How Much Fabric to Reupholster a Chair

DIY Chair Reupholstering Tutorial

To give my chairs a makeover I used Dutch postal bags (mailbags) my friendly postman left at my door. He gave me a whole bunch of old and really old bags.

The vintage mailbags have the text ‘eigendom PTT post’. Eigendom means property of, PTT stood for Post Telephone and Telegraph and used to be our States’ postal service. Then we got TNT for a while. And now the company has a different name again.

The slightly less old TNT bags were used for my second chair.

Let’s get on with my guide on how to reupholster a chair. 

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Is It Cheaper to Reupholster or Buy New?

Reupholstery tends to cost more than buying new furniture, but it’s worth it for antiques or modern, high-quality pieces. The choice to reupholster or buy new depends on if the piece has a well-made frame, or if it’s cheaply built furniture that’s not structurally sound.

When To Reupholster

  • You have an irreplaceable family heirloom, antique, or furniture you love that has sentimental value.
  • You have older furniture with a solid, handcrafted wood frame that was built to last longer than cheaper, mass-produced furniture does today.
  • Your furniture is out of style, or it doesn’t match the rest of the home.
  • You want to completely customize the look, feel, and style of your existing furniture.
  • Your reupholstering estimate is less than the total cost of buying a new piece, which typically includes protection plans, delivery, and assembly fees.
  • You own an expensive or customized piece of furniture like a La-Z-Boy recliner with a wireless remote.
  • The fabric or padding is worn out, or pets destroyed the furniture.
  • You can’t get stains, old smells of smoke, or mildew out of the cushions.

When To Buy New

  1. The furniture was cheap and low-quality to begin with, or you don’t like the style.
  2. Your furniture holds no sentimental value or is too large or too small for your home.
  3. The frame isn’t well-built or has significant structural damage.
  4. You’re on a limited budget.

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How to Recover a Chair Seat Cushion

Now this is where the magic happens, and anyone can do this.

Because I wanted to place the pattern in a certain

Because I wanted to place the pattern in a certain way on my seat, I put the seat right under a layer of the fabric.

And then I cut out around it, making sure to leave

And then I cut out around it, making sure to leave enough room to staple it underneath.

If you’re not concerned, or you’re working with a small pattern or a solid color, you can place your seat on top of the fabric and cut accordingly.

When recovering a seat you start by pulling tight

When recovering a seat you start by pulling tight and stapling in the middle of all four sides.

Then you work on pulling tight and stapling, makin

Then you work on pulling tight and stapling, making your way from the four middles to the corners.

How much fabric do I need to recover a recliner?

Lay the old pieces over the new fabric, mark around it and cut. You’ll find your recliner will need anywhere from 8 to 12 yards of upholstery material to cover all the pieces.

Professional praise for my chair reupholstery project

My chairs have been published! My mailbag chairs are featured in a real, hardcover, done-by-a-professional book about upholstery. In the book, Contemporary Upholstery by Hanna Stanton my chairs and their history are presented on pages 134 to 137. 

I am so proud. And I know that my mom, who loved t

I am so proud. And I know that my mom, who loved these chairs would be even prouder. I can just about imagine here dragging this book all over town and showing it to everyone. 

I don’t have to carry it with me to show it off, I do that online 😉 .

The book is really good. It is the kind of book I

The book is really good. It is the kind of book I wish I had had before I started on my upholstery project. It would have saved me a lot of headaches and worries. The book really takes you by the hand and shows you the ins and outs of upholstery. It is as if you have your own teacher by your side so it is the perfect beginner’s guide to upholstery. 

The upholstery book is a testament to the fact that with the right kind of upholstery any old chair, couch, or bench from the thrift store can look fab and totally contemporary again.

But we bloggers (and blog readers) knew that already, didn’t we?!

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Types of Fabric

The different types of fabrics commonly used for upholstery are cotton, linen, wool, leather, acetate, hemp, silk, polyester, and so on. There is no end to it. You’re free to choose anything! But it’s certainly better to choose the same fabric type as before. You don’t want to get used to the new texture and feel.

Step 10: Cutting the New Pattern

When you have the fabric completely removed, you can start cutting our the pattern in the new fabric. Here you can see I laid a piece of the old fabric (face down) on the back of the new fabric. This way, when I cut out the new fabric, it will be facing the correct way. If you are using a patterned fabric, be cognizant of where any images will be centered when you attach the fabric. After I cut out all of the new fabric, I began attaching. Remember, You will be replacing the fabric back on in the opposite order that you removed it. This bottom pieces was the last part that I removed, and thus the first to be replaced. All you need to do is put the cut fabric back on, tuck it back into the places it was tucked, and then re-staple it in the same places it was stapled before.

How many yards does it take to cover a chair?

An average club chair, for example, requires about 6 1/2 yards of fabric. Keep in mind, however, that this is a guideline, not a rule. Many factors-including the fabric’s pattern, the upholsterer’s work style, and variations in individual pieces of furniture-can influence the yardage.

What Type Of Fabric Should I Use?

Do not use a standard cotton fabric that is used for quilts, shirts, or sheets. The fabric is too thin and will be worn through in no time. Also, stay away from fabrics that pill easily.

Fabrics that work amazingly well are:

  • Home Decor fabric
  • wipe-able fabric, like vinyl or leather
  • outdoor fabric
  • upholstery fabrics.

The type of fabric really will depend on where the chair is located, how often it is used and who is sitting on it. Keep it livable and reasonable. In other words, if you have a bunch of little children, you may not want an expensive home decor fabric but one that is wipe-able.

TIP: Use clear vinyl to cover the nicer fabric you love. This allows the color and style you desire but with the durability and wipe ability you need.

Things You’ll Need

Removing the Old Fabric and Measuring

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Utility knife
  • Sewing scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Paper
  • Pencil or pen
  • Fabric

Installing Your New Cushion

  • Staples
  • Staple gun
  • Pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Screws
  • Sewing scissors
  • Wood glue

Chair Upholstery Repair

Chair reupholstery ranges from $40 to $750 depending on the chair type and amount and type of fabric used for the upholstery job. Some people opt to repair the upholstery on a valuable chair instead of reupholstering the entire thing because it is cheaper. If a single chair gets torn, repairing the upholstery is easier than replacing or reupholstering the entire dining room set. Repairing a chair with a stain or tear is an easy and cost-effective task. If a piece of furniture fits well in your home, then you’ll want to reupholster it instead of replacing the item.

Supply List

 Screw driver, flat Phillip’s head (check th

  • Screw driver, flat
  • Phillip’s head (check the bolts in your chair.)
  • Pliers
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Pencil
  • Fabric shears
  • Staple gun
  • Staples
  • Hammer
  • Fabric

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Final Thoughts on How to Reupholster a Chair Seat

All this project really requires, beyond very basic DIY tools, is a length of fabric and a staple gun. Now that you know how to recover a chair seat, you may be amazed by how easy it becomes to tackle your other furniture reupholstery projects and refresh your favorite pieces with a new look, all for little more than the cost of new fabric. So go forth, recover, and sit pretty!

What Type of Chair Do You Have?

Here are a few common types of chairs. If your chairs and sofas are not out of this world, they should fall between these chairs.

Dining Room Chair

This is the most common type of chair that requires reupholstering. Being around food and water, it loses its beauty and needs makeover and restoration.

Most chairs have the same structure, but the measurement of the sitting space and the back can vary slightly. If the chair has its fabric, you can use this fabric as a template to cut your purchased fabric.

There are edges and corners to cover as well, no matter what kind of chair you have.

For a general rule, you can reupholster two seats of a dining chair with 3/4th of a yard of 54-inch thick fabric.

Parson’s Chair

Designed during the 1930s, this Parson’s chair is a common dining chair. It’s an armless chair. Compared to the previous one, this has more of a linear design and square-shaped legs.

You’ll need 3 yards of fabric to reupholster a chair of this kind. If you want to add a skirt, you’ll need half a yard more.

Wing Chair

Wing chair, aka The Grandpa chair, is a much laid-back and long-backed chair. You’re going to need a lot of fabric to reupholster it. If it has a convenient size, you will need around 7 yards of fabric with a standard width.

Chesterfield Chair

Traditionally Chesterfield chairs used to have leather as the upholstery. Later down the road, it adopted fabric to cut down the cost. But still, the fabric is chosen to give that aesthetic of leather. You’ll require 7 yards of fabric for this chair as well.

Sets of Sofa/Couch

will need more than 15 yards of fabric. But you can’t find the exact amount by multiplying a unit’s measurement with the number of seats on the sofa. Because they’re attached together, you do not need all of the sides.

Preparing Wooden Chair for Painting

I’m painting the chair so I took it outside

I’m painting the chair so I took it outside to give it a good light sanding with a sanding block.

Even after 34 years this chair still had its shiny finish.

I love these sanding blocks because they’re easy to handle and relatively inexpensive.

Since you only need to remove the top shiny finish

Since you only need to remove the top shiny finish, you don’t need to go crazy with this.

Just give the whole chair, legs and all, a nice light going over.

Once it’s no longer shiny, after you remove

Once it’s no longer shiny, after you remove the dust with a damp cloth, you can call it done.

Average Cost to Reupholster a Chair

A quality upholsterer charged $100 per hour for their services in many regions. In addition to the cost of labor, you have to factor in the material cost, ranging from $10 to $100 per yard. The cost to reupholster a padded back single cushion arm chair is around $350 for labor and an additional $60 for three yards of cotton to reupholster it. It can take under an hour to reupholster a single cushion chair or as many as ten hours for a recliner. However, the chair might be reupholstered in high-end fabric and increase the cost of the job. The upholsterer usually includes the disposal of materials in the price of their services. Hiring a professional ensures that the job is completed quickly with a fine piece of furniture when they are done. Overall, it is always better to have a professional carry out reupholstery jobs.

Get free estimates from chair reupholsterers near me

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Reupholstery?

Reupholstery is the process of providing furniture with new framing, padding, springs, webbing, fabric, and trim. Furniture recovering is only adding new fabric to pieces with a durable frame that doesn’t need any structural repairs or new padding.

Upholstery Process

  1. Remove all existing upholstery down to the bare wood
  2. Inspect the frame, tighten joints, and make structural repairs
  3. Replace springs, webs, and hardware
  4. Add new padding and stuffing
  5. Recover the furniture in new fabric and trim

Who Does Furniture Upholstery?

A person who does furniture upholstery is called an upholsterer. An apprentice in training is called a trimmer or outsider. Marine fabricators do upholstery repairs on a boat, and auto trimmers restore car interiors.

Is It Worth Reupholstering A Sofa, Couch, or Chair?

Reupholstery gives your old furniture a new life, but typically costs more than buying new furniture. Reupholstering is worth it for antiques, family heirlooms, or high-end pieces with a well-made frame. You can also customize the fabric and details, plus it’s environmentally friendly.

Still have questions? Ask a reupholstery pro. View Pros

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Step 15: Dont Give Up – Finish That Chair!

Well that pretty much sums up the basics for re-upholstering an old chair. There are going to be lots of roadblocks in your chairs, because every chair is different. Just remember to document the steps and order in which you remove parts, and you should be just fine. My chair took about 6 hours to complete, but yours may take longer. No matter how long it takes, be patient. Remember that at the end of the journey, you will have an amazing new chair for a fraction of the price! Here is a tip: Spray your new fabric down with Scotchgard or a similar product to protect it from spills and stains. It isn’t easy to clean an upholstered piece of furniture, so you should do what you can to protect it before stains happen.  Don’t forget to check out our website to find more DIY projects and our donation page!


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