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Save Money: Reupholster Your Furniture Yourself

Updated on August 18, 2013

One of the key words here would be reupholster furniture INEXPENSIVELY therefore save money....

If you have antique furniture pieces that are worth mega bucks, give them the attention they deserve and let a professional do the honors. Yes, it can be costly but well worth it.

However if you're like me, and you need to squeeze out another year or three out of your living room set, (just till the lottery..) you do have the option of doing the recovering yourself, which will save quite a bit of money. I'm not suggesting you rip the couch apart right away, but a good place to start might be a footstool.

Tools you will need:

  • Scissors (sharp, you want to cut not massacre the fabric)
  • Staple gun (Heavy duty manual is okay but an electric one is easier on your hand)
  • Staples 3/8" or 1/2" (with pointy tips, they go into the wood easier)
  • Flathead screwdriver (preferably with long handle)
  • Hammer (for an occasional staple that sticks out and for deco nails) =>
  • Decorative nails (optional)(from your upholstery fabric shop or hardware store) get a few extra, these bend very easily
  • Decorative trim or gimp (optional)
  • 2" thick quilt batting (really only needed if the stool is a little saggy, but at the same time batting will smooth out little bumps, lumps and corners)

Fabric requirement:

Obviously upholstery grade fabric is the best. Which usually has a strengthening compound on its wrong side for more durability. However if you found a piece of material at last weeks garage sale that has a solid weave, is non-stretchy and the right color scheme, go for it, use it. Most solid fabrics will give you a few years of service.(When redoing larger pieces, buy the most expensive fabric you can afford; it's a big job but it will give you a sense of accomplishment too)

Congrats! You've got the footstool, the tools and the fabric in front of you. Now what do you do?

Only ten steps to a new footstool.

1)Unscrew the legs. (If legs show usage dents and scuff marks give them a bit of a face-lift by sanding and re-varnishing. Remember you will need the smallest amount of varnish as it goes a long way also look for the one that has a darker color pigment added. That should cover most of the scrape marks.)

2)Remove the covering on the underside of the stool. (Usually it's a light weight cardboard that's stapled on. If an older model stool it's a piece of burlap or canvas like fabric.) Try to remove it carefully so it can be reused. If it's beyond hope, not a big deal just use an old pillowcase instead.

3)If your footstool has deco nails, remove them now.

4)Take off the old cover, otherwise it could get too bulky.

5)Use your old cover as a pattern to cut out your new fabric. I like to leave a bit extra all around to make it easier to handle. (the excess can be trimmed off at the end.)

6)If you need to use batting, cut it 1" smaller then the pattern and center it on the wrong side of your fabric.

7)Center stool on top. (Using the four points north, south, east, and west) gently pull fabric over the edge, place two staples in the center of the side farthest away from you (north), next the side closest to you(south), making sure you have a bit of tension. Now do the same for east and west, careful not to distort the grain of the material. Keep adding staples all around till you get to the corners. Occasionally checking to make sure there are no wrinkles in the fabric. Fold the corners like when wrapping a present and staple. Depending on the shape of your stool, if you need tucks, fold them equally on each side, symmetrically then staple.

8)Add deco trim and nails. (upholstery deco nails are made of really soft metal that bend very easily, so the trick is to hit the nails head-on straight) Some of the old pieces of furniture were made of good solid hard wood. Hard wood being very hard (Ha-ha obviously hence called hard wood) If the deco nails refuse to be pounded in find a very fine drill bit and "pre-drill". The drill bit should be a smidge thinner then the actual deco nail.

9)Re-staple the undercover, re-screw legs and TAD-AH done. Nothing to it, right?

10)Bragging time...Show it off as if it was your first born.

It's not as hard as it sounds. When recovering a couch or chair the steps are pretty well the same as for the footstool except when it comes to creating the pattern pieces. Use an old sheet, fold, pin, tuck and mark the pieces as accurately as possible. Don't forget to leave seam or folding allowances when cutting your fabric. When buying fabric for a couch or chair, most upholstery fabric stores have charts that show the basic amounts needed. Remember to allow extra for design matching etc. I always buy a couple of yards extra.(it won't go to waste because you can always make arm protective covers and throw cushions.

You might feel you need a bit more how-to-info, there are some really good books on basic reupholstering available, which show step-by-step how-to pictures. Your local library probably has a few. My Mom's old (1973) copy of 'Simply Upholstery' published by Sunset books is quite good and covers all the basics. It seems they bring out new editions periodically.

Thirty or so years ago my in-laws gave us the most hideous couch set ever. It was a saggy monster in a brown and tan floral, yuk. First time my mother-in-law saw it recovered she didn't believe me that it was the old set from the cottage. I sure was proud of my first reupholstering job. That couch set was with us for quite a few years. It was the first of many, hmmm I actually have never owned a new set, I'm waiting for the lottery...

You can do it. Good luck to you.

Book titles to check out :

  • 'Complete Step-by-Step Upholstery' by David Sowle & Ruth Dye
  • 'Reupholstering at Home' by Peter Nesovich
  • 'Sewing Edges and Corners' by Linda Lee (I really like it, I got this one for my daughter and it's quite easy to follow)

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    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 5 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      danski344, thank you for taking a look and for commenting.

      regards Zsuzsy

    • profile image

      danski344 5 years ago

      yeah! its all over tv for restaurants

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 7 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      You're absolutely right electric staplers are great to use.

      Thanks for your comment.

      regards Zsuzsy

    • profile image

      esigner Upholstery Fabric 7 years ago

      My mother is in the other room right now recovering some old kitchen chairs. She's over 70 and if she can do it, anyone can. If you're worried you're not strong enough to use the stapler, buy an electric one. That's what she uses.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 7 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      aleida_77, thanks for taking a look and for commenting.

      Recovering your chair will be fun. Good luck, let me know how it goes.

      kindest regards Zsuzsy

    • aleida_77 profile image

      aleida_77 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hi Zsuzsy --- Thanks for all of the great information. I have a chair that I have been wanting to have reupholstered, and I think that I'm going to give it a go myself. Nice hub.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 7 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Tracy, thanks for taking a look and for commenting.

      kindest regards Zsuzsy

    • profile image

      Tracy Monroy 7 years ago

      What a great hub! Do-it-yourself projects are so fun. You can get the fabric at FabricMaven.com, they specialize in discount upholstery fabrics and so much more. Thanks!

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 7 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Petstrel, thanks for taking a look and for commeting.

      kindest regards Zsuzsy

    • Petstrel profile image

      Petstrel 7 years ago from Slovenia

      This is just a great guide!

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 7 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Property-Invest thank you for taking a look and for commeting.

      kindest regards Zsuzsy

    • Property-Invest profile image

      Property-Invest 7 years ago from London

      I was always a bit fearful of trying DIY re-upholstery! Thanks for the great hub to demystify it all.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 7 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Shanel thanks for taking a look and for commenting. A footstool is a good project because it is even and easy enough to flip flop back and forth until you get it just right.

      kindest regards Zsuzsy

    • shanel profile image

      shanel 7 years ago from Seattle

      I like the idea of starting with a simple piece of furniture like a footstool for your first attempt at upholstery. Thanks for the hub.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Terity! You're too right, naturelly it's important to discuss the changes with the dogs. After all it has to agree with their taste. (literally)

      thanks for visiting regards Zsuzsy

    • terity profile image

      terity 9 years ago

      CAUTION:

      Before changing the upholstery on your furniture, make sure you consult your dog first!

      Thanks, Zsuzsy, for a lovely hub!

      Teri

      http://www.grab-a-chair.com

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      It's such a great accomplishment! I agree. Thanks for visiting.

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Angela Harris profile image

      Angela Harris 9 years ago from Around the USA

      I've done this before. It's not easy, but it was easier than I imagined. And like you mentioned, I was so proud when I was done, not to mention a few dollars richer from the money I saved.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Jason! Good for you...I love to hear about successes. Thanks for your comments. regards Zsuzsy

    • Jason Stanley profile image

      Jason Stanley 9 years ago

      My mom did her own living room couch and chair by herself many years ago - as a little boy my job was to hand her tacks. I figured if she can do it we can do it.

      We did our dining room chairs - backs and bottoms about 3 years ago - they still look new today. It was our first try.

      Your hub, says it all. Now, just do it and reap the reward.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Michelle! .........might take forever......but just imagine how pleased you will be when they're all done. Thanks for coming by for a visit

      regards Zsuzsy

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 9 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Inexpensive is the word. But I'm planning to have 12 chairs re-upholstered..for the school's office. I could see the foam coming out already heehee But gee, it might take me forever LOL. Great info though Zsuzsy Bee. :-)

    • profile image

      Iðunn 9 years ago

      I wish I'd seen this before I gave away my last couch. lolz. yeah, back to my fav avatar. I love that sky.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Iðunn! The sox are back...I love to reupholster...so much cheaper and you can make room look totally different with just a few bucks spent on new material.

      Thanks for the visit

      Zsuzsy

    • profile image

      Iðunn 9 years ago

      this is a great hub. I've paid to have stuff reupholstered long long ago and it's quite expensive. I knew then I'd buy new furniture rather than refurbish, so this hub is quite useful.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Sally! It is a big job no secret about that but it is worth every bit of it. As you say to have something professionally recovered is sometime more expensive then a new set. I have been recovering for years. I own a couch set that has had a "new outfit" four times now. (our dog didn't aprove of my color choices twice and helped with the work of removing the brand new recovering job by the time I got home from my shop) which is a whole different story...(If you sew you could also make a slipcover. If you're interested I could put a hub together. Let me know.

      Thanks for visiting regards Zsuzsy

    • Sally Dillon profile image

      Sally Dillon 9 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Thank you! I would never have dreamed of reupholstering my 20 year old favorite loveseat and chair set by myself! With four kids and untold numbers of cats scratching it, it desparately needs a makeover - which would probably never happen if I waited to save to up the $3000 the upholstery shop wants to charge me.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Hello Good Cook! Sorry for not getting back to your question earlier I was away from the computer most of the day.

      I'm always of a mind that reusing something I already have makes more sense than buying new (to me). The questions you need to answer: How good is the frame work? Is it sturdy feeling? Are any springs poking through? Does it still fit well in the space you have for it? Do you still like the shape of your piece of your furniture?

      To cover vinyl with fabric can also be done. I have on numerous occasions sanded down the shiny surface of the vinyl so that the new fabric won't slip and slide...

      Now to the disturbing part of your comment, what's with ....getting recovered...It's not that hard to do, YOU can do it...practice with a small piece first, then jump in two feet first...let me know how it goes.

      regards Zsuzsy

    • The Good Cook profile image

      The Good Cook 9 years ago

      I have an old lounge suite that I've been thinking of getting recovered for years. The vinyl on the armrests is torn - is it practical to even attempt to recover vinyl with fabric or should I just get a new (old) one?

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Marye! You can do it...I know you can...

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Please come to my house immediately.

      :)

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image
      Author

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Thanks!

      You should try it sometime just for fun...then again there can be more fun had doing other things

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Whether or not this is useful to me, I enjoyed reading this hub. Who knows, I can act like I know with knowledge gathered from here!

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