How to reupholster a chair

Reupholstering a chair is a daunting task, at least it was was for me. I stared at this crusty, free thing (read more about Andy’s collection here) for 6 months before I got up the courage to rip it up and figure it out. It’s a smelly, messy project, but seriously, not that hard or time consuming.

reupholster a chair

The first decision to make is: are you going to attempt to keep the springs or gut the entire chair and use the plywood + foam method? The nice Jo-Ann fabric lady convinced me to ditch the springs. She explained that back in the day, they didn’t have foam and the only way to make a comfortable chair was to use springs. Did I mention, if you keep the spring you will have to buy special string to re-tie the springs, special burlap strips to cover the springs, and fabric to cover the burlap. Trust me on this one, ditch the springs. Here is my chair in her original form. She doesn’t even look so bad in this picture, but the whicker is super worn and the cushion is what really grosses me out. It’s stained and crusty and who knows how old!

how to reupholster a chair

The chair lived in the corner with a blanket over the cushion for 6 months:

how to reupholster a chair

 

Here’s a close up of the cushion, eek.

how to reupholster a chair

Essential reupholstering tools… These are not fancy, in fact I had all of them already on hand. I won the chalk paint at Haven (read more here). So, even that was free! The Dremel is not necessary, but helpful for cutting and sanding the plywood. The one tool not shown in the picture that we used is a hand saw.

how to reupholster a chair

The hardest part of reupholstering is deciding to go for it! Once that happens, you’re golden. Here’s my first rip… The black stuff comes off super easily. It’s fun!

how to reupholster a chair

Under the black stuff was a lovely burlap criss cross which also rips off super easily…
how to reupholster a chair

Like I said, my chair is old and really smelly. I didn’t use gloves, but that would not be a bad investment! Keep a trash bag and vacuum handy… there are a lot of loose pieces. Oh yea, I would totally suggest doing it outside. Sadly, I don’t have that option living on the 17th floor of a building.

how to reupholster a chair

Although I didin’t use gloves, I did DIY a face mask in the midst of the mess. Check it out.

As I ripped, I pulled out as many staples/ nails I could. There are tons. Literally, 100′s in my chair.

how to reupholster a chair

I loved picking these out. So. much. fun. NOT.
how to reupholster a chair

After I got the bottom of the chair gutted, I started on the back of the cushion. I used the flat head screw driver to pry the welting out of the crack of my chair. You have to do this to all 4 sides of the chair. (See the video above for my trick to neatly get the upholstery out of the crack.)

how to reupholster a chair

When I first started the reuphoster project, I thought I was going to keep the springs. That’s why I started painting the chair at this stage. TIP: Don’t do that. Gut the entire thing before painting, and dont try to keep the springs.

how to reupholster a chair

This is when I should have starting painting the chair… live and learn, right? The arrows indicate where I had to re-paint once deciding to ditch the springs. I also used the wood putty to fill the holes on the rim of the chair. One of my very favorite things about chalk paint is that the paint does not smell. Since painting outside is not an option, chalk paint it a life saver. Not to mention, there is no sanding involved and it covers well.

how to reupholster a chair

Moving on to the cushion. I bought a 2in. firm foam cushion at JoAnn’s with a 40% off coupon.

how to reupholster a chair

I used the mini saw to cut the foam. I had the saw left over from cutting balsa wood for this project in the kitchen. I used newspaper to make a fancy stencil.

how to reupholster a chair

Believe it or not, the mini XACTO saw worked great for cutting the foam! TIP: use the mini saw like a knife cutting bread.

how to reupholster a chair

Just checking to make sure she fits in the chair! I had to give her a trim or 2…
how to reupholster a chair

Once the foam was cut, I Andy jumped for joy reluctantly cut the ply wood for me.  We bought a 1/2  2′ X 4′ handy panel from Home Depot and I used my newspaper stencil to show Andy where to cut. Remember, we live in the 17th floor of a building, we don’t have a backyard or fancy tools. Andy cut the peice of wood with a Dremmel and a hand saw.

how to reupholster a chair

No saw horses for us, we use the outdoor furniture!

how to reupholster a chair

 Once we got the shape right, I put the sanding tool on the Dremel and used that to make the board fit perfectly in the chair.

how to reupholster a chair

Once the board is cut, you’re almost done! It’s time to actually upholster. You’re going to lay everything out nice and pretty, like the picture below.  It’s an upholstery sandwich. Lay fabric, batting, foam, and then board on a flat surface. use the staple gun to staple the batting to the board. Then use the staple gun to attach the fabric to the board. Pull the fabric as you go, and don’t just do one side at a time.

how to reupholster a chair

(via Family handy man)

 

Here is the bottom of my almost finished upholstry job. The only thing left to do is cut the excess fabric off. how to reupholster a chair

Once the seat cushion is done, plop that bad boy into place and enjoy your new and improved chair!

how to reupholster a chair

how to reupholster a chair

Cost breakdown:

  • Chair- free
  • Paint- free
  • Staple gun- already owned
  • 2in foam pad- $13.99 (bought with 40% off coupon)
  • 1.5 yard of upholstery fabric- $12.99 (50% sale)
  • 1/2 in board- $15.97
  • 1 yard of Batting- $10.00 (40% off coupon)
Grand Total: $52.95
I feel very proud of myself for pulling the upholstery trigger on this one! Another great thing is that now that the chair is gutted and the cushion is built, changing the paint and fabric for the next makeover will be a whole heck of a lot easier.

Comments

  1. I have 2 chairs sitting in my garage waiting for this. I’m a little scared cause I’ll have to reupholster the whole thing and well… that’s a lot of fabric to mess up with, lol! Thanks for the tutorial : )

  2. Hi Jaime! This is a great tutorial! Very well put together/informational. Plus, I’m LOVING the orange! Fantastically bold!

  3. Hi Jamie!
    Wow! Way to go! It looks awesome. I’m like you I would have had is sitting there longer than 6 months. Great project – thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow thanks for all of the helpful info. The final product is so cute, and it sure was a lot of work. My dad and I are actually in the middle of a similar project. It has been much harder than I would have thought. This post came at the right time for me :)

  5. Amazing Jamie!!! Love the color choice! Congrats too!!!

  6. This is awesome! I really like the the colors and modern look of the chair. Thanks for the tutorial! :)

  7. I love that orange!

    Where did you get your sofa, I’m totally in love with it?!

  8. Not to be grumpy, but I cannot for the life of me understand why you chose to replace the strings? And why, when you had removed the strings, did you not make sure the fabric and the new cushion covered nicely and without creases? It should have been stretched better, if you had started in the middle of the cushion and had worked your way out to the corners, alternating back and front, you would have gotten a much neater end result. Really nice with the bold colours, though!

  9. First time to your blog, love it!
    Great job, love the color!
    Pick up an electric knife for cutting meat at a yard sale….works great for cutting through all foams.

  10. Thanks for the comprehensive tutorial. I found a beautiful chair at a thrift shop and need to pull all of the springs out of it. This helps!

  11. Chair look’s great .. I would like to see what paint did you use? Great Renovation chairs

Trackbacks

  1. [...] just in case, with a DIY jewelry organizer in mind. We have part of a leftover board from the chair re-upholstery project so the original plan was to use that and drill in the bolts. But, plans changed when [...]

  2. [...] The orange chair does not really live there, just looked cute for the photo op!  I moved the 2 blonde chairs behind [...]

  3. [...] across it! If you’re interested, here it is.  My favorite project of 2012 would have to be reupholstering and painting a free chair or the personalized coloring book! Thank you for reading C.R.A.F.T. Seriously, I want to hug you : [...]

  4. [...] Jamie @ C.R.A.F.T. submitted her amazing upholstered chair tutorial. [...]

  5. [...] Reupholster a chair is not as hard as it seems. Especially if you only have to upholster a [...]

  6. [...] Reupholstering a chair can be very messy. So make sure you do it either outdoors or on the balcony or terrace if you have one. And since you’re giving the chair a new look, you can also give it a fresh coat of paint or re-stain it. You can cut a new board for the seat if the old one is too damaged or if it doesn’t look that durable anymore.{found on site}. [...]

  7. [...] Reupholstering a chair can be very messy. So make sure you do it either outdoors or on the balcony or terrace if you have one. And since you’re giving the chair a new look, you can also give it a fresh coat of paint or re-stain it. You can cut a new board for the seat if the old one is too damaged or if it doesn’t look that durable anymore.{found on site}. [...]

  8. […] Reupholstering a chair can be very messy. So make sure you do it either outdoors or on the balcony or terrace if you have one. And since you’re giving the chair a new look, you can also give it a fresh coat of paint or re-stain it. You can cut a new board for the seat if the old one is too damaged or if it doesn’t look that durable anymore.{found on site}. […]

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