How To: Restore rattan furniture

July 25, 2012

Q. Can you suggest a company that refurbishes rattan furniture? I bought the pieces several years ago at a yard sale. I have cleaned them, but the finish is so worn that it is almost completely gone in spots. I am not interested in doing it myself; I would like to have the finish professionally restored.

Bethesda

A. good cleaning and a little touch-up staining would go a long way toward spiffing up your chairs, suggests Barbara Adatte (703-834-0762; baadatte@msn.com), who has been making house calls to repair furniture in the Washington area for 30 years. She recommends against stripping and refinishing. Instead, she says, it would be better to focus on making bare areas blend in and mimicking the rich color visible on some of the more protected areas of the chairs. If you wanted to do it yourself, she’d recommend rubbing a little shoe polish onto the worn wrappings and cleaning and polishing other areas. But one advantage of hiring someone like her is that she brings along a wide array of stains, sealers and polishes, plus her years of experience in dabbing on a little of this and a little of that to get a look that’s just right. “You have to work with it,” she says. She charges $50 an hour and estimates that repairing chairs like yours would run about $50 a chair.

Two Gaithersburg companies, Bethesda Restorations (301-417-2505; www.bethesdarestorations.com) and Harry C. Johnson & Son (301-948-8686; www.harryjohnsonfurniture.com) also work on rattan chairs. After looking at pictures of your pieces, key people at both places also concluded that touch-up repairs are the way to go, though their per-chair estimates were $100 (at Bethesda Restorations) and $200 (at Johnson & Son). For someone who needs extensive repairs, though, these places might be the best option, because they have shops equipped for a full range of work, including replicating wooden parts and reweaving cane seats.

Q. I have a four-post queen-size bed made of Southern pine, with iron scrollwork at the head and base, that I really like. It is about 30 years old. Now that I am married, I would like to convert it to a king-size bed. I have talked to two friends who do some carpentry work, and they have explained to me how they would do it, but neither is interested in taking on such a project. Where do I start in finding a carpenter or cabinetmaker to help?


Rattan chair. (Wisteria)

Arlington

A. Your friends’ reluctance might stem from the fact that a project like this usually doesn’t wind up being as simple as it might seem. Not only would the craftsperson need to make and install the necessary wooden parts, they’d need to finish the pieces so everything matches. “By the time you do all that work, it’s cheaper to buy a new bed,” said Stefan Ohmke, manager of New England Antique Furniture Repair Shop in Arlington (703-528-1800).

But because you love the bed, it’s still worth showing a few pictures of it to people who take on this type of project. Discuss options and get estimates. Shop around for a new bed that’s the size you want. Then decide.

Besides Ohmke’s shop, here are two woodworkers in Arlington who sometimes take on projects like this: Caleb Woodard Furniture (202-243-8249, info@calebwoodardfurniture.com) and Yassin Woodworking (703-247-9272; kamelyassin@hotmail.com).

Q. My deck has this rotten spot. Is there any solution short of total deck replacement? If so, what would be the cost? How can I prevent it from happening again in the future?

McLean

A. You certainly do not need to replace the whole deck just because one board has a spot of rot. Just unscrew or pry up the problem piece and replace it, or hire a home repair person if you aren’t handy. But because the existing finish on the surrounding boards has weathered, there’s no way to make the new piece match unless you refinish the whole deck.

How to prevent this from happening again? Wood is a natural product, so boards occasionally have soft spots where the fungi that cause rot easily flourish. There’s not much you can do to prevent that, other than keep an eye out and replace pieces as you spot the damage. Using preservative-treated wood for the replacement pieces is good insurance, but be sure to get pieces that weren’t incised to help the preservative penetrate or the replacements will look noticeably different than the surrounding boards.

You can also guard against rot by preventing areas of the deck from remaining damp for long periods. Instead of placing potted plants directly on the decking, set them on spacers, and shift the location of the spacers periodically. Also move deck furniture so the feet don’t stay in one place for too long.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

The Checklist Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in July, such as oiling a garage door and using the air conditioner efficiently, at washingtonpost.com/home.

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