How to Reupholster a Chair the DIY Way

how-to-reupholster-a-chair-the-diy-way

Since I got very good feedback from the post I wrote about installing cushions on kitchen chairs, I decided to write another one about reupholstering a chair. This time, I will tell you how to reupholster a sofa type of chair.

There are lots of reasons why you would want to reupholster a couch or a sofa chair. It could be that the frame is still in good condition even if the foam and covering are already damaged. Or the chair can still be in good condition but you want to give it new life by changing the fabric. In other words, it was ugly AF and needs some love. Although this was a gift (someone’s trash is someone treasure lol) and the first sofa chair we had in the house since the house was empty of furniture, we did not want to buy any furniture until the house was completely renovated.

final-cow-chair-after
This is the final look of the chair. It will go in my office. It is sooo comphy! I can’t even tell you. Don’t worry this is not real cow hide. I would not feel right with a real dead cow hide. So this one is just soft and flush.

This was not my first choice. At first I bought some blue corduroi material however I did not get enough. I got 7 yards are the woman suggested in the store but I actually neede 9 yards… So get 9 yards for a chair like this! When I went back to the store they were out and not getting more so I ended up getting this cow print on sale for about $40.

The other material in the store was not good quality and even though It wasn’t my first choice, I figure its my first time sowing a massive thing. The only thing I sowed before was a pensil case.

Originally, We were going to leave it just like that and throw it out later but I figured hey, why don’t I just change the material on it. I personally have no idea what got into me atempting to do such a big job. I guess I figured all I had to do is pull the material off and staple new material on. I put on some background TV show and got to work.


Removing Fasteners

Since the upholstery is attached to the frame of the coach or sofa, you need to remove this first. This can be attached by fasteners, tacks or staples – so in order to remove them carefully (you don’t want to damage the wood, ok?) place a chisel under the fastener and tap the end with a hammer. Lever the staples upward as they loosen up so as to completely remove them. For stubborn tacks or fasteners, you can use pliers to gently twist and pull them off from the wood. Repeat this procedure until only the frame of the coach is left.

I basically used pliers and just pulled out staples for 4 hours while watching TV shows on netflix. It doesn’t take too much brain power and it can be kind of therapeutic as some of them need strenght and power so it’s a good stress reliever.

Pull all the staples and nails into a jar or some kind of container so you don’t accidentally step on them later.


Removing the Fabric

Once all the fasteners are removed from the chair, carefully lift the old fabric from the cushion or stuffing. Make it a point that the fabric remains intact because you will use this as the template for the new upholstery.


Saving, Reusing, Replacing the Foam or Stuffing

You will never really know the condition of the old foam and stuffing until you see it without a cover. Is it deformed, stained, worn out? If you decide to replace the foam or stuffing, you should be ready with the new materials before proceeding with the rest of the procedures.


Checking the Chair’s Frame

Now that you have removed the foam and stuffing from the chair, it’s time to check on the condition of the frame. First, inspect the materials and evaluate their condition. If there are parts that are no longer in good condition, these should be replaced before putting on the new upholstery.

Check also on the joints of the skeletal frame and make sure that the entire frame is stable. Parts that need to be repaired should be repaired at this point because leaving things unrepaired can lead to accidents and injuries. Really, sitting on a comfortable couch that has a weak frame can break, and it can hurt somebody. That somebody can be you or someone you love, or someone’s kid, so let’s remove that scenario altogether from the picture by making sure that the chair is inspected properly.


Choosing Your New Upholstery Fabric

Although you can use any type of fabric on your chair, there are a few important things that you should keep in mind. First of all, the design of the fabric should match with the current decoration theme of your home (or a particular room). But more important than that would be the type of fabric that you choose for this project. Choose a fabric that’s really strong and durable because people will sit on this chair and move about on it too. The fabric should be able to handle weight and pressure, to say the least.

In the store make sure you tug and pull on it to make sure it is strong.

Here are some of the best fabrics that you can use for reupholstering a chair:

  • Cotton – If you’re going to use cotton fabric, choose something that’s thick and high quality. This type of cloth can only handle mild usage, so it may not last very long with frequent use.
  • Vinyl – This type of material uses synthetic leather, so it’s really quite strong. It can handle moderate to heavy use (depending on the quality), that’s why it’s also commonly used in commercial establishments. Another practical quality of using vinyl is that it’s very easy to clean. The only disadvantage that I can think of with this type of material is that it absorbs heat. It is therefore not suitable for hot environments.
  • Linen – The use of linen materials for upholstery has always been considered a classic approach in home decoration. This type of material is soft and durable and it wears well on foam and other types of stuffing. If you only expect light to medium use, linen would make for a fine choice.
  • Tapestry – This type of upholstery fabric is really strong and durable. In fact, it can accommodate medium to heavy use. You will see this type of fabric being used on hotel couches and waiting rooms because they are very presentable. If you’re restoring antique furniture, this would also make for a fine choice. This type of fabric is quite expensive, but you can expect it to last for a long time.
  • Velvet – This cow print is a velvet material. Velvet materials are soft and comfy, but these are strong and durable as well. Like tapestry, this type of upholstery fabric can also handle medium to heavy use. There’s a downside to all of this, however, because it’s really very difficult to clean. Therefore, it is not an ideal material to use in commercial settings. And if you have children and pets at home, you might want to pass up on velvet chairs too.

In my current situation, this was just going to be a chair we can sit on while taking a brake from renovating. But now it is so comfy and I put so much love into it that it is going into my new office because its the most comphiest chair ever. Seriously, everyone that comes over is like “oh wow this chair is so comfy” Thank you.

This is an old chair. As you can see, it is still in good condition. However, the upholstery is already outdated and it also looks dirty. That's why I decided to reupholster it and give it new life.

This is an old chair. As you can see, it is still in good condition. However, the upholstery is already outdated and it also looks dirty. That’s why I decided to reupholster it and give it new life.

Everything looks good, but at this point, I can't tell if the framework is still in good condition. So I had to remove all the covering and cushions first.

Everything looks good, but at this point, I can’t tell if the framework is still in good condition. So I had to remove all the covering and cushions first.

Before starting with anything, I had to check on the overall condition of the couch. I inspected every corner and every part so that I can make plans on how to go about this project.

Before starting with anything, I had to check on the overall condition of the couch. I inspected every corner and every part so that I can make plans on how to go about this project.

As you can see, I have already removed the covering and cushion on the seat. It's like undressing the couch so that I can put new covering on it.

As you can see, I have already removed the covering and cushion on the seat. It’s like undressing the couch so that I can put new covering on it.

Now that the covering and cushion on the seat are completely removed, I am going to remove the rest of the old upholstery. So far, everything still looks good.

Now that the covering and cushion on the seat are completely removed, I am going to remove the rest of the old upholstery. So far, everything still looks good.

This is how the foam looks like under all that covering. Since the foam is still in good condition, it can still be re-used.

This is how the foam looks like under all that covering. Since the foam is still in good condition, it can still be re-used.

After removing the layers and layers of foam and stuffing, I can see that the wooden frame is still in good condition. Still, I will have to re-evaluate everything and make all the necessary repairs before reupholstering the chair.

After removing the layers and layers of foam and stuffing, I can see that the wooden frame is still in good condition. Still, I will have to re-evaluate everything and make all the necessary repairs before reupholstering the chair.

When reupholstering a couch, you have to be very careful especially if you're using a knife cutter to remove the foam and covering. You wouldn't want to damage the wood.

When reupholstering a couch, you have to be very careful especially if you’re using a knife cutter to remove the foam and covering. You wouldn’t want to damage the wood.

In this photo, you can see me working on the bottom part of the couch. I am still being very careful with the whole procedure because I am trying to save all the reusable foam and stuffing.

In this photo, you can see me working on the bottom part of the couch. I am still being very careful with the whole procedure because I am trying to save all the reusable foam and stuffing.

I am almost done now with removing all the old covering and cushions. At this point, I am very happy to see that the wooden frame is well preserved and doesn't need to be repaired.

I am almost done now with removing all the old covering and cushions. At this point, I am very happy to see that the wooden frame is well preserved and doesn’t need to be repaired.

I am now putting in new cushions for the chair. For some parts of the couch, I used old stuffing that are still in good condition.

I am now putting in new cushions for the chair. For some parts of the couch, I used old stuffing that are still in good condition.

Okay, I have already finished putting back the cushion and stuffing on the couch. Now all I have to do is put a new covering on it.

Okay, I have already finished putting back the cushion and stuffing on the couch. Now all I have to do is put a new covering on it.

I like this black and white covering. It reminds me of my friend's dog named White Chocolate. He's a Dalmatian (LOL).

I like this black and white covering. It reminds me of my friend’s dog named White Chocolate. He’s a Dalmatian (LOL).

I am almost done now in this photo and already feeling very proud of my work. :)

I am almost done now in this photo and already feeling very proud of my work. 🙂

I made a separate cushion for the seat to make sure that the chair is really comfortable. Don't you think it looks lovely?

I made a separate cushion for the seat to make sure that the chair is really comfortable. Don’t you think it looks lovely?


Preparing New Fabric

Measure the new fabric by using the old panels as pattern. Lay the old fabric on top of the new materials and use a chalk or a marker to draw around it. Remember to add about 1 inch on all the sides because you will need to tuck the fabric onto the chair. Once you’re through with marking the new fabric, you can cut the pieces needed for your project.


Installing New Upholstery

Check how the cut fabric fits onto the chair by laying it on the frame. If there are adjustments to be made, this is the time to do it.

If everything looks fine, you can proceed with the installation of the new fabric. Put back the old foam if you’re reusing it. If not, place the new foam or stuffing in place of the old materials. You do these things by replacing the panels on backwards order as to how you removed them.

It is now time to fasten the new fabric onto the original frame of your couch. I would advise pulling on the fabric gently as you’re fastening it so as to remove any wrinkles on the materials. Keep in mind that the end result should look fit and tight, not loose.


Tips, Tips, and More Tips

I have reupholstered sofas for quite a while now, and my works just keep on getting better and better every time! Below are some tips that you can consider when tackling on a reupholstering job yourself.

  • If you are just a beginner, I would suggest using fabrics with plain designs instead of those with patterns. Yes, patterned fabric looks good, but you might need to align things to achieve a certain look. Start with simple designs first, if you are just starting out. Once you get the hang of it, working on patterned fabrics will be so much easier.
  • When removing old fabric from a chair, be careful as the wooden frame could be fragile. Be especially careful if you’re using power tools, hammer, cutting knife and other sharp objects as you might damage the framework.
  • Should you decide that you’re going to reuse old foam or stuffing, don’t disturb it. By keeping it intact and as it is, you won’t risk deforming your sofa when you put it back in.
  • Always wear protective gear when working on old furniture. In this particular case (reupholstering), I would suggest wearing a dust mask especially on that part where you need to remove old fabric and stuffing from an old chair. You’ll never really know what the condition is like underneath the covering, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. The presence of dust mites or insects can prove to be harmful to your health.
  • Expect minor injuries when working on DIY stuff around the house. Sometimes, these can be unavoidable as you need to handle sharp objects and remove nails, tacks, fasteners, etc. Aside from being extra careful, make it a point that your tetanus shot is up to date. This way, you won’t have to worry unnecessarily when you get minor cuts and punctures on your skin.

cow-hide-material-over-chair

Before you sow and staple just cover the chair lose like this to make sure you have enough material. Once you staple it tight it will look so much better.

pull-material-through-underneight
Pull the material through with your hands. I would say take some before pictures of how it all was in detail so you remember where to pull it through. Best if you take it apart yourself and not have someone help you so that you remember where it all goes better.

staple-the-wood-area
Find the wood and staple the material to the wood. This is actually quite easy but you will need 2 hands. For this part it might be easier if someone held the material while you staple or vice versa.

tuck-material-unde-reupholster-chair
The material needs to be tucked really well under the chair. If there are any folds, try to recreate the same folds as the original.

flip-chair-around-and-tuck-material
You will need to flip the chair around and on its side so just make sure you don’t scratch the floor.

chair-minus-pillow
This is what the chair looks like without the pillow

final-cow-chair-after
And the final product! Finally, we can sit on it and enjoy life!

I know it doesn’t look super professional and the cussion might be a bit lop sided however I think it’s fine and if I want I can redo it later but honestly, I don’t think I will! this took WAY longer than expected but it looks so much better than the original and its softer and more comfy so I am happy.

From start to finish these are the times.

Souring Material – 1 Hour
Pulling staples – 4 Hours
Removing Material – 10 mins
Drawing a template – 10 mins
Cutting the template – 10 mins
Sowing the cussion – 4 Hours
Stapling the chair – 1 Hour

Total Time: 10.5 Hours

Total cost $120 (if you include the material I did not use however I might make something else out of it so watch this space.

When I researched getting a professional to do it, it would of been $500 and I was not even sure I was going to keep this sofa chair so no thanks, I rather buy a flight to Whister BC or give away some cool prizes with that money.

The time was not so bad. I liked being creative and using my hands and another part of my brain. I did it over a few days.


My Favourite part

Making the cussion was my favourite part because I never made a cussion before and I think it turned out quite nice!

To make the cussion you need to buy extra cording then wrap material around the cording and sow it together, then sow it along the template first. That way when you sow the cusison templates together, you have this nice cording (or is it called piping?) and anyway, it looks really cool.

So, have you been meaning to reupholster your favorite chair? I hope I have inspired you enough to do it soon. Good luck and let me know how it goes, ok?

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