How to fix a wobbly chair

Q.

Years ago I purchased some dining room chairs from a consignment shop. The chairs were made in the early 1900s by the Raab Chair Co. and weren’t terribly expensive, but I love them. I removed the ugly makeshift upholstery on the seat bottoms, which revealed the original fabric with a fabulous prowling leopard design. I cleaned up the chairs and tried to tighten the joints, but the chairs have gotten pretty rickety. It’s to the point that I’m nervous when we have dinner guests — particularly larger ones. I’m afraid someone is going to end up in a collapsing chair! Where can I have them reglued by someone who knows what they’re doing?

(reader photo/READER PHOTO) - A reader’s wobbly chair.

Alexandria

A. A variety of repair companies are set up to do this work. Regardless of whether chairs are old enough to be considered antiques, you might start by contacting companies that specialize in restoration of antique furniture, such as New England Antique Furniture Repair Shop in Arlington (703-528-1800). Some companies that specialize in upholstery also repair wooden pieces with loose joints. In Alexandria, E.C. Robinson Upholstery & Antiques (703-299-5193) Sparkle Upholstery (703-354-2616) do this work.

As you’ve discovered, it isn’t possible to fix wobbly chairs for the long run simply by trying to squirt glue into loose joints. The old adhesive gets in the way, and it’s inevitably already coming loose or the chairs wouldn’t have needed the repair. For a long-lasting fix, someone needs to disassemble the chairs, scrape off the old glue, apply new glue and clamp the joints securely while the glue dries. Sometimes dowels need to be replaced or cracked parts need to be replicated and finished to match. As a result, the repair could come to about $150 a chair.

Do you know someone who repairs difficult-to-move furniture in the home?

Here are a few people to try, depending on what kind of furniture repair you need.

Barbara Adatte in Reston (703-834-0762) makes house calls in northeastern Virginia to clean and repair furniture. She doesn’t deal with upholstery but does tackle peeling or worn veneers, ugly scratches and wobbly chair legs — “all sorts of little broken things,” she says. She brings along a supply of various stains, finishes and polishes, plus her 30 years of experience. She charges about $50 an hour.

David Roseman and Glenn Sutherland, who run Dr. Furniture in Ellicott City (877-418-8330), also make house calls. Their service area includes Northern Virginia as well as most of central Maryland and south-central Pennsylvania. They don’t take on full reupholstery or refinishing, but they do touch up finishes, install new foam in seat cushions, close up seams that are opening, replace frame pieces that have broken and even undertake what they call “sofa breakdown.” That’s needed when a piece is too large to fit into a new home or apartment. They peel back the fabric, padding and springs to expose the sofa frame, saw the furniture in half, and then reassemble the piece once it is in the room it needs to be in.

Schoenbauer Furniture Service in Charlotte Hall (800-955-7603), makes house calls to repair nicks, scratches and watermarks on furniture. The company also has a full-service upholstery, woodworking and caning shop and operates a pickup and delivery service. So even if your furniture seems too bulky to move but needs a repair that can be done only in a shop, you can let them take care of that hassle.

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