DIY Reupholstering Instructions

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No need to throw out old furniture or pay for professional repair when fabric is stained or worn. Reupholstering is a wonderful way to restore vintage furniture and you can do it yourself right at home with DIY reupholstering.

The Benefits Of DIY Reupholstering

Many people assume reupholstering is more complicated than it is and they turn to a professional right away. While not a project for everyone, many people can do a great job reupholstering once they understand how. Besides, if you pay a professional to reupholster your furniture you'll miss out on these DIY benefits:

  • Savings: Doing it yourself is considerably less expensive than having it professionally repaired or having to purchase new furniture.
  • Time: You can probably complete your project in a day or two versus waiting for someone else to do it.
  • Options: You'll be able to shop around and select the exact fabric and cushioning you want.


Tool's You'll Need To Reupholster Your Furniture

Before getting started with a reupholstering project, you'll need these basic tools:

  • Sharp scissors
  • Staple gun or upholstery tacks
  • Glue gun
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Rubber mallet
  • Cotton batting
  • Welting (for trim along the edges).

You may also need a screwdriver and a chisel with a cutout vee to help remove old nails or tacks.

Getting the Right Start

Good choices and techniques will help your finished project look its best. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Make sure the fabric you choose is designed for upholstery use. Upholstery fabric is more durable than other types of fabrics.
  • Choose a fabric that will match the other furniture in your room, and is stain resistant if possible.
  • Keep in mind that the stiffer and thicker a fabric is, the more difficult it will be to work with. If you're a beginner, look for the softest upholstery fabric you can find. (Leather and suede are generally particularly poor choices for beginners.)
  • Take photographs at every step of your project so you'll remember how to reassemble everything.
  • Take time to really get the feel of your fabric so you can drape and attach it properly. If you leave it too loose, it will be wrinkly and if you pull it too tight you'll have pull marks. Be patient to make sure it lies just right.

DIY Seat Cushion Reupholstering Instructions

Replacing the fabric on a worn chair cushion is a great way to get comfortable with the reupholstering process. Follow these simple steps and you'll have a beautiful new chair in no time:

  1. Remove the old seat cushion from the main chair frame. You may have to unscrew it from the bottom.
  2. Use needle nose pliers to take all the staples or tacks out of the fabric.
  3. Peel the upholstery fabric off the cushion and check the batting. Remove batting if it looks worn-out.
  4. You'll probably find a single piece of wood at the center of your cushion. Lay this piece of wood on top your new fabric and cut around the piece of wood, leaving about three extra inches extra overhang on each side.
  5. Now lay the seat board on top of the batting and pull the sides of the batting tightly up over the seat bottom. Staple down the batting and trim the excess.
  6. Place the seat board, batting side down over the fabric you've cut out.
  7. Stretch it over the bottom of the seat and neatly staple it down on all four sides.
  8. Trim any excess fabric and replace cushion on chair.

Armchair Reupholstering

When you're ready for something a little more complicated, you may want to try an entire armchair. Here's how:

  1. Start by removing all staples or tacks with pliers.
  2. Carefully remove all fabric without tearing it, since you'll use these pieces as pattern templates for your new fabric.
  3. Arrange the old pieces on top of your new fabric and cut around each template, leaving a three-inch margin on all sides.
  4. Install new batting over any bare spots on the chair, using a mallet to staple or tack it down.

Now you're ready to reupholster the back of the chair:

  1. Drape new fabric over the chair back.
  2. Tuck fabric into the sides of chair and pull it all the way through to the back.
  3. Staple fabric to the back of the chair frame, holding it taut.
  4. Pull fabric up along the chair back, and staple it to the upper bar of the frame.
  5. Pull sides of fabric taut along the chair back and staple to the sides of the chair frame.

Next you'll be working on the chair seat:

  1. Lay new fabric over chair seat.
  2. Pull the fabric underneath the seat through the frame.
  3. Pull the front tight and staple down.
  4. Pull the back tight and staple down.
  5. Pull the sides tight and staple down.

The last part of the chair you'll work on is the arms:

  1. Drape new fabric over the chair's arms.
  2. Fold the third of the fabric closet to the chair's back forward.
  3. Pull fabric tight on either side of the arm and staple it to the frame.
  4. Cut a slit along the center of each fold toward the back of the chair, all the way to the end.
  5. Wrap fabric around each arm and staple down.

To add a professional, finished look to your project, add welting along chair seams if you like. Then relax and enjoy many happy years with the updated furniture you helped create.

Last Updated: July 11, 2012
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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