Introduction: Garbage Chair

While walking down the street a few weeks back, I found a rusted old folding chair in a trash pile. Its PVC banded seat was busted, but the frame (minus the rust) was in functional condition. I decided to rescue it from a future at the landfill and carried it home. A few weeks later, I tripped over a muddied and retired "road work ahead" sign. Though it needed some serious cleaning, I decided the reflective vinyl would be an ideal material for the chair's new seat back.

So, over the course of a few hours (spread over two days), I turned two scavenged items, landfill bound, into a one-of-a-kind outdoor furnishing that glows at night. It's as comfortable as it is attractive and that makes me feel warm and fuzzy.


  • Scavenging: varies
  • (RE)Construction: 4-8 hours depending on the grunginess of your find


  • chair frame + material for seat back
  • hot water, vinegar and a rag
  • sand paper + fine steel wool (001)
  • measuring tape
  • scissors
  • hot glue
  • needle and thread
  • spray paint (for customizing vinyl mesh and/or chair handles)

Step 1: Scavenge

Go dumpster diving! I see rusted frames like these left on the side of the road often. If you don't feel like waiting and just wanna make a custom beach chair, you can also buy them for pretty cheap at hardware stores, dollar stores, bodegas, etc. However, this route defeats the purpose of saving something from the landfill…

If you are having difficulty finding a road work sign, you can find vinyl mesh at hardware stores at inexpensive prices. You can customize it with spray paint or just keep it simple - it won't be reflective but does that really matter? This sign measured 48" x 48" and after looking online, I have found that they are VERY expensive - around $125-$150.

Finally, gather the necessary materials!

  • vinegar
  • rag(s)
  • spray paint
  • tape
  • glue gun
  • measuring tape
  • scissors
  • sand paper (100 grit)
  • steel wool (#00 grade)

Step 2: Clean Your Finds!


  • remove damaged PVC banding from aluminum frame
  • using hot water and vinegar mixture (1:1) clean off top layers of rust and grime
  • sand remaining rust from frame using coarse grit (100) sandpaper
  • brush aluminum and smooth sanding marks with very fine grade (#00) steel wool (use gloves!)
  • wipe down with clean rag


  • soak in hot water bath with mild detergent or vinegar, scrub and rinse
  • lay flat to dry

Step 3: Customize Chair Handles (optional)

If desired, tape off the aluminum frame and spray paint the plastic arm rests to the color of your liking - for this project, I chose a flat grey.

Step 4: Fabric Prep

  • Cut sign or fabric into 2-3" strips
  • Set aside 8 strips (single length)
  • Hand or machine stitch 2 strips together (make a total of 4 double length strips)

Step 5: Seat Prep

Measure the width of the chair. Multiply this measurement by 2 and add 3" to allow for the width of the tubing and a 1.5" overlap of material.

Cut the 8 single length strips to this measurement.

Using pre-cut strips, a hot glue gun and a needle / thread…

  • Run 4 strips around the aluminum tubing of the seat of the frame (3 behind the intersection of the arm rest & seat and 1 in front of it) - pull it taut so there is about a 1.5" overlap and join using a small amount of hot glue. Once the glue sets, hand stitch the band in place.
  • Do the same with the seat back (3 above the arm rest and one below)
  • Slide the band around the tubing to the bottom / back so that the seam is not visible

Step 6: Finishing Seat

Using the 4 double length strips, weave the length of the chair in the configuration of your liking. I used the traditional over / under weave. Following the same steps as the previous step, pull the fabric taut around the seat frame and join using small amounts of hot glue. Once the glue sets, stitch these bands and slide seams so they are concealed by cross strips.

Quickly tack the bands near the aluminum frame so they don't slide around and you're finished!

I brought this chair to the river last weekend and it was enjoyed by people of all ages, shapes and sizes (dogs too!).

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Epilog Challenge VI

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Epilog Challenge VI

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