5 Steps To Reupholster A Chair

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Do you have an old chair that you would love to reupholster but felt maybe it was beyond your skill level? Here is a 5 step process to make it easier.

Hello Lovelies!

How’s your summer going? Geez it’s HOT, like 104 degrees heat index hot. As much as I want to work outside on my porch… I am finding great projects to do inside. Like today’s DIY – 5 steps to reupholster a chair.

After photo of chair reupholstered

About 20 years ago I went to my first estate sale. I feel lucky that I found two great chairs. I loved the lines and they were upholstered really well.

The fabric choice even worked with my decor at the time. I purchased the chairs and happily took them home. They sat for about 15 years in their current state- why mess with a good thing, right?!?

before photo of chair to be reupholstered

When we moved into our current home I needed chairs in the girls rooms. So my little estate finds made their way to reading nooks.  The chairs were comfy but they did not exactly go with my girls decor.

After reading a couple of short books and  armed with the right tools – I dove into reupholstering one of the chairs.  I carefully removed the old upholstery so that I could use it as a pattern for the new fabric.

The Aspiring Home chair upholstery DIY option with print and solid fabrics

The chair was time-consuming but turned out beautifully. I decided the second chair (AS IS) could work in my other daughter’s room just fine. Ha!

Flash forward to the One Room Challenge and my desperate need for two chairs. I searched everywhere for the perfect pair and came up empty.

Then I had a lightbulb moment- with the girls off to college – the chairs were just collecting dust upstairs.  I quickly brought them down and they were the perfect size for the space.

Don’t you love it when you what you need right under your nose?

Let’s get started on the tutorial!

Disclaimer–  I am not a professional upholsterer. I am sharing the way I created my chairs. Please keep in mind that you will be working with staples, tacks and sharp objects.
Being careful and focused on the task is very important – do not leave tools and supplies where little ones can pick them up. Even with the utmost care- things happen.
I ( The Aspiring Home) can not be held responsible for any accidents. Please proceed with this project at your own risk.

Materials needed for this 5 step reupholster a chair project:

Step 1:

Begin the dismantling process.  Carefully pull trim off and remove the guts of the chair. This is where the tack and staple removal tools will come in handy. Use pliers for stubborn staples and tacks.  Try to preserve the fabric pieces- this will become your pattern. Unfortunately, I was unable to preserve the fabric on my chairs- just too old and I will show you the how I handled it later in the tutorial.

Removing old material from chair to be reupholstered
Removing old springs from chair

Ugh, talk about a MESS! It definitely gets worse before it gets better.

Step 2:

Once you are down to the frame decide on restoration or paint. I chose a black high gloss paint to complement the faux alligator hide vinyl.

This is where the hubby doubted (ok, I scared him) a little bit. Make sure you prep your surface properly whichever way you go… you DO NOT want your guest able to pass the time picking the paint or scraping the stain off your prized project.

Step 3:

A.  Add the foundation. Now it is time to add new guts to your chair. I love nylon webbing but sadly ran out in the middle of one of the chairs and had to go old school jute but it worked out just fine.

 I chose a high density 6 inch foam.  Due to the beautiful curves of my chair’s seat- I had to piece the foam together.

I used a bit of hot glue to attach the pieces to one another. Doing this step will hold it all together  while you grab your handy-dandy batting.

Lay your batting over the seat cushion and attach to the frame. I used a staple gun to make quick work of it but you can use small tacks if you like.

After adding the batting, grab your lining and cover the seat. Doing this step will  create a nice smooth foundation for the upholstery fabric.

Add new webbing to reupholster a chair
adding new cushion material to reupholster a chair
add batting to upholstered chair

B. Add foam to arms. This step is only necessary if your chair’s arms originally had it.

 Please be careful when stapling this foam to the arms. In all the years I have upholstered furniture and used my upholstery gun – I finally had an accident and stapled my finger.

 YEP – hurts like the dickens! I do not recommend doing it. I also don’t recommend trying to upholster your chair when you are sleep deprived.  Wise – I was not.

add new cushion material to arm to reupholster a chair

C. Add foundation to the chair back.  I began by adding a piece of my lining fabric to the back of the chair to give the back  cushion stability.  

Next I added a layer of batting, leaving an opening in the bottom. I then stuffed the seat back with dense fiber fill until it felt comfortable.  Staple the batting closed at bottom.  

Add a final layer of lining fabric over the batting stuffed with fiber fill.  Trim off Excess fabric, batting, liner.

add new batting to reupholster a chair

Step 4:

Add the pretty! Begin applying your fabric of choice. Since my original fabric did not make it through the tear apart process – I did the next best thing – I measured.

 Now I didn’t get too precise. I measured a square piece of fabric that would be large enough to cover all the twists, turns and curves.  

I began attaching the square piece by securing the fabric in a cross pattern then working my way out from the attached points.

Working with vinyl is a little bit different and I had to pull staples a few times to help create a smooth transition.

This isn’t difficult but it is a bit time-consuming. Once you have attached all the fabric to the chair – take a mat knife and carefully cut out the excess fabric. Be careful -you really want to keep a sharp blade while doing this process and be ready to change blades often.

attach fabric with staples to reupholster a chair

Step 5: 

Add trim to hide the staples. Cover up all the ugly with beautiful trim. Use your hand dandy glue gun to attach.  * start and end the trim at an inconspicuous place.

before picture of chair to be upholstered
After photo of reupholstered chair

That’s it! You now have a beautiful updated chair!

Thanks for taking a gander at my little tutorial. If you are a newbie to upholstery- read TONS of tutorials, books and do what I did… I showed up at an upholstery shop and asked if I could observe. 🙂

If you would like another project to try – how about upholstering a bench or maybe you want to try your hand at making a double welt trim?

Have FUN and Be Careful!

Until Later – keep creating home,

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  1. Hi Joy,
    I love the way your chairs turned out! Isn’t it delightful when the perfect chair is already in your home…and just needs a little update!

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