio set in 1980. The aluminum-frame furniture sat on their screened patio for 20 years. They likely sat at this table every day for lunch and watched the boaters on the water. At night, when the weather was cool, we often sat on the patio and played cards.

I wish I’d taken a better before picture. The pattern was one canary yellow strap and then two whites. The strap color faded over the last 40 years, but the straps were so durable that they didn’t become brittle until the previous year.

The original 40-year-old straps

The furniture was still in perfect condition when I received it in 2001. However, the straps are brittle now and break easily after two decades in my yard. But the frames are still in excellent condition.

The cost of vinyl straps and rivets, gloves, and tools, was just over $168. It is about the same cost to buy the straps already cut, but it reduces the labor of cutting and trimming each piece to fit. I bought two rolls of vinyl strapping–one 200-foot roll of burgundy and a 50-foot roll of a dove tan for $96 total. The additional short shank plastic rivets and new end caps for the feet and arms plus tax and shipping brought me to my final cost. I will certainly have enough strapping remaining to finish two or three additional chairs if I see them at yard sales or resale shops.

I already owned the drill and appropriate drill bit. But I did purchase tin snips and two pairs of silicone gloves for handling hot strapping.

These old chairs have sentimental value simply because my parents owned them. However, that wasn’t the only reason I decided to salvage and restore them. It makes financial sense too. A new outdoor dining set could easily cost $1000 or more. Outdoor cushions and furniture take a beating out in Florida’s sun.

How to Restrap and Restore this Patio Furniture

I was utterly intimidated by the idea of strapping patio furniture. I am not the handiest person around the house. But I watched a “how-to” video and decided I needed to try to save this furniture. There are 21 straps on each chair. To restore them all involves 84 straps, 168 cuts, and 168 rivets and holes. My pattern requires 16 straps of the primary color and three of the secondary color all cut to 21 3/8″. There are two straps that connect to the support bars shown in my picture. These two straps wrap around the back of the chair and measure 25 1/2″ inches when connected.

The frame on this chair is still structurally sound. After replacing the strapping it should be good as new.
The first strap completed successfully gave me the confidence to proceed.

These chairs are 24 inches from side to side. Cut the straps to that length LESS 10 percent. The replacement straps measure 21 3/8″. Each strap is simmered in hot water for five minutes and then stretched onto the frame. This allows the straps to remain tight when the chairs are not in use.

Steps:

  • Remove the old straps and rivets – I used a flathead screwdriver to pop most of the rivets. A few stubborn rivets had to be pulled out with pliers.
  • Next, Gently clean the frame with soap and water.
  • Measure, measure, measure one rivet hole to rivet hole. Reduce that measurement by 10 percent.
  • Cut the straps to the correct measurement.
  • Drill a hole at each end of the straps leaving a 1/4″ border. Then insert the rivets into those holes.
  • Heat the replacement straps in hot water. When you remove the straps they will feel much less rigid. Don’t worry, the structure returns as they cool.
  • Using the silicone gloves to hold the hot straps to the frame. Push the first rivet into one side of the frame and wrap the vinyl strap around the front of the chair. Pull the strap across to the other side of the frame, and connect the rivet to the other side behind the frame.
  • Adjust the strap

I was inspired after getting the first strapping attached. It was very easy to insert the rivets and pull the straps to fit. It was a little harder to set the straps that are adjacent to the chair arms and support braces, but the project is very easy and any novice could do this project. Be forewarned that 42 straps later my forearms were sore. Nothing a little muscle rub didn’t fix.

The Value of Restoration

Obviously, there is financial value in restoring any old furniture as long as you like the pieces. We live in a “throw-away” society and most people prefer to replace rather than repair. But while the furniture can be replaced, the memories this set brings back every evening are priceless.

Vintage vinyl strap chairs fully restored
Here are two of the four vintage vinyl strap chairs fully restored in their new colors.

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