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How to reupholster chairs and sofas

Grab some lengths of your favourite fabric, learn how to reupholster a chair or sofa and get ready to spruce up your space.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Cleanipedia Team

blue chair after DIY reupholstering
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Key steps

  • Photograph your furniture to use as a guide.

  • Label the old fabric as it’s removed.

  • Use the old fabric as a guide to cut new pieces.

  • Leave 2-3 inches of extra fabric on the new pieces. You can trim this off later.

  • Smooth your fabric as you staple it in place.

Knowing how to reupholster a sofa or a chair opens up a world of decorating possibilities. Play with some cheerful colours, or replace fabric that’s seen better days, and it’ll freshen up the whole room. Though the best finish will usually come from a professional, it's not hard to change the upholstery of your sofas and chairs yourself. With our handy guide, we’ll show you how to reupholster a chair, or sofa, in a flash of your fabric scissors.

After removing the original fabric, always keep it to use as a guide to make sure your new fabric fits snugly around your DIY reupholstered chair or sofa.

Everything you need to reupholster a sofa, DIY-style

Before we show you how to reupholster a sofa or armchair, there are a few tools you’re going to need! These include:

  • Camera

  • Needle-nose pliers

  • Marking pen

  • Scissors

  • ½ inch thick batting

  • Staple gun and 3/8 or 5/16-inch staples

  • Your chosen upholstery fabric

  • Chalk

  • Pins

  • Tack strips

  • Black, breathable fabric (this is for the underside)

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How to reupholster an armchair or sofa in easy steps

  1. Take photos of your furniture piece. This will provide a reference point when it comes to reattaching your new fabric.

  2. Remove the black cloth from the underside of the sofa or chair.

  3. Loosen the upholstery pieces from the frame, using needle-nose pliers.

  4. As you remove each piece, use a marker to note where on the piece it came from. Don’t forget to mark the top, front and location of welting and where they are sewn together.

  5. Save all the welting and tack strips as a guide to cut the new pieces to size.

  6. Once your chair or sofa has been stripped, check the following:

    • If the batting (padded material underneath) is worn or stained, remove it.

    • Repair broken springs.

    • Repair broken webbing.

    • If you’re working on a chair with a visible frame, decide if you want to sand, prime and paint it to match your new fabric.

  7. Cut a piece of batting to fit the back and seat of your chair or sofa.

    • Start by adding batting to the back.

    • Staple it down.

    • Pull the batting around the staples gently to make sure there are no visible dents.

    • Use the same process to attach batting to the seat, folding it neatly around the corners.

  8. Next, cut your new fabric to size.

    • Lay the old upholstery wrong side up on top of the new fabric (also wrong side up!)

    • Make sure you pay attention to the direction of any patterns.

    • Pin the two pieces together.

    • Cut around the old piece, leaving a 2 to 3-inch edge of fabric, which will allow for it to be trimmed later.

    • Don’t forget to transfer the markings for top, front, welting and seams using chalk.

  9. Place the new fabric in the correct spots on your furniture, pinning them together and adjusting or trimming them to make sure the fabric will fit snugly.

  10. Using the old pieces to guide you, cut and staple welting in place on the seat, sides and back. Use Tack strips around the panels against the welting.

  11. Once you have placed each piece of new fabric where you want it, pull the fabric taut and staple it in place. Start off with the seat, then attach the sides, before finally attaching the back. Don’t forget to smooth the fabric as you secure it to make sure it doesn’t become puckered.

  12. Once all the fabric is firmly stapled in place, trim the excess.

  13. Finish by cutting a piece of black breathable fabric to size and stapling it in place.

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If you want to update your home, and add a unique touch, using this guide for how to reupholster a couch or other furniture piece could be just the thing you need. If you don’t have the time to completely reupholster your furniture, why not read our guide for how to clean and remove stains from your furniture to bring new life to your old furniture.

Originally published