How can I Reupholster Furniture?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus
A reupholstered foot stool.
A reupholstered foot stool.

Furniture owners reupholster furniture for many reasons. The fabric may be worn, stained or ripped on older furniture or those bought at flea markets. The piece may no longer fit in with the style or color of a newly painted or decorated room. Sometimes, just a simple change is desired and rather than spend a lot of money on all new furniture, some people prefer to reupholster their old furniture. You can learn to reupholster furniture through information available in books and/or online. All you need, besides new upholstery fabric and sewing materials, are a few simple tools such as a staple gun, a small hammer for upholstery tacks and pliers.

Heavy-duty staples are used to install upholstery material to a base.
Heavy-duty staples are used to install upholstery material to a base.

It is a good idea to start to reupholster furniture by reupholstering a dining chair or bar stool before moving on to more difficult items such as an armchair or sofa. A dining chair back can be reupholstered by making a fabric "envelope" to slip over the chair back. It is usually very easy to reupholster furniture such as dining chair seat cushions and bar or foot stool seat cushions. Just remove the old fabric and replace it with new fabric and stretch and staple your new fabric over the foam cushion. You may want to add new foam when you reupholster furniture if it appears yellow or worn.

To reupholster furniture such as an armchair, remove the tacks and fabric from the chair. Use the old upholstery fabric as a template for your new upholstery fabric. Be sure to use only upholstery weight fabric when you reupholster furniture because it is more durable than regular fabric and usually more wrinkle resistant. Replace any stuffing or foam that is worn out with new materials. Finally replace the tacks by hammering them back in.

Reupholstering a sofa is more challenging than reupholstering chairs, but it can be done. Again, use the old fabric as a template when you reupholster a sofa. You can also use a paper template. Be sure to add adequate seam allowances. Sofa cushions that require zippers may be tricky for those not used to hand sewing. When you reupholster sofa cushions you must be sure to use proper tension and sizing so that all of the cushions look the same, the fabric does not bag or pucker and there are no gaps between the cushions when they are placed on the sofa.

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Discussion Comments


If you are like me busy, busy, just call a professional. Here in New York you can do it by Mark Tash Furniture Re Upholstery


I have kitchen stools and I'd like to recover the seats. I got the top of the chair separated from the stool OK, only to find that the seat is *glued* to the stool! Grr. Any suggestions for separating the seat from the stool without damaging the stool?


how do I disassemble a dining room chair back that is framed by wood on all four sides?


You can also learn by hands on by taking some classes in furniture reupholstery where you are allowed to bring a piece of furniture to learn with.

The cost is relatively small compared to the wealth of knowledge you get from such classes.


Excellent advice, Jennifer S! Thank you for your helpful comments. I think it's so great to give old furniture a new life like that. It keeps it out of the land fill and we can personalize the look to our own tastes and color scheme.

I have a worn out vinyl-covered armchair and ottoman that look quite tacky that I'd love to reupholster this summer. The set is cheap black vinyl and black metal now, but I'm thinking maybe some nice cut velvet, with foam padding under it, and a subtle silver-color on the metal?


A staple gun, sturdy upholstery fabric, and some upholstery tacks can work miracles on chairs and sofas! I did two chairs and an ottoman that were in really bad shape and they turned out really well. Basically I just tucked and folded and stapled and cut the fabric so that it fit around the chairs. The ottoman was much easier - like wrapping a present!

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    • A reupholstered foot stool.
      A reupholstered foot stool.
    • Heavy-duty staples are used to install upholstery material to a base.
      Heavy-duty staples are used to install upholstery material to a base.