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Learn To Do It Yourself: How To Reupholster Furniture

If your furniture is looking like it has seen better days, you may be thinking about giving it the boot in favor of some newer pieces. But before you kick that old chair or couch to the curb, consider renewing that old furniture with some brand new upholstery. Like sanding and refinishing, reupholstering an old chair, couch, or cushion can really give new life to some of your older pieces. And, it can give you a chance to express some of your own creativity, in a hands-on fashion! Here are some of the essential tips that you will need to reupholster your own pieces of furniture.

Why Reupholster?
Reupholstering can be a great alternative to buying new furniture for your dining room, living room, or bedroom. You can reupholster almost any type of furniture that has been covered in fabric, and, if you are up to the challenge, you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself. Many people decide to take up the challenge of reupholstering because it:


  • saves time spent on ordering custom furniture
  • allows you to choose the exact type of fabric and cushioning you want in your piece
  • allows you to salvage antique furniture or furniture that has sentimental value


Choosing a Fabric
Before you can take on the task of reupholstering, you will first need to decide on the type of fabric you want your chair, cushion, or sofa to have. It is important that you choose upholstery-quality fabric, and not regular fabric. Upholstery fabric is much more durable and will stand up to the test of time, unlike regular fabric. Most upholstery fabrics are stain-resistant too, which means that you don’t have to worry too much if you spill that cup of coffee!

Be sure to choose a fabric that you like and that will match the other furniture in the room. However, the thicker and stiffer the fabric is that you select, the more difficult the reupholstery process will be. It is typically not recommended that amateur upholsters try to reupholster leather or suede furniture. There are a variety of upholstery stores that are open to the public, which can provide you with a great selection of fabrics at very low prices.

Necessary Tools
In order to begin your reupholstery project, you will need to collect a few reupholstery supplies. It is important that you have:


  • a pair of needle nose pliers
  • a staple gun (with staples) or upholstery tacks
  • a rubber mallet
  • a pair of sharp scissors
  • welting (cloth used to trim along the edges of furniture)
  • glue gun
  • cotton batting (to make the furniture soft to sit on)


Depending upon the piece of furniture that you are reupholstering, you may also want to find a friend to help you out. It can sometimes be tricky to tackle reupholstering on your own.


Reupholstering a Chair Cushion

Reupholstering a chair cushion is a relatively easy job and is perfect for beginners. Practice on your cushions before you head straight to that loveseat or sofa bed!


  • Unscrew the seat cushion from the chair frame.
  • Remove all of the staples or tacks in the fabric using the needle nose pliers.
  • Remove the fabric. If it looks worn out, remove the old batting from the cushion too.
  • Most chair cushions are made out of a single piece of wood. Take this piece of wood and lay it on top of your new fabric. Cut around the piece of wood with your scissors, leaving at least two or three inches extra overhang on each side.
  • Replace the stuffing with new batting. Lay the seat board on top of the batting, and pull the sides of the batting tight over what will be the bottom of the seat. Staple the batting down with your staple gun. Trim off excess batting.
  • Lay the piece of wood, batting-side down, over your fabric. Pull the sides of the fabric and stretch it over what will be the bottom of the seat. Staple the fabric down on all four sides. Be careful to make the corner edges neat.
  • Trim the excess fabric et voila – a new seat!.



Reupholstering an Armchair

Reupholstering an armchair is a little more challenging. Depending upon its size and decorative features (as found in wing chairs or scrollback chairs) you may require extra fabric and a little more patience.

Preparing the Fabric


  • Remove all staples or upholstery tacks with your needle nose pliers.
  • Remove all fabric and batting. Try to remove the fabric without ripping it, because you will use these pieces as templates from which to cut your new fabric.
  • Lay out the old pieces of fabric on top of your new fabric. Cut around each template, leaving at least two or three inches overhang on all sides.
  • Place new batting over the bare pieces on the chair, particularly the seat, back, and arms. Staple or tack down with your mallet.


Upholstering the Chair Back


  • Lay your fabric over the back of the chair. Tuck the fabric into the sides of the chair, and pull through to the back.
  • Holding the top of the fabric taut, staple the fabric to the back of the wood frame.
  • Pull the bottom of the fabric up along the back of the chair and staple to the upper bar on the wood frame.
  • Pull the sides of the fabric taut along the back of the chair. Staple to the sides of the wood frame.


Upholstering the Seat


  • Drape your fabric over the seat of the chair.
  • Pull extra fabric through the frame and underneath the seat.
  • Pull the front of the fabric taut beneath the seat frame, and staple.
  • Pull the back of the fabric taut beneath the seat frame and staple
  • Pull the sides of the fabric taut beneath the seat frame. Pleat and staple down.


Upholstering the Arms


  • Lay your fabric over the chair’s arms.
  • Fold one-third of the fabric (the part closest to the chair back) forwards.
  • Pull the fabric taut on either side of the arm, and staple to the chair frame.
  • Locate the center of the folded part of the fabric. Cut a slit along the center of the fold, right to the end of the fold. This will allow you to wrap the end of the fabric around the arms.


Finishing the Arm Chair


  • Attach welting on along the seams, as desired.