How to Reupholster Chairs

Is your favorite chair beginning to look a little ragged or threadbare? It happens. After all, a well-crafted chair will hold up a lot longer than the upholstery you cover it with, no matter what the specific material might be.

If your favorite piece of furniture still has a lot of life in it yet, but you can't say the same for its upholstery, having it re-covered is a smart choice that will save you money, but there's a catch. Reupholstering furniture isn't a trivial task. It's something that takes a fair amount of time, patience, and skill.

Before you begin, the real question is: Are you sure you want to dive into this as a hobby?

For a solid majority of people, the answer to that question winds up being no, and we totally understand that. Reupholstering furniture isn't going to be for everyone. Our advice is the same no matter what type of chair or another piece of furniture you're talking about: Take it to a professional and pay to have someone else do it.

The rest of this article will be for those readers who want to know how to reupholster chairs yourself. If it's something you're interested in and passionate about, you'll find tons of great resources here to help you reupholster your favorite chair or another piece of furniture to give it a new lease on life.

Before we jump into specifics, we should say a few words about how this article is organized. Most readers will have a specific type of furniture in mind that they want to reupholster, and this piece is designed with that philosophy in mind.

In another article on this site related to cleaning your furniture, the organization centered around the specific type of upholstery to be cleaned. That's sub-optimal for this piece, though. Although the process is broadly similar, many styles or types of furniture add wrinkles to the equation that need to be accounted for, while the specific type of upholstery you're using doesn't really change the equation all that much. This document has been structured with that fact very much in mind.

Reupholstering Basics

Regardless of the type of furniture you're planning to reupholster or the material you plan to use when doing so, broadly speaking, the reupholstering process falls into three basic categories: Removing the old material, refinishing the visible wooden sections of the furniture, if any, and then the actual reupholstering process itself.

Removing Old Upholstery

Removing the aging upholstery is, or can be a time-consuming and tedious process that includes removing the material itself, the stuffing beneath, and any nails, screws or staples that are holding it in place.

An image showing upholstering a chair

Refinishing Wooden Sections

Refinishing the visible wood of the piece of furniture in question involves sanding and re-staining, then covering with one or more protective coats of polyurethane and allowing all of that to dry completely before moving onto the rest of the job.

Reupholstering

Reupholstering involves selecting the material you want to use, re-padding the chair, and attaching the new upholstery, then putting the furniture back together if and as needed so that it's ready for use.

All of that sounds pretty simple and straightforward when it exists in a few typed lines of text, but the process can be, depending on who you are, either maddening or incredibly satisfying.

In any case, it's almost always a much bigger and more involved job than most people realize. It pays to check in with yourself one last time before starting the job to be sure you're ready to see it through to completion. Assuming you are, let's take a closer look at how your choice of materials adds variation to the process.


How to Reupholster Bar Chairs

Many bar chairs and bar stools are made entirely of wood, so it's not so much about reupholstering as it is about refinishing in those cases. The process of reupholstering bar chairs will depend on what material you choose to reupholster with.

Here are two great video tutorials that step you through the process:

Reupholstering Bar Stools With Round Seats

Note that many bar chairs or stools have round seats. This adds several new challenges to the task of reupholstering them without leaving wrinkles or other imperfections. Here's a great tutorial to help with that specific case:


How to Reupholster Cane Back Chairs

Cane backed chairs are commonly found in dining rooms, so the process of reupholstering them is broadly similar to what you'll find in the section on dining chairs (below). There are also a few videos that walk you through the process of reupholstering this type of chair in particular.


How to Reupholster Club Chairs

Club chairs present a few unique challenges, easily overcome with the right help and guidance. Here's a superb tutorial on the subject:

And one more for good measure:


How to Reupholster a Fluted Chair

This can be a nerve-wracking, time-consuming process if you've never done it before. Fortunately, we've found some fantastic tutorials to help you along your journey:


How to Reupholster RV Captain's Chairs

These types of chairs are really tricky to work with because deluxe Captain's chairs in RVs tend to have a lot of components. Honestly, this is probably a bigger job than most Do It Yourselfers can tackle without at least some professional help. Unfortunately, we only found very few tutorials online to guide you for that very reason.

If you're determined to make a go of it, you'll find at least some value in this tutorial about the reupholstering of the Captain's chair for a boat that has at least some similarities.

And this is a tutorial that focuses on RV seats, which is one component you can probably do on your own if you're determined.


How to Reupholster Dining Room Chairs

Also answered in this section:

  • How to reupholster chairs
  • How To Reupholster Dining Room Chairs With Fabric
  • How To Reupholster Dining Room Chairs With Backs
  • How To Reupholster High Back Dining Chairs
  • How To Reupholster Dining Chairs
  • How To Reupholster Dining Room Chairs With Piping
  • How To Reupholster Captain's Chairs
  • How To Reupholster Leather Dining Room Chairs
  • How To Reupholster Leather Dining Chairs
  • How To Reupholster Kitchen Chairs
  • How To Reupholster Kitchen Table Chairs

Dining chairs come in all shapes and sizes, but the fundamentals of reupholstering them are largely the same. Here are a number of video tutorials on the matter to guide you:

Dining Chairs with Fabric Upholstery

Here's a video tutorial that focuses on how to reupholster dining chairs with fabric backs, which adds a few wrinkles to the process (note that the tutorials on Parson's Chairs—below—will also be of help here):

Additional Resources

In addition to that, here are some additional, non-video tutorials that provide additional guidance:


How to Reupholster Outdoor Sling Chairs

Also answered in this section: How to Reupholster Sling Back Patio Chairs

Sling chairs present a few unique challenges when it comes to reupholstering, but once you get the hang of it, they're surprisingly easy to work with. Here are a couple of good tutorials:


How to Reupholster Lawn Chairs

If you have a webbed lawn chair, rather than a sling chair, the process is different yet again. Here are some tutorials that outline the process of re-webbing lawn chairs:

and for vinyl "slat" lawn chairs:


How to Reupholster Leather Chairs

Leather is a thicker material and it takes some specialized tools to work with. At a minimum, if any stitching is involved, you'll need to get an industrial sewing machine as the one you use for day to day tasks will simply not be up to the task.

Other than that, though, the selection of leather as a reupholstering material doesn't materially change the process. You'll want to refer to the specific type of furniture you're working with for tutorials on how to best approach the project.

Industrial Sewing Machine for Leather

How to Reupholster Old Chairs

An image of old chair

If you're working with an antique and you're interested in preserving its value, materials selection is key. You'll want to select a material and a pattern (if you're using some type of fabric) that was in use at the time the chair was made so that your reupholstering effort preserves the authentic period look of the piece of furniture in question.

Otherwise, the process is not markedly different from reupholstering newer chairs, although you'll undoubtedly want to take extra care when prepping the piece for reupholstering.

Here's a tutorial to help get you started:

Note: If you don't care about preserving an authentic look, by all means, do whatever you like with the chair. This is one case where we'd strongly recommend coordinating with an antique dealer who is familiar with the period and soliciting professional help if you're interested in preserving the authenticity of the piece.


How to Reu​​​​pholster Patio Chairs

Also answered in this section: How to Reupholster Outdoor Chairs

Ultimately, this depends on the type of patio chair you've got. If you have lawn chairs or sling back chairs on your patio, we refer you to those sections of this article. If you have some other type of chair, then odds are, all you'll really need to do is reupholster the seat. Here's a tutorial for that:


How to Reupholster Parson Chairs

Also answered in this section: How to Reupholster Parsons Dining Room Chairs

Parson's Chairs are an interesting case and present a few unique challenges to the DIY reupholsterer. We've chased down a handful of helpful video tutorials to guide you on the project:


How to Reupholster Rocking Chairs

Here's a great little tutorial on the topic to guide you:

And here's a video tutorial for good measure:


How to Reupholster Vinyl Chairs

Also answered in this section:

  • How To Reupholster Faux Leather Dining Chairs
  • How To Reupholster 50's Vinyl Chairs
  • How To Reupholster Kitchen Chairs With Vinyl
  • How To Reupholster Vinyl Kitchen Chairs

Working with vinyl is not markedly different from working with other materials, but there are a few wrinkles that it introduces. With that in mind, here are a couple of video tutorials to help you with that project:

In addition to that, vinyl is notorious for starting to show its age early on by peeling and cracking which is a serious limitation the material has. Here's a quick tutorial on how to repair such damage to extend the life of your upholstery (note – also useful for repairing damaged leather!)


How to Reupholster Wingback Chairs

Wingback chairs are incredibly common, and there's lots of great material available to guide you through the process of reupholstering. Here's a small sampling of some of the better tutorials we found on the topic:

In addition to the resources on YouTube, this tutorial from Instructables adds some additional insights:

Reupholstering a Wingback Chair


Final Thoughts on How to Reupholster Chairs

If you've spent some time watching the videos and reading through the text-based tutorials we've provided above, then you can see that reupholstering furniture isn't a casual project for the faint of heart. There's a lot more that goes into it than first meets the eye. If it's something you're passionate about, it can be an incredibly rewarding hobby, and you'll wind up with one of a kind pieces of furniture for your home that won't cost you a ton of money.

If you're working with a chair or other piece of furniture we haven't yet listed here, please leave a comment below, and we'll do some research and add relevant tutorials to this piece. Our goal is to make this article your one-stop shop for all the reupholstering guidance you'll ever need!


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How to Reupholster Chairs
  • Chair Institute
  • March 30, 2020
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