smart spending

Refurbishing patio furniture on the cheap

"After touch up, give the areas plenty of time to dry, and then a polyurethane clear coat should be sprayed over the areas to seal them," O'Connell says.

Refurbishing fabric

Sling furniture requires a specialized fabric treated to prevent most stains and withstand the elements, but it does wear out.

Replacement requires removing the side rails, extracting the old fabric, inserting new spline into the edges of the replacement and sliding it back into the side rails. Then reattach the side rails and trim the excess spline.

Don't try to cut corners using fabric that isn't specifically designed for patio furniture. "You have to use sling fabric because it stays taut. Other fabrics will stretch," O'Connell says.

According to O'Connell, buying and cutting bulk fabric requires sewing seams on all four sides. A household sewing machine will do the job, but here again special, 92 weight, polyester thread should be used.

Fabric is sold by the yard in a 54-inch width and costs as little as $16 per yard. Several online sites such as ChairCarePatio.com offer premeasured, sewn sling pieces for $60 and up.

The average DIYer can probably re-sling four chairs in four to six hours.

For strap furniture, removing light stains as well as mold and mildew requires a solution of bleach and water. Begin with one part bleach to three or four parts water, spray it on, lightly scrub with a brush and rinse. Rinsing is extremely important. Bleach is one of those furniture destroyers.

According to Mattingly, replace straps when small cracks become visible along their edges. He recommends using only replacement straps of 100 percent vinyl because they last longer. A 100-foot roll of 1.5-inch, vinyl strapping costs about $60.

Measure new straps and slings accurately

Replacing straps or slings requires accurate measuring. When attaching new straps, the pieces must be precisely cut and then softened in near-boiling water for 15 minutes so they can be stretched over the frame.

"The worst mistake people make is not doing a test strap or two before cutting all the replacement straps. Do one or two test straps and attach them to make sure your measuring is accurate," Mattingly says.

Wicker, engineered for open-air applications, is treated with a plastic resin, protecting it from nearly everything but wear and tear. It will eventually break down and generally can't be repaired.

Melissa Hammer, a senior category manager at CSNStores.com, says resin wicker is much less prone to damage than indoor wicker, but it does get dirty. It can be cleaned with a mixture of mild detergent and water.

Cleaning is important to prolong the life of all types of patio furniture, and not just wicker. Patio pieces should be cleaned once a week, Mattingly says. "Furniture would last much longer if people would just clean it more than they do," he says. "Just clean it."

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