How to Reupholster a Chair

Changing the fabric can breathe new life – and style – into a tired old chair. Here's how

Credit: iStock

Give your old chairs a new lease on life with stylish new upholstery

Have a lacklustre set of dining room chairs that could use a facelift? Or found a great old wooden chair with a ratty, worn-out seat cover at a garage sale? Changing out the fabric can breathe new life – and style – into those tired pieces

Here are some simple steps for re-covering a chair:

  1. Choose chairs with seat padding intact for this project. Replacing the cushion itself is a more involved DIY mission.
  2. Turn the chair upside down and unscrew the seat from the base with a screwdriver. Remember how the seat looks when you take it off so it will be easier to put the chair back together.
  3. If the current fabric is heavily worn or musty, remove it by pulling out the staples at the back of the seat. If the current material is in decent condition, you can put your new fabric overtop.
  4. Pick a thicker, durable fabric, especially if you’re re-covering dining room chairs. Try silk damask, denim, heavy crepe or other upholstery-specific material. Measure the seat before you buy fabric, making sure you have enough to wrap around the back (two times the size of the seat should be more than enough).
  5. Place the fabric wrong side up on a flat surface, and place the seat (cushion side down) on the fabric. If your fabric has a pattern, make sure the pattern is angled the way you want it.
  6. For seats with straight edges, fold the fabric over the straightest side of the seat and staple it onto the underside using a staple gun. Raw edges and messy stapling are OK – this part won’t show in the end. Then fold the material over the opposite side of the seat, pulling gently to remove any wrinkles; staple to the bottom. Do the same for the two remaining sides, making sure any bunches or wrinkles are on the underside of the seat and not visible. Now you’ll have four stapled sides and fabric sticking out at the corners. To finish the corners, fold the fabric in toward the centre of the seat and staple down, making sure the top and sides of the seat are smooth.
  7. For round seats, tack down four corners first. Think north, south, east and west. Then make a series of small folds between each of these points, pulling taut and stapling as you go to make sure the fabric doesn’t pucker along the edges.
  8. Trim any extra cloth and hammer down any staples that are sticking up.
  9. Place the seat back on the chair frame, re-screw into the base and voila, your chair has a new lease on life!