How to Reupholster a Chair in 5 Easy Steps
Discover how to reupholster a chair! Just because a chair’s fabric is outdated or even ripped or torn in some places doesn’t mean it’s meant for the curb. As long as the chair itself is still in great condition - has great bones - as they say, you can DIY-reupholster a chair into a custom piece of furniture that will soon become your favorite.
Steps to Reupholster a Chair
You can do this! You can DIY reupholster a chair! Let’s gather up our tools and materials for this project. If you have everything on hand, the process goes much faster and easier. You will be surprised to learn that reupholstering a chair doesn’t cost that much. In fact, this is one of those bargain DIY projects!
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
Find that chair you want to reupholster: This could be an old dining chair or even a wing back chair. Maybe it was something handed down to you in the family. Perhaps it’s a chair you found at a garage sale.
What if I don’t have a chair but still want to complete this project? Go shopping and set a budget. Thrift stores, garage, and estate sales are usually treasure troves for the types of chairs that make great upholstery projects.
Here is a list of some of the other materials you need:
- Upholstery Fabric and Liner
- Staple gun and industrial staples
- X-acto knife
- Foam and/or batting (if needed)
- Hammer or Mallet
- Flat Head Screwdriver
- Plywood (if needed)
- Paint and Paintbrush (if painting the chair)
Step 2: Remove the Seat and Fabric
It’s time to take off the fabric that is on the chair: In order to do that, you may need to remove the seat first. For instance, this is usually true if you reupholster a dining room chair, as the fabric is tucked under the seat of the chair.
Quick tip: It’s helpful to snap a picture of the chair on all sides and underneath as it is before you rip off the fabric. This photo can serve as a guide for how the fabric looked on the chair originally.
Once it’s off, there is no going back: But, don't worry- this is also the fun part! Be sure to save any screws that were holding the seat to the chair, if needed. A Flathead screwdriver can help you wiggle the seat out and also remove any staples you find along the way that were holding the fabric in there. Pliers can also help you remove any staples. You can discard the old staples. This is also the point where you would want to paint the base of the chair if doing so. The seat is off which will give you plenty of room to paint every nook and cranny of the chair.
Step 3: Replace the Foam seat and Batting if Necessary
Now that we have our fabric off, we can take a look at the seat itself:
- Is the batting worn down or stained or ripped?
- Is it uneven or rough and bumpy?
If so: you want to cut a piece of foam and/or batting to fit the seat. For a chair reupholster, ½ inch thick batting is usually appropriate. You can also pick up foam from craft stores. A 2-inch thick piece of foam would make for a comfortable chair. Keep in the mind that the thicker the foam or batting, the more fabric you will need to cover the chair. The new fabric will be placed over the new batting/foam and stapled in place.
To replace the foam and batting: You first need to remove the old batting.Cut a piece of batting and foam the same size as the previous (you can use the seat and/or old batting as a template). An X-acto knife can cut through foam pretty easily. Lay the foam down first and then the batting on top. Batting can be stapled down to the seat.
What if the seat itself is bit worn, such as worn springs or busted up wood? Well, you can simply replace the seat with sturdy plywood or a handy panel.
These can be purchased at most home improvement stores or online: A home improvement store can even help you cut the wood if you have the measurements or outline for them. Now, if you find that your seat is in great condition, you get to skip this step. Lucky you!
Step 4: Cut your New Upholstery Fabric to Fit your Seat
Finally, we get to add that beautiful fabric you hand chose to cover our chair! Your fabric should be ironed prior to attaching to your seat. We want a smooth, wrinkle-free finish to our chair! You can either be precise and measure your seat plus the depth all the way around or you can just lay your new, freshly ironed fabric down and lay the seat with your new foam and batting on top (top side facing down).
Ensuring your fabric is smooth and tight on the front side: Start stapling your fabric to the underside of the chair all the way around. You really want to keep pulling the fabric tight and smooth as you go. If you make a mistake, or you find that your fabric bunched or pulled somewhere on the front side, simply use your pliers or flat head screwdriver to remove the staples and pull it smooth again. That should take care of the wrinkles.
Once your fabric is attached with the staples: You can take a scissors and cut off any excess fabric you have hanging from the bottom.
You can also cut a square piece of upholstery liner and staple that to the underside (covered the raw edges of the fabric underneath). This will create a neat look but this is totally optional. Isn’t this exciting? Your chair is looking good at this point! We are almost finished with our DIY chair reupholster. Can you believe how easy this is?
Step 5: Attach the Newly Covered Seat to the Chair
Now it’s time to take your newly upholstered seat and attach it back to the chair: You may have to wiggle it in there and can lightly tap it with a hammer or mallet to get it fit nice and snug. Be careful with this part! You don’t want to break your beautifully upholstered chair. All done! If you want to take this a step further, you can add nailhead trim to the chair for a stylish look. Now step back and take a look at your beautiful new chairs. Pat yourself on the back! This is a great way to refurbish old chairs.
DIY Chair Reupholster Cost
You may be wondering about the cost associated with reupholstering a chair. Fortunately, to DIY reupholster a chair is a lot less expensive than buying a new chair, especially if you wanted a custom chair that matches your current home decor.
Here is a quick tip about saving even more money when you reupholster a chair: Check out the clearance section of upholstery fabrics online and/or in local craft stores. Fabric.com and Joann Fabrics are great resources for fabrics.
You can also use a sturdy and neutral fabric such as drop cloth: You will be surprised how nice drop cloth can look in your decor when it’s washed and freshly pressed. Plus, it’s neutral and will pretty much go with anything! Amazon is a great source for drop cloths, but also check out home improvement stores and paint stores. You also don’t need to spend a small fortune on tools in order to complete this project. In fact, most of the tools you probably already have around your home, such as screwdrivers and pliers.
Large home improvement stores can assist you with cutting plywood or a handy panel if needed: This way, you don’t have to worry about buying large saws (although a small hand saw is usually not too expensive either). Sometimes you can even rent the tools you need for a fraction of the cost. And don’t forget to ask your neighbors! They may have some of these tools already, such as a staple gun, and then all you need to do is buy the staples.
Decorating Tips for your Newly Reupholstered Chair
Now that we have this beautiful new chair, what shall we do with it? Of course, you may already have a purpose for it but here are some tips in case you don’t. Do you have an entryway space you need to fill? A small table coupled with your new chair makes for a great entrance. A great place to take off shoes, lay down the mail and your purse. Throw a pretty pillow on the chair for extra comfort and style. A nice table lamp is a welcoming way to arrive home.
Let's move to our dining room: An upholstered dining chair looks nice at the table, obviously, but it will also help fill a small corner of the room. Have two chairs? Flank them on each side of your dining buffet. You can also use your new chair in the living room to fill an open section of the room and complete a conversational layout. A pretty chair is also a great filler for the top of your stairway or in your hallway if you have the room. Dressing up your new chairs is really fun around the holidays. But be sure to check out Hometalk Decorate for more awesome DIY ideas.
You can see how with a little bit of time, effort, and small cost, you can create a new custom chair for your home. This is a great way to re-purpose those pieces of furniture that were passed down to you and/or are family heirlooms. Perhaps you never got rid of it because it meant too much to you. But it just didn’t fit in with your decor to use. Now, you can proudly display those chairs in your home. And the best part is, you took time to lovingly care for it and it has a great story and history to go with it. You can learn how to reupholster a chair just by following these five easy steps.
We’d love to see your creations! Post your project to Hometalk when you’re done so we can all gush about the beautiful job you did!
Written for the Hometalk community by: Karen | Decor Hint