Last year I bought a $6 chair from my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. It…
A long, long time ago I made over a chair I found on the curb. Big surprise, I’m collecting items from the neighbors garbage again 🙂
It was a great chair, and one of the first pieces I ever used a patterned fabric on. I tend to be a solid fabric kind of girl, but I’m trying to change my ways and use more colors and styles.
I’ve been meaning to write a post on how to reupholster a chair and here it is. I’ve tried to include some helpful information, if reupholstery is something you’ve always wanted to do, but never knew how. Hopefully this will guide you on your way. The only way to learn is just to get started! I once bought a chair at the Habitat for Humanity store with the intention to reupholster it, but had no idea how and if I can learn, so can you.
- Needle-nose pliers
- Flathead screwdriver
- Sand paper 220
- Spray primer and paint
- Painters tape
- Wood fill or wood glue
- Small putty knife
- Knee pads, optional but helpful
- Marking pen
- Tape measure
- Staple gun and staples, 3/8- or 5⁄16-inch
- ½-inch batting
- Upholstery fabric (most chairs will require about 5 yards)
- Straight pins
- 5/32-inch welt cord
- Sewing machine and upholstery-weight thread
- Tack strips
- Fabric glue, optional
- Upholstery tacks or nailhead trim, optional
- Fabric for underside of chair
1. Select something that will be relatively easy to work with, especially if this is your first time reupholstering. Simple lines without buttons or tufting can be great. In fact an ottoman is always a good place to start too. See how to reupholster an ottoman here. If it is your first time working with upholstery, try to get the item as cheap as possible, or even free, that way if things don’t work out as you expected, you won’t have invested too much into it.
This is the chair when I got it off the curb. It definitely needed a makeover.
2. Take pictures of your piece. Even if you snap some quick shots with your cell phone, this is to remember what the upholstery looked like before you took it all off. Pay attention to details and even underneath the piece.
These are shots I took of the chair.
3. Now is the fun part. Take that old fabric off. While some people cover over existing fabric, and this is perfectly acceptable to do if the piece is something you’ve owned all along or you don’t want to mess with what is underneath, I usually take the old fabric off to give the piece a fresh start. Obviously this is a must-do step if you bought the piece second hand or got it off the curb.
To take off fabric you’re going to start underneath the chair. Most upholstered furniture will have a bottom piece covering the underneath, which is thin and costs very little per yard. From there you can take off the rest of the pieces. Most people take them off whole so they can make templates for the new fabric.
4. After the fabric is off you can repair any parts of the chair that need to be fixed. Use wood filler to fill holes or wood glue to connect any broken pieces. I filled some holes from the previous upholstery job.
5. Next comes painting. After lightly sanding it and wiping it down with TSP, I used spray primer and paint for this piece. TSP is a cleaner that prepares surfaces for painting. It can be found in home improvement stores. Move the chair in various angles to be sure to cover all the surfaces. Cover the parts of the chair you don’t want painted with painters tape and newspaper.
6. After you are done painting the chair, now you are ready for reupholstering.
First start with the cushion. I got a piece of this foam and cut it into the shape I needed for this particular chair. Most are simple circles or partial circles. Cutting it can be done with a carving knife or box cutter. Use the old seat as a template to cut the new foam.
7. After that foam is in place, staple batting over it. This is a soft layer of “cushion” that will kill in the parts where your foam meets the chair and will provide a more-soft seat.
8. To secure the cushion and batting to the chair, I used a plain white piece of thin fabric, pretty much like you would use upholstery. This was because I didn’t want my “good” upholstery fabric to be stretched and pulled if the foam was difficult to cover. And I could kind of make mistakes with it and they wouldn’t be seen. Staple this on to the chair and trim off the extra fabric.
9. Then comes the upholstery fabric. I also stapled this on in the various sections over the chair, like the original fabric was on it. While I don’t have many pictures of this part, all chairs are different so you can figure your particular chair as it is set up.
I made double cording, also called welting, to glue onto the parts where the fabric met the chair.
To cover the back of this chair, I glued fabric onto the original cardboard pieces that were on it, after I put batting in between. Then I glued them together. Fabric glue is very strong and can be used for things like this, at least that’s that I’ve found. The front piece also had buttons, so I made those from a kit from the fabric store.
Here is a close up of the cording that I glued to the chair. This was my first time making this and it wasn’t a perfect job, so I’ll have to practice for the future.
And here is the after of my curbside find. I’d say it’s a definite improvement from the before.
See some of my other upholstery projects below:
See Brook’s post at All Things Thrifty about How Much Fabric You Need for Upholstery Projects.