Reupholstered/refinished Dining Chairs

5 Materials
3 Days

Does learning how to reupholster dining chairs scare you just a bit? I used to be terrified of reupholstering. Last month I brought you how my husband and I refinished our dining table. As promised, I’m going to show you how we refinished/reupholstered the chairs.

Here’s the before photo. The seats of the chairs were a dark green color and the captains chairs had the red and gold fabric on the backs. While the fabric was still in good condition, it didn’t match our decor. So we set off to refinish them.

First- you’ll want to gather your supplies.

  • paint (left over from the table)
  • paint brush
  • screw driver
  • fabric
  • heavy duty staple gun
  • upholstery staples
  • upholstery cording
  • glue gun

Next, we removed the seat bottoms from the chairs by tipping them upside down and unscrewing them with a screw driver.

**Refinisher’s Tip: I like to put all the screws in a ziplock baggie so they don’t get lost. I also like to number the seat bottoms and the chairs on the underneath side. We’ve learned the hard way that they are not all the same even though they look that way. **

Before removing the fabric I like to take a picture on my phone of the underneath side of the seat. This allows me to look back and see how the fabric was attached.

We then removed the fabric backing off the captains chairs, making sure to save any foam padding as it was still in good condition and also saved the old fabric pieces to use as patterns on the new fabric.

With all the fabric removed from the chairs, it was time to paint and distress the chairs.

After the chairs are painted, distressed and sealed (if you are using chalk paint) it’s time to work on the seats. I like to use these handy little pliers to remove any left over upholstery staples. You can use a flat head screw driver too.

**Refinishers Tip: when I go to the fabric store to buy my fabric- I take the old fabric with me and use it as a guide when measuring out how much I need. This also helps to gauge if the print is too big for the surface of the seat or backing. Now is also the time to buy replacement foam or padding if needed. I also buy my upholstery cording at this time, matching it to my fabric. **

We are ready to cut the fabric. Using the old pieces as a pattern, before I cut, I double check the placement on the print making sure it looks pleasing to the eye. (For example if your fabric has lines, stripes or chevron print, make sure they are aligned and not crooked). Cut your fabric.

Place your fabric print side down, then the seat bottom “seat” side down. Carefully checking again that the print is where you want it to be, by picking up the pieces and turning them over to view. If it all lines up and looks good, turn it all back over- facing down on a hard surface. (I do this part on the floor.)

Fold one side of the fabric up and over to the underneath side of the seat (which is facing up at this point), starting in the center (not on the corners) use the heavy duty staple gun with upholstery staples and staple the fabric in place. Then move to the opposite side pull the fabric up and over the edge making sure the fabric is tight to keep it from wrinkling or puckering. Repeat the for the next two sides. Making sure not to staple the corners.

I staple the corners down last. Most seats have two different corners. The front two and the back two. This is where I refer back to the photos I took before I removed the fabric. This allows me to have a guide of sorts as to how the corners we stapled down.

You’ll be folding and tucking the fabric. Be careful and avoid wrinkling and puckering of the fabric on the top side. You may need to turn the seat over and check several times. Once the fabric is folded, smoothed and tucked in the corner, staple the fabric in place.

I find the front corners easier than the back corners. It doesn’t matter if you staple the front or back corners first as long as you get all four corners.

At this point, I like to reattach the seat bottoms to the chairs. Using the screw driver or a power drill if you have one.

Next is the final step- the backing for the captains chairs. I like to have the seat bottoms in place in order to check my fabric print, again making sure it’s pleasing to the eye. After cutting out the pieces, I use the staple gun to staple the fabric in place on both sides of the chair.

To attach the cording, I used a hot glue gun. I worked in 3 to 5 inch sections. This finishes off the exposed edges on the captain chairs and gives them a professional look.

The cording goes along the edges on both the front side and the back side of the chair. To keep the cost down on this project with 6 chairs to refinish, I watched the sales at my local fabric store. I waited for the 50% off coupons for the fabric and the cording.

I used upholstery fabric, which will hold up nicely and last a long time. This project start to finish took me about 3 days. If you wanted to get it done quicker, you could be working on he seats in between coats of paint and distressing. I do recommend making sure the paint is completely dry before reattaching seats or the backing. You do not want to get paint on your fabric.

Here’s the set all together.

We are happy with the way these turned out. You can see more of our dining room set, other refinished projects, decor tips and styling at our Instagram page.

Resources for this project:
See all materials
Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
Hometalk may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.More info
Joleen | The Refining Home
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 4 questions
  • 516maria 516maria on Sep 15, 2019

    I don’t want to paint the top of the table because it is so

    nice. But maybe the chairs and just the table legs. Any thoughts?

  • BonBon BonBon on Sep 21, 2019

    Hi! I’m new to DIY projects. This is so beautiful and enticing to attempt. I’m not sure at all about which paint/surfaces need sealing? Did your chalk paint get sealed? If so, please share with what. Thank you.

  • Sim Sim on Jun 15, 2021

    Hi-beautiful job! I want to paint my dining room chairs(antique oak )-2 backs are upholstered and 4 are cain-without changing upholstery-any tips on using satin (oil ?) paint without getting it on the upholstered ? Also, I was thinking of using can spray paint on the cain backed backs-will it stay?

    Thanks so much!

Join the conversation
4 of 37 comments