How to Repair Rattan Furniture

Rattan and cane furniture are all the rage! If you’re lucky you can find some rattan furniture at a thrift store to makeover, but it might need some repair. So, here’s how to repair rattan furniture! Repairing old furniture is a great way to save money and give new life to old pieces.

We’ll cover everything you need to know about bringing your rattan pieces back to life, including tools and materials you’ll need and common repairs to make.

broken rattan shelf before repair

Who doesn’t love rattan? It’s totally in right now! The downside? It’s fragile stuff and repairs often look intimidating.

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If you’re in the refinishing business, you probably know that boho beauties are selling like hotcakes and at a high dollar price point.

Yet, oftentimes, the fix is fairly inexpensive and simple, just takes some patience.

I spotted this rattan shelf in a warehouse and immediately thought it resembled a $350 Urban Outfitter look-a-like I’ve had my eyes on.

While I am no basket weaving master – though there was an underwater basket weaving class offered at my college that I regret making fun of instead of enrolling in – I do have some simple techniques on how I repaired this wicker wonder in need of love.

Supplies Used to Repair Rattan Furniture

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  • Dawn Dish Soap and Water
  • Scrubbing Brush for thicker reed or a Toothbrush for finer
  • A Coil of Reed Cane (measure your cane for exact measurements!)
  • Sharp Scissors or Wire Cutters
  • Wood Glue
  • Small Clips or String (wood clips, chip clips, etc.)
  • Spray Paint (optional, see below for the exact paint used!)

How to Repair Rattan Furniture

Get started by using your soap and brush to give the rattan a good scrub. For thinner, more fragile cane I would recommend a soft toothbrush.

The rattan on my shelf was pretty sturdy so I used a larger, scrubbing brush.

This will act as both a cleaning step, and in a way, a light sanding step to remove any previous residue or flaking rattan.

Clip Off Broken/Damaged Rattan

Using your scissors or wire cutters, trim away any damaged or broken rattan. This will give you a clean slate for your new rattan.

*TIP: Take a picture before doing this so you can recall the patterns.

closeup of rattan pattern

Choose Rattan Replacement and Soak In Water

Using the rattan that you trimmed away, measure the diameter to determine what millimeter size rattan you will need to replace it with.

There are flat and round types. I purchased mine from Amazon, but basketweaving.com also has a lot of options.

Once your rattan is purchased, soak the coil in water for 20 minutes. If you omit this step your rattan will be very stiff, brittle, and difficult to work with.

I used a large bowl of water and kept it nearby while working with the rattan to prevent it from drying out.

Measure and Cut Rattan

Next, it’s time to measure and cut the rattan! No rulers or measuring tape required.

measuring new rattan
cutting starter end of rattan at an angle

Simply cut the starter end of the rattan at an angle so you can easily wedge it into the space of the previous rattan and estimate the length.

Allow for some extra tucking room on the other end and cut (if it’s too long you can trim it later).

Tuck and Glue Rattan

Using your wood glue, simply dip each end of the rattan into the glue and tuck it into the space you just measured.

tucking rattan back into place

Until the glue dries, you may need something to hold it in place and at the angle desired to keep the pattern consistent while the rattan and glue dry.

Wood clips or even string would work well, but in my case, I used IKEA chip clips. (Hey! Sometimes you have to get creative.)

rattan furniture with new rattan glued and held in place with clips

Paint Rattan (optional)                 

Once your glue is dry, remove the clips. You can stop here if you love the look of the natural rattan. Isn’t repairing rattan furniture easy!?

If your new rattan clashes with your existing rattan – which in my case, did because it was previously painted – you can apply spray paint. Head over to this post to learn more about spray painting furniture! For more painting cane tips and tricks, here’s painting cane furniture!

Use any color of your choosing, but if you are aiming for a natural rattan look, please refer to my how to refinish rattan furniture post.

I completed my look by applying my custom blend spray paint lined out in my “How to refinish rattan furniture” post (linked in the paragraph above).

If you want this rattan detail on your furniture, here’s how to install cane webbing to a door for your furniture. Or if you just want to lighten your cane furniture here’s our guide on how to lighten cane furniture. Check out more ways on cane furniture repair here to restore your cane’s natural charm and character.

repaired and painted rattan shelf
full front view of repaired and painted rattan shelf

More Before And After Makeovers

Click any of these “before” photos below to view the “after” of that makeover.

That’s it! This trendy little shelf was sold within 5 minutes on Facebook Marketplace!!

If you want to know how to properly price your painted furniture, check out my handy furniture painting price list guide to learn more.

How do I know what size rattan to use for my furniture repair?

To figure out the size you need to fix your rattan furniture, start by measuring the diameter of the rattan that needs replacement. You can easily do this with a ruler or measuring tape.

Just remember, there are both flat and round types, so choose the right shape when buying replacement rattan.

It’s also a good idea to have some extra rattan handy, just in case you make any mistakes or need to replace more sections than you expected.

Can I skip the step of soaking the rattan in water before using it for furniture repair?

Yes, you can technically skip the step of soaking the rattan in water before using it for furniture repair. However, we highly recommend to soak the rattan beforehand as it will make it easier to work with.

Soaking the rattan makes it more flexible and less prone to breaking or cracking during the repair process.

If you choose to skip this step, be prepared for a more difficult and time-consuming repair process.

Dry rattan can be very stiff and brittle, making it harder to fit into tight spots or shape it the way you want. Soaking will also help prevent the rattan from drying out too fast once you start the repair.

This makeover was created by Jess with Oak and Grain Restoration. She currently lives in North Carolina where she works full-time in an emergency room. She loves dipping into her creative side by transforming furniture and in the process, keeping her sanity.

Follow her on Instagram to see more action behind the scenes!!

How To Repair Rattan Furniture

Rattan shelf after repairing and painting

Do you have rattan furniture to makeover but need some repair? Here’s how to repair rattan furniture!

Materials

Tools

Instructions

  1. Give the rattan furniture a good scrub using your soap and brush. For thinner, more fragile cane, use a soft toothbrush.
  2. Trim away any damaged or broken rattan using scissors or wire cutters. This will give you a clean slate for your new rattan.
  3. With the rattan that you trimmed away, measure the diameter to determine what millimeter size rattan you will need to replace it with.
  4. Soak your new rattan in water for 20 minutes. If you omit this step your rattan will be very stiff, brittle, and difficult to work with.
  5. Measure and cut the rattan by simply cutting the starter end of the rattan at an angle. This is so you can easily wedge it into the space of the previous rattan and estimate the length. Do allow for some extra tucking room on the other end before cutting.
  6. Dip each end of the rattan into the glue and tuck into the space you just measured. Hold it in place and at the angle desired with clips to keep the pattern consistent while the rattan and glue dry.
  7. Once the glue dries, you can remove the clips and proceed to paint the repaired rattan furniture.

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rattan furniture
broken rattan shelf
"closeup of best way to repair rattan"

4 Comments

  1. Amber Hale says:

    Hi! Thank you for this great post! I am also refinishing a similar rattan shelf. I was wondering if you had any tips for tucking the rattan into the tight spaces? Most of my pieces are broken off inside the place where the rattan would get tucked. I would love any tips! Thanks

  2. Will this painting technique work on dark rattan as well? I’ve got two dark rattan swivel egg chairs – one new and one old that are darker brown…would love to look more like a “natural” rattan color!!

  3. once you soak the reed and fix it in place where you need it, won’t it shrink when it’s dry?

    1. It does very slightly. But it’s a little bit loose when it’s wet, even when you stretch it into place. It works beautifully.

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