Tips on Chair Re-Upholstery

Recently, I took on the dreaded task of re-upholstering some chairs in my living room.  Since this was my first somewhat difficult upholstery job (difficult meaning you can’t just take the seat bottom off the chair or stool…) I decided to share with you some things I learned… mainly from the mistakes I made!

First though, let’s look at how good they look as a whole:


For this being my first time, I think they turned out pretty good!  (As long as you don’t inspect them too closely!)

Here’s a before & after:


Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty & discuss some things I learned during the re-upholstery process!

1. Once you order your fabric (Miami Cloud/ Denton), immediately gather the rest of your supplies.  To re-upholster a chair like this, you will need a heavy duty staple remover, fabric scissors, fabric, trim, staple gun, staples, glue gun, & extra glue gun sticks. 

Double Rock Staple Remover

I had this fabric for about four months before I actually got the nerve to re-upholster my chairs.  After pulling off the trim, I got to work with a tiny screwdriver & hammer to remove the staples holding the original fabric on the chairs.  It was nearly impossible to get the staples out without damaging the wood.  After doing a little research, I realized there are tools to actually make the staple removing process a little easier & less damaging to the wood.  Motivation had struck, however, & I hammered on, one staple at a time.  Do yourself a favor & buy one of these as soon as you decide re-upholstery is in your future!  That way, when the motivation strikes, you will have the right tools for the job & will save yourself time & keep the wood on your chairs in good shape.

2. Before completely removing the old fabric from your chair, label each piece, noting the front & back of the chair.  You may also want to take pictures of how the fabric is wrapped around corners & arms. 


3. Once the fabric is removed, you will need to trace the pattern from the old fabric onto the back of the fabric you are replacing it with.  As you trace, make sure you add a couple of inches around the perimeter.  Once your fabric is stapled on, you will trim the excess.  Once you have your pattern traced onto the new fabric, cut it out.  As you can see in the picture above, there are additional cuts in the fabric where the fabric went around the arms of the chair.  Do not cut those out.  Just cut the outline of the fabric.  You will cut around the arms as you are stapling.

4. Now it’s time to begin stapling the fabric to your chair.  Carefully, lay the fabric, right side up, on your chair, making sure the pattern on the fabric is straight & that you have a little excess fabric on all sides of the chair.  Then, carefully place a staple in the center of the back of the chair.  Once that staple is in, pull the fabric taut and add a staple to the front center of the chair.

5. For each side of the chair, you should add a staple in the center, & then move to either the right or left.  Once you get to the corner of that side, go back to the center & work your way to the other corner of that side.  (Does that make sense?)  Working from the center out will help your corners look better. 

A few times I found myself working my way from the outside edge towards the center, which caused me to have to remove staples & start over, since the corner wouldn’t work right & some excess fabric caused a poof near the center of the chair.  Avoid my mistake & make sure to move from the center towards the left (or right) & then from the center to the right (or left)!  When you get to the corner, you will be glad you used this piece of advice!

6. I used my husbands air compression staple gun.  It was pretty heavy duty & I had trouble understanding where the staples were coming out.  If you think your staple gun is tricky like that, you may want to use an old piece of wood & fabric to practice a few staples beforehand.  Otherwise, your chair might have issues like this:


Notice the three staples above the trim!  Yes, I ended up stapling quite a few staples too high on the chair.  (When the air gets low, the gun doesn’t work as well, hence three staples…)  To avoid this mistake, make sure you understand where you are putting your staples, & check every few staples to make sure they are in a location that will be covered by trim. 

If you do make this mistake, you can add a double layer of trim, or you could do what I did & just add a little paint on them to camouflage them!

7. This chair had a few tricky areas where the arms & back attached that I needed to upholster around.  After a couple of mistakes, I took a cue from my mom & cut a “Y” shape, like the one below to get around those obstacles.


Once I cut my “Y” I folded & tucked it under the other fabric to get neat edges round the arms.  When doing this, remember, less is more…don’t cut too much, or to far away from the wood, or your edges could look like this:


Oh, & notice another staple above the trim!  Oops!

8. Once you have all your staples in, it’s time to trim the excess fabric.  This is when my “too high staples” (from #6) really caused a problem.  As you cut, make sure you aren’t cutting too high.  Since my staples were so high, I made the mistake of cutting some of the fabric too high for the trim to cover.  I ended up hot gluing it back together, & luckily, it’s not that noticeable! 
To solve my high staple problem, I checked each area before cutting.  If I noticed a staple was too high, I would add a staple below it, & then cut when I was sure my staples were low enough that I could just cut below them.

9. The final step is to hot glue trim or cording around the unfinished edges.  If you have followed my advice, hopefully, your trim will actually serve it’s purpose & hide those ugly staples!  This is a pretty easy step, but you may want to hold the frayed ends of trim up to the flame from a candle to melt the fibers to avoid the frayed edges of trim from fraying more.  (I dare you to try to find another sentence that uses the root word “fray” more than that one!)  Also, remember to just glue a little at a time.

10.  Probably my most important tip is to look for videos & other tutorials for upholstering a chair before you actually take on this task.  Don’t just jump into this project when the motivation strikes, make sure you know what you are doing first!

Tips for Re-upholstering a Chair

So, have you recovered anything lately?  Made any of these mistakes?  I’d love to hear how your projects turned out, & if you made any of the above mistakes, let me know I’m not the only one!

Sharing here:


TDC Before and After


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