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How to Reupholster Kitchen Chairs

Updated on March 8, 2012
Striking change!
Striking change! | Source

When I first got married and we purchased our kitchen table set, I was clearly a young and naive woman. After all, who in their right mind buys chairs with white seats knowing that you will eventually have children? Ah, but ignorance is bliss. Fast forward 15 years and two preschoolers later and you have a need to reupholster those kitchen seats. Since the chairs were still solid and in the quest to save more than just a few dollars, I decided that it would be much more economical to change the fabric on the seats rather than purchase a whole new table and set of chairs.

Don't think that you need to be a professional to take on this project. With a few simple tools and a little ambition, you can complete this project very easily. (This was the first time I had ever tried this!) So let me show you how easy it really is by taking you through the steps to update the look of your kitchen dining set.

Steps to Remove the Fabric

  1. Selecting the fabric is the first step that you will need to take to complete your project. Take accurate measurements of the seat and then multiply by the number of chairs that you will be re-covering. When you select the fabric, be sure that you use fabric that is specific for upholstery or all purpose fabric. Otherwise your the fabric will wear out very quickly.
  2. When you are ready to start the project, the first thing that you want to do is to make sure that you have all of your tools handy as well as a container to keep your nuts and bolts in once you remove the cushion from the chair frame.
  3. Then flip the seat over to remove all of the staples from the wood. Be sure that you get all of them so that it does not prevent the new staples from getting into the wood.
  4. Wipe down the wood with a dry or slightly damp cloth. Mine was very dusty and I needed to remove the dust before attaching the new fabric.
  5. Check the foam. Make sure that it is still in good condition to be used again, free of rips or holes. Don't worry about stains. As long as the fabric is dry, the stains will be covered by the new material.
  6. Once the staples are removed, set aside and cut your fabric to the dimensions of your chair seat. I cut all of my fabric at the same time so that I was finishing one step and would not have to interrupt the flow of my work for each chair. Kind of like an assembly line.
  7. After the fabric is cut, take one piece and set the rest aside. Place the fabric on a flat working surface. The kitchen table worked great for me. *Important! Place the fabric wrong side up! If you place the fabric right side up you will be hiding the design that you have chosen for your recovered chairs. Once you staple your fabric to the wood, you will not be able to change it without risking ripping the fabric. Check and double check!

Tools Needed

  • Pliers
  • Regular screwdriver
  • Allen Wrench
  • Multi-purpose or upholstery fabric (Measure to determine the amount you need.)
  • Staple gun
  • 3/8 inch staples

Removing the Old Fabric

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Remove the seat from the chair frame.My chairs needed an Allen Wrench.  Check yours for the correct tool needed.HINT:  Keep all of the nuts and bolts in a container so that you can easily find them later.Place the screwdriver under the staple and lift.If it is difficult to lift, use a second screwdriver to balance the leverage.Be sure to remove all of the staples.Remove the wood from the foam cushion and set aside.
Remove the seat from the chair frame.
Remove the seat from the chair frame. | Source
My chairs needed an Allen Wrench.  Check yours for the correct tool needed.
My chairs needed an Allen Wrench. Check yours for the correct tool needed. | Source
HINT:  Keep all of the nuts and bolts in a container so that you can easily find them later.
HINT: Keep all of the nuts and bolts in a container so that you can easily find them later. | Source
Place the screwdriver under the staple and lift.
Place the screwdriver under the staple and lift. | Source
If it is difficult to lift, use a second screwdriver to balance the leverage.
If it is difficult to lift, use a second screwdriver to balance the leverage. | Source
Be sure to remove all of the staples.
Be sure to remove all of the staples. | Source
Remove the wood from the foam cushion and set aside.
Remove the wood from the foam cushion and set aside. | Source

Steps to Attach the Fabric

  1. Once you have your material correctly placed on your work surface, place the cushion face down in the center of the material and put the wood on top of it. Be sure that you have lined up the holes in the wood and foam.
  2. Now you are ready to attach the fabric. Although this may be easier to do with two people, it is very doable for one person. Start at the end of one edge and pull the fabric tight. While pulling the fabric tight, staple the fabric about a 1/2-3/4 of an inch from the edge. Continue this along the edge with about an inch of space between each staple. Repeat this process on the opposite side first. By doing this, you will be able to tuck the corners evenly on the other two sides.
  3. To staple the corners down, fold them in like you are making a bed or wrapping a present. The photos and video will help guide you through this. Be sure that whatever way you decide to fold the fabric down, it is consistent with the other four corners. You want to have a uniform look to your chair.
  4. Once all of the sides are stapled down, use scissors to cut away the extra material beyond the staples. You need to be sure to expose the holes in order to reassemble the seat to the chair frame.

Step by Step Photos to Attach the New Fabric

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Center the foam on the fabric.Make sure that you leave about two inches of material from the edge.Pull the material tight and staple.Fold the corner like you are wrapping a present.Fold over and then staple.Repeat for the other side.Cut the excess material away to expose the bolt holes.A finished cushion!
Center the foam on the fabric.
Center the foam on the fabric. | Source
Make sure that you leave about two inches of material from the edge.
Make sure that you leave about two inches of material from the edge. | Source
Pull the material tight and staple.
Pull the material tight and staple. | Source
Fold the corner like you are wrapping a present.
Fold the corner like you are wrapping a present. | Source
Source
Fold over and then staple.
Fold over and then staple. | Source
Repeat for the other side.
Repeat for the other side. | Source
Cut the excess material away to expose the bolt holes.
Cut the excess material away to expose the bolt holes. | Source
A finished cushion!
A finished cushion! | Source

How much did this cost?

I purchased enough fabric to reupholster five kitchen chairs. I had the staple gun and the other tools so there was not an expense there. I used a 40% off coupon for my local fabric store so the fabric cost about $60 total. I did need to purchase new staples. They were about $6. So in total I spent less than $70 on this project. That's about $14 per chair. Much cheaper than a new table and set of chairs!

Before and After

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A chair in great need of re-covering.Good as new!
A chair in great need of re-covering.
A chair in great need of re-covering. | Source
Good as new!
Good as new! | Source

Final Tips

As you wrap up your do it yourself project, here are some final suggestions. Make sure that before you change the rest of the seat covers, check the layout of your fabric pattern. If you have a certain layout of the design, be certain that the remaining chairs follow the same layout, unless of course you would like them each to be a little different. For my chairs, I needed to be sure that the dark brown spots ran in a vertical line for each chair. Remember that once you attach the fabric. It will be much more difficult to fix.

If you have kids, and your chairs look anything like mine did, you will probably want to take advantage of wiping down the chair frame with a damp cloth. There was "stuff" stuck in places that I never knew could get stuck! It is well worth the extra few minutes.

To reattach the seat, simply turn the chair frame up side down with the seat in position. Put the nuts and bolts in place and tighten them down. You will be amazed at how a small touch like this will transform your kitchen set.

Are you ready to take on this reupholstering challenge?

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    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Rose, I don't think that it is necessary but I think that it helps to create a smooth finish. The old fabric on my chairs was textured and you would have felt it through on the new fabric. Good luck on your reupholstering project!

    • profile image

      Rose 5 years ago

      Is it necessary to remove the old fabric?

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      You are very welcome Natashalh! I'm so glad that you found the video helpful. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I love it! Especially the video. Thank you for these helpful tips. Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      OMG Leah that is sooo funny! I'll have to check out your hub a little later. Yes, pre-kid days. Such foolish young people we once were! :)

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      I am cracking up because I made a similar video not too long ago - with our horrible dining room chairs! Why did we buy chairs with white fabric? Oh, WHY? That's right... that was in the pre-kid days! Fantastic tutorial, Cara - I love it!

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Believe me if I can, you can! Thanks for the compliment on the video. It's pretty easy. When you're ready to do one, email me and I can walk you through it if need be! ;)

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      I appreciate your comments missolive. Hope they turn out great!

    • Doc Sonic profile image

      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      This is a great tutorial! It almost makes me think that I could even do it! The thumbnail photo format works very well for a series of step-by-step photos. The video is helpful. I'm gonna have to figure out how to do that video thing. It really adds a lot to a hub.

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 5 years ago from Texas

      cardelean - another great hub! You make it look perfectly easy and describe the process very well. I've tackled this project myself a few times. Getting complicated patterns to match on several chairs is not usually an easy task. I'll bookmark this hub for my summer projects around the house - thank you for sharing this info.

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      LOL, yep no reason to put it off now, it really is that easy. Glad the video came through with no problem. :)

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Awesome Sarah, let me know how it works out for you!

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Glad that you found it encouraging. It was definitely a confidence booster to me! Thanks for the read and votes.

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      I've been meaning to get to this project for a while. Now I have no excuse! I like this layout and the pics are great. I watched the video on my phone without any problem. Can't wait until the next one!

    • Sarah Darling profile image

      Sarah Darling 5 years ago from Powder Springs

      Great Hub! I have 8 chairs I need to update and thanks to you I am going to give it a try!!!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Cara-this hub really turned out great (never doubted it wouldn't so don't misunderstand) . I guess I meant that through watching this hub it encouraged me, and many others, to try the project themselves. The finished product is wonderful.

      Great job-voted up and across.

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks teaches12345, I hope so! :)

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for the share Alissa. I appreciate it and hope that she finds it easy to follow and useful as well!

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      I really couldn't believe how easy it actually was. Thanks for your comments!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I see that you have a 100% vote stating viewers could do this themselves after reading your article and viewing your hub.. that proves your hub successful. Love your before and after posts.

    • alissaroberts profile image

      Alissa Roberts 5 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Wow the new chairs look great! My friend was complaining about her old chairs the other day so I will be sure to pass this hub on to her. The instructions along with the step by step pictures and video make this project so easy to follow. Job well done - voted up, useful, and awesome!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks for this great tutorial, Cara! I have always heard that reupholstering chairs is a fairly easy project and believe it more than ever after reading your hub. We have wooden dining room chairs with chair pads right now, but I will keep this hub in mind if I never need to reupholster in the future!

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you so much K9 for your kind and encouraging comments. I would love for you to share how your project turns out! :)

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

      Cara! This is such a great tutorial and video. The added work you did in the written directions and step by step still pictures make reupholstering any chair look so simple. This is a bookmark worthy Hub for sure! I have a couple of chairs I have been trying to save instead of tossing them out; you have provided me with the perfect answer. Really well done.

      HubHugs~

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Trust me Jakob Barry, if I can do it anyone can! It was very reasonable in cost and was very rewarding in regard to accomplishing a task such as this one. Good luck and hope you'll share how it turns out.

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Wonderful pandula77, I'm so glad that you found it easy to follow. Let me know how it goes! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Jakob Barry profile image

      Jakob Barry 5 years ago

      Wow! You made it sound so easy (and I'm sure it is). We have a few chairs that need serious reupholstering. I'm going to try this out on one of them. It will be cheaper than hiring someone else and it's a great new skill to pick up! Thanks.

    • pandula77 profile image

      pandula77 5 years ago from Norway

      Nicely presented and sure makes complicated things look easy. I hope to follow this when I plan to reupholstering. I definitely would have damaged the chairs if i didn't knew how to change the old cloth. Thanks.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Your chairs are beautiful! And they're 15 years old? You really did make them look like new. I've tried this before, but I used those squares you find at the craft store, and I covered over the old cloth. It wasn't worn out, just ugly. Now I know how to do this AND remove the old cloth. Voted up, U/I/A/B.

    • cardelean profile image
      Author

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Teresa. Yes, I really think the BOY factor is huge. My daughter's chair was bad but not nearly the way that my son's was. It really was easy to do. If you try it, let me know how it goes.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Awesome hub. I have a set of six chairs in desperate need of reupholstering for the very same reason. Four boys and a farm do not make for clean light-colored chairs! I love the thumb nail idea also. I will have to try that out myself.