Hello Best Laminate visitors! My name is Shannon, and I’m here today sharing a really simple DIY chair upholstery tutorial with you. This is the kind of project I like best. It doesn’t cost a lot, it’s beginner level friendly and you get a dramatically different look when you’re done with it.
If you’ve got dining chairs, or really any chairs that the seat section can be removed from the chair body, you can change them!
Me? I had a set of vintage chairs I picked up for a song. I loved the lines but the brocade fabric had seen better days… and who knows what else? It had to go for sure!
If you decide to reupholster a chair(s) you own, then gather our supplies and come on!
YOU WILL NEED:
- Screwdriver. A flathead for prying off old staples.
- Pliers. Needle-nose work best.
- Drill – if you prefer for the screw removal, with a phillips or flathead bit to fit your screw type.
- Staple Gun. I bought a new plug in and it was a dream to work with.
- Staples. 5/16 for lighter weight fabrics, 3/8 for thicker weight fabric.
- Hammer. To tap down any high sitting staples.
- Fabric. Quantity will depend on the size and number of chairs you’ll be recovering.
- Optional. Foam, filling, padding if desired or necessary.
HOW TO REMOVE THE SEATS:
- Flip your chair upside down.
- Remove the screws holding the seat pad to the chair frame.
- Don’t rush, make sure not to strip your screws. It’ll be easiest if you can reuse them
- Put them in a zip-lock bag marked “chair screws” and set them aside. Especially if you won’t be doing this all in one sitting. Or like me, if the chairs are vintage and the screws are too. hahaha – I don’t want to be hunting at the hardware store for a replacement.
- Repeat taking off the seats until they are all removed.
HOW TO REMOVE OLD UPHOLSTERY FABRIC:
- Using a flat-head screwdriver, slip it under the staple and pry up. If needed, slip pliers between the staple and fabric, grip and flip, turning to the side. This should pull one side of the staple free. Then, tightly grasp wire staple and remove completely.
- Continue on until all staples are removed from all seats.
- My seats had two layers of fabric. I decide that to ensure fresh crisp tucks at my corners with the new fabric, I wanted to start clean. So, I did this all again and removed the second layer.
Vintage items often have surprises. Don’t be discouraged. I had an inkling my seats had been around a long time when I found little bits of straw escaping as I was removing my first layer of old fabric. When I removed the second layer I wasn’t too surprised to see the “padding” that had been flattened to nothing over the years, consisted of this:
Something resembling a combination of dryer lint and weeds! I was really glad I decided to start from scratch. Once I separated the seat from the filling and the second, old fabric I was left with a seat frame and a homemade insert. I’m guessing they were originally filled with some kind of natural woven seat, at some point.
This wasn’t really an issue to me. I cleaned them up and nailed the seat inserts to the frame, and continued on. Since the chairs had a very flat seat to begin with, I didn’t particularly want a fluffy seat look. I decided to add a layer of quilt batting to them, just to smooth out the transition from the seat insert to the seat frame. This would help my new fabric lay better too.
I simply spread the filler fabric out flat, laid the seat on it and used it as a template to cut around.
– If you have a padding or foam you wish to add, cut to size and *set aside.
HOW TO CUT YOUR NEW FABRIC:
The easiest way to cut your fabric is to lay your fabric out flat and smooth, and use the seat as a cutting guide. You can also use the fabric you removed as a template.
My fabric felt kind of icky and I didn’t really want to handle it so I did the “use the seat as my template”.
- Lay your fabric out flat and smooth. *Here, I laid my thin quilt batting I had cut out on the fabric, smoothing and centering.
- Next, set the chair seat on the fabric.
- Make sure to keep any pattern or design lined up or make adjustments if needed.
- Use the chair as your template and get ready to cut.
- Make sure to add the appropriate extra length around to accommodate the thickness of the seat. You want to be able to pull the fabric up and over the side, and have it lay flat onto the seat bottom in order to staple in place.
- Make your cut.
- Remember, it’s better to give yourself some extra fabric around the edges than the alternative. You can always trim up any excess after stapling.
HOW TO ATTACH YOUR FABRIC TO YOUR SEATS:
- I found that is was good to start with the salvage edge of the fabric for my first section. It’s firmer and you’ll not to be able to pull it out of shape as easily. If it works out for you, do this.
- Be careful not to pull your fabric too firmly. It can warp a design or pattern in the fabric. You want it snug and tight, but you don’t want it very tight on one part and not on another. Continuity is the key!
- I start at the back. This is the part of the seat that will butt up against the back of the chair when it’s re installed.
- If your fabric is in place, centered on the seat properly on all sides, you are ready!
- Start at the back, middle.
- I always place my middle staple first no mater what side I’m working on.
I’m going to jump in here for a second and rave about this stapler. I’ve reupholstered chairs before where I had to have my husband help me because I need two hands to work the stapler. When I told him I was recovering these chairs and asked where the torture device was, lol, he told me we needed a new one. So I ran down to the hardware store and was looking at this wall…
When I spotted THIS little number… and noticed a plug.
Yeah, I could not grab that little sucker fast enough. I was like ” you’re beautiful plug-in self is coming home with me”! And it did. And I was not disappointed. The kicker? I don’t even think it was $10 more than the others.
I’ve already used it again. This could be my “glue gun” for the next decade.
Okay back to the directions, sorry!
- Everyone is sure to find their own rhythm.
- Gently but firmly staple your fabric in place.
- One of the tricks of a nice upholstery job is continuity. Pull your fabric with an even pressure.
- Every fabric is going to behave differently, so I’m not going to tell you how to finish/fold your corners, kind of like everyone makes their bed or wraps a gift a particular way!
- Play around a little before you commit and do some practice folds. You might fold a section, staple, and then do a final fold over that to get a clean line on your corners.
- Once you decide, make sure to do all your corners the same way, with the fold/pleat direction going the same way.
- I work starting on the back first, next the sides and I do the front last.
- Worst case scenario, if you feel like you didn’t get the fabric positioned correctly, you can remove the staples and do it over! No harm.
When all your chairs have been ripped apart and recovered, it’s time for the fun part!
Putting the seats back on.
Just do the reverse of how you took them off.
Flip your seats upside down, position the seats and screw them back in place.
As far as the body of the chair goes, that is all up to you!
I liked the wood grain on mine and decided to apply a dark wax to enhance them and bring them more in line with the rest of the wood tones in my home. You can surely paint yours or even do a two tone treatment if the chair itself needs refreshing or a new look.
If you don’t count my new stapler, this project cost under $12.00 to recover all four chairs and I’m including staples!
Three bucks a chair. Not bad I don’t think.
Are you ready to go reupholster some chairs now? Pin it & try!