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How to Reupholster and Restore Furniture Without Costing a Fortune

By Edited Oct 7, 2016 1 2

Everything you buy for the home these days is expensive, no matter whether it is for a new baby, living room, or any household room. With a little thought and effort anyone can have great furniture for their home by restoring old ones without it costing a fortune.

If you are looking for inexpensive ways to brighten up the furniture in your home, then this article will show you how to do just that, by doing all the work yourself.

You can pay an upholsterer to redo the furniture, if you can afford it. Make sure that you let the experts redo the real old antiques, unless you know exactly what you are doing. Antiques cost too much to experiment with.

So you spotted an old dining room suite, with a matching footstool or padded chair. Many people might still remember how it felt to sit in one of those soft upholstered chairs. With an effort we can recapture that sensation again. For this project you can experiment on an old chair or a footstool.

Tools and Materials Required

Before starting you need the following tools:

  • Flat headed screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Sharp scissors
  • Chisel with a cut out vee (this allows you to get under the nail or tack to lever it out)
  • Fabric for recovering (for new upholsterer, use a plain fabric, until you are more qualified)
  • Adhesive glue
  • Tacks or upholstering tacks
  • If the padding is visible on wood frame, then you will need new padding or foam, if worn
  • Good staple gun

Starting your renovation

Unscrew the padded seat from its frame. Remove all staples or tacks with a flat-headed screwdriver or vee-shape one. Carefully pull off all the old material; remove with care as this is your pattern, for the new covering.

Word of caution: If it has springs, don't attempt this, leave it to the professional. If no springs then continue:

If yours is old, the padding may need replacing. If foams glued to the board, remove this foam and clean the board.

Use a two-three inch thick piece of foam, (depends on softness required). Place foam over the board and cut foam with knife to fit, leaving a half-inch overlap all round. Glue foam into place on the board, not overdoing the glue.

Using the material, you took off for a pattern, cut out an identical pattern with new material. If you changed the thickness of foam, allow for that extra thickness. Use a staple gun, and starting in the middle at the back of the seat, staple the fabric to wood and then staple at the same point in the front. Make sure it is even all round; you can mark it out first to help keep it in place. Keep the fabric tight, without wrinkles. Be careful not to stretch fabric out of shape. Do the same on both sides.

Now do the corners. Pull the material over the corners and staple, keeping it tight. With that done, work your way around seat, stapling from the corners towards the center. Do one side, then the opposite side, still keeping fabric taught. When complete cut away the excess material and cover the rough side with another piece of material. You can use cardboard or material for backing. Staple this on the base to cover up the rough edges.

No, you are not finished. Did your chair or footstool have wooden legs? If you answered yes, then sand these down and re-varnish. It is no good having a newly covered seat with chipped or scratched wooden legs. Leave this to dry overnight. Fasten your covered seat back on the base and it is finished.

That was not too hard, was it?

Now you have done that why not start again, and do all those great dining room chairs. Remember to revamp the table with a sand and varnish to match your new chairs.

Your friends will not believe you could do it. Now, give yourself a pat on the back, and try something harder next time.

Replacing several pieces of fabric

When recovering a lounge or similar, number each pattern piece as you remove them to avoid making mistakes when replacing them

Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design
Amazon Price: $35.00 $20.74 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 7, 2016)
This book will walk you through the simple steps to upholstering your own furniture which will give you more confidence to give it a go.

Another idea is to recover the faded or worn outdoor chairs.  You can give these a new look by simply creating a pillow slip style cover that will cover your old padding. The difference is that the envelope is on the outside to hold it in position on the chair without the need of ties or similar. Like shown in picture below.

Recovering an outdoor chair
Campbell Hausfeld 3/8-Inch to 1-1/4-Inch 18-Gauge Narrow Crown Air Powered Stapler: Model CHN10399
Amazon Price: $71.99 $29.00 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 7, 2016)
This stapler is in the middle price group. Some of the cheaper ones will not do as good a job, this one is also powered with air.

Restoring Old Furniture

How many times have you looked in the second-hand shops and seen an old wardrobe or chest of drawers? Before you commit to buying these, make sure the doors hang right and that all drawers open and shut properly.

If they look a little shoddy did you know you may not have to strip or sand this type of furniture right back to original? Although you can give it a bit of a sand, if damaged.

Instead I have learned a simple little trick that is easier and cheaper. You can touch up and cover scratches with a little shoe nugget. I used black and dark tan boot polish on the wardrobe in the picture. This will of course depend on the shade you want on your furniture. I wanted this a little darker, that’s why I added the black.

Mix the two colors together in a dish with mineral turps. Then apply to the whole surface making sure to spread evenly. For a lighter color use light tan polish.

Restore finish on Wardrobe

Some tips from Grandma's Day

  • To clean upholstery, use a squirt of Shaving foam, then wipe over with cloth slightly dampened with vinegar.
  • Rub faulty zips with a lead pencil to make them glide easier.
  • Clean rugs with potato water. Grate a potato and mix in basin of water. Leave to soak, stirring occasionally. Strain off potato and sponge on the liquid to clean rug. Wipe off with cold water.
  • Remove red wine stains, by sprinkling salt on stain or use white wine to remove stain.
  • Remove grease stains by soaking overnight in a mixture of warm water and Coca Cola.

By the way, neither of these ideas will cost you a fortune either.


Kiwi Deluxe Shine Kit
Amazon Price: $14.99 $10.33 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 7, 2016)
This kit will not only be great for cleaning your shoes but comes with brushes to polish them. Plus this is what I used to polish my furniture and give it new life.


May 5, 2015 8:25pm
Helpful article! We just got our couch reupholstered a few years ago - didn't like the new material though. The cleaning tips sound ingenious. I shall try one of these when the need arises.
May 6, 2015 6:51pm
Thanks LyraKua for stopping by and leaving your comment. Anyone can upholster or redo their old furniture and save money in the process.
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  1. Upholstery "Upholstery." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upholstery. Updated 2015.

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