A Beginner's Guide to Reupholstering a Couch

Updated on July 16, 2018
hellovictoria profile image

Tori is a 26-year-old, three-time animal mom DIYer living in Northern Atlanta with her boyfriend.

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When I moved into my first apartment, I bought an old set of furniture on Craigslist to fill my living room. It included a burnt orange corduroy couch and chaise lounge with a coffee table. Overall, the quality of the furniture was good, but the fabric was worn out from years of use.

Right after I got the set, I adopted two kittens, Zeus and Oliver. They also loved the couch as much as I did. They loved it so much that they wanted to literally be inside of it and managed to pull the arm fabric open so they could climb inside.

I decided to reupholster it and ended up with a beautiful, red suede couch when I was done. Here's how I did it!

Source
Cat damage for days.
Cat damage for days. | Source

Things to Know Before You Get Started

  • This is NOT a one-weekend project. It took me approximately three weekends and some weeknight evening work to complete.
  • Be prepared to pull a lot of staples. Wear shoes so you don't step on any pieces of metal that might go flying and you don't see them.
  • It is generally a good idea to purchase additional fabric beyond what you measured for just in case you need it.
  • This tutorial's measurements are based off of my couch. You won't be able to follow the tutorial exactly the same, because every couch is different, so take the time to do thoughtful measurements.

1. Planning

The very first thing you will need to do before you do anything else is plan your project. To adequately plan, you will need to first take measurements of every piece of visible fabric on the couch. You have three types of fabric you will be using:

  • Outside couch fabric
  • Cambric (dust cover)
  • Inside Seat Fabric

Make a table to keep track of your measurements, like the one I did below.

Remember: the measurements you are taking are only the parts that you can actually see. There's more fabric hidden on the inside that you can't see where the fabric is stapled to hold it in place. So to compensate for that extra fabric, you have to add an allowance to every piece of fabric. I added 4 inches to each side, so the width and height of each cut increased by 8 inches total. Pay special attention to providing allowance for the inside arms and the outside back!

Your cut size will be the total amount of fabric you will need for each piece. For the batting, each couch is different. I felt around my entire couch and any part of it that felt padded I counted as a measurement for my batting. This included the inside arms, inside back, and inside seat (over the springs but under the cushions). I did two inches of allowance on each cut of batting.

Piece
# of Piece Needed
Length (inches)
Width (inches)
Allowance
Cut Size
Outside Arm
2
28
34
4 inches all sides
36x42
Inside Arm
2
28
35
4 inches all sides
36x43
Outside Back
1
29
79
4 inches all sides
37x87
Inside Back
1
28
72
4 inches all sides
36x80
Front Foot of Couch
1
17.5
97
4 inches all sides
25.5x105
Seat Cushion Walls
2
6
128
4 inches all sides
14x136
Seat Cushion Top/Bottom
4
27
41
4 inches all sides
35x49
Back Cushion Front/Back
6
26
29
2 inches all sides
30x33
Cording
5
N/A
225
8 inches
233
Fabric for Cording
5
3
225
8 inches
3x233
Cambric Dust Cover
1
38
78
2 inches all sides
42x82
Inside Seat Fabric (Spring Cover + Outer Fabric
2
22
70
4 inches all sides
26x74
Batting - Inside Arm
2
28
37
2 inches all sides
32x41
Batting - Inside Seat
1
22
70
2 inches all sides
24x74
Batting - Inside Back
1
28
74
2 inches all sides
32x78

Now that you have planned the measurements, it's time to draw the pieces out so that you can figure out how much fabric you will need all together. Before doing this, make sure you know how wide the roll of fabric is that you picked out, so that you can effectively plan the cuts to waste minimal fabric. Mine was a 54 inch roll. Below is a little section of my planning.

Source

2. Purchase Supplies

Use the supplies list below to ensure that you purchase what you need for your project, changing measurements of course to match what you need. It is good to purchase a few extra yards of fabric and batting than what you measured to need, just in case something happens and you need more.

Product
Where You Can Get It
Cost
Upholstery Fabric (Signature Series Home Decor Fabric in True Red), 18 yards
Jo-Ann Fabric Store
$144.00
Soft N Crafty 8 Oz Polyester Batting, 12 yards
Jo-Ann Fabric Store
$41.88
Staple Gun
Any Hardware store
$15.97
1/2 inch steel heavy duty staples, 2 packs
Any Hardware store
$6.24
10 Pc. Rigid Tack Strips
eBay
$8.99
Curve Ease/Pli-Grip (100 feet)
eBay
$17.50
12 yards 8/32" Cording, 2 pack
Jo-Ann, eBay
$8.98
Heavy Duty Red Thread
Any craft store
$1.99
4 Foster Decorative Millwork 2-3/4 in. Pine Taper Bun Feet
Home Depot
$23.92
4 Heavy Duty Top Plates (for the legs)
Home Depot
$10.48
Upholstery Regulator or Flathead Screwdriver
Amazon or any fabric store
$10.75
Dust Cover (I used a spare flat sheet)
Varies
Varies
Rubber Mallet
Any hardware store
$11.99
Fiskars 12-71787097J Titanium Easy Action Scissors, 10 Inch, Orange and White (You don't have to use this specific set of scissors, but I love them.)
Amazon
$19.01
Extra fabric for the inside pieces of your couch, such as under the cushions (I used a spare flat sheet)
Varies
Varies
Needlenose pliers
varies
Varies
 
Total Cost
approx. $321
Many of the tools I had already, but this total includes the cost of tools if you need to buy them. If you already have the tools, subtract the cost of each one that you have so that you can get an accurate idea of cost for your project.

3. Deconstruct the Couch in the Order It Was Constructed

You will learn a lot about how to put your couch back together by taking it apart.

Take notes on everything you do: how pieces were put on the couch (which sides were stapled vs. tack strip, etc) what side of the piece was put on first, and what order you take the pieces off. This will be good to refer to when you are putting the couch back together. Take pictures if you need to of how pieces were constructed to help you remember how to put it back on.

It's important to take notes of what you do while dismantling the couch so you know how to put it back together again.
It's important to take notes of what you do while dismantling the couch so you know how to put it back together again. | Source

The first step for all couches will be to turn it upside-down and take the legs off, then take the cambric dust cover off.

Here's the couch while I'm removing the cambric and after it's removed.
Here's the couch while I'm removing the cambric and after it's removed. | Source

Then, begin by removing all staples with your pliers around the bottom of the couch, so you can start figuring out which piece you need to take off first. This staple removing will probably be the most time consuming portion of the staple removing—so make sure your hands are prepared and someone to help you so it takes less time.

Removing the staples is one of the most arduous parts of the process.
Removing the staples is one of the most arduous parts of the process. | Source

Identify the piece that needs to be taken off first. For me, the first part to remove was the outside back. I removed all of the staples, and found that the short sides of the fabric were held in by tack strips. To remove a tack strip, insert your pliers into the fold of the fabric where the tack strip is and gently lift up. Repeat for the length of the tack strip. I had to do this for both sides—then to get the last side of the fabric removed, I had to remove more staples.

Removing the tack strip.
Removing the tack strip. | Source

5. Remove the Rest of the Couch Pieces

This step will depend on how your individual couch is constructed. Take notes on how you take pieces apart, and if you need any of them to remeasure the new fabric with to make sure you got the right measurement, save it so you can do so at that point. Here are some pictures of my couch as I deconstructed it.

Taking off the rest of the back fabric.
Taking off the rest of the back fabric. | Source
This is after taking off the front fabric and batting. I left the white piece on because it was still in good shape. The white fabric protects the batting from the wooden frame.
This is after taking off the front fabric and batting. I left the white piece on because it was still in good shape. The white fabric protects the batting from the wooden frame. | Source
Taking off the foot of the couch fabric.
Taking off the foot of the couch fabric. | Source
Here I have removed one arm as well as the seat, foot, back, and both outside arms.
Here I have removed one arm as well as the seat, foot, back, and both outside arms. | Source
That couch is looking pretty bare!
That couch is looking pretty bare! | Source
One naked couch frame, coming right up.
One naked couch frame, coming right up. | Source

7. Recover Couch Springs and Foot

I started by re-covering the couch springs. I laid a piece of cut-to-size sheet down first, then a layer of batting, and stapled both down. I applied another layer of batting around the foot of the couch.

Then I started measuring my fabric to recover the foot of the couch. This piece requires sewing: first the inside seat fabric covering the spring batting. I used an old blue sheet for my inside seat fabric, so that I didn't have to use the expensive suede fabric for this part. Then I created the corners so I could slip the fabric over the foot.

The purple sheet was used to cover the springs.
The purple sheet was used to cover the springs. | Source
Then I applied a layer of batting and also pieces of cardboard across the front to help support the top of the foot.
Then I applied a layer of batting and also pieces of cardboard across the front to help support the top of the foot. | Source
Putting on the batting for the foot of the couch, and Zeus helping me re-measure the fabric from the bottom of the couch so I got the right shape.
Putting on the batting for the foot of the couch, and Zeus helping me re-measure the fabric from the bottom of the couch so I got the right shape. | Source
The foot and spring cover fully attached.
The foot and spring cover fully attached. | Source

8. Prepare Cording

After getting the foot of the couch on as well as the batting for each arm, my next step was to do the arms. First, I started by getting my cording ready.

Cut your cording into the size of pieces you will need, then sew the fabric over it to match what you will need for each piece. I needed five pieces: one for each front of arm, one for each side of arm, and one spanning the top back of the couch.

Putting together the cording!
Putting together the cording! | Source

9. Recover Arms

The arms in general are in my opinion the most tedious and difficult part of the entire couch. I had to look up tutorial videos in order to make sure I was doing it in the easiest and fastest way possible. I did the inside arms first, and then the outside arms. I followed the tutorial videos below for these two pieces, making adjustments for my couch.

My finished outside arm!
My finished outside arm! | Source

You may have noticed that Kim mentioned Curve-Ease. It is a flexible metal L-shaped strip with holes in one side for staples to attach it to the frame of the couch, and teeth in the other side to grip the fabric.You can cut it with regular scissors (not your fabric shears) to fit your piece. Here is a tutorial on using Curve-Ease which will make finishing the arms a little bit easier.

This is Curve Ease, or Ply-Grip. It is basically an L-shaped flexible metal strip with holes for staples in one end and teeth for the fabric in the other.
This is Curve Ease, or Ply-Grip. It is basically an L-shaped flexible metal strip with holes for staples in one end and teeth for the fabric in the other. | Source

10. Recover Back

After the arms were done, most of the tedious work of covering the frame was over. I then covered the inside back, using two layers of batting instead of just one because I thought it needed more.I applied the cording to the top edge of the couch, then put the outside back of the couch back on. I used Curve Ease along the top edge next to the cording, then used one tack strip on the left and right vertical sides, which covered the edge of the fabric and staples from my outside arms. Then, I stapled the piece all the way shut on the bottom wooden part of the frame.

11. Recover Seat and Back Cushions

First we deconstructed the covers and used them to cut pieces of fabric that were about the same size (with a few extra inches of room on each measurement just to be safe). Then we installed zippers into the back wall of the seat covers to make it easy to take them off and wash them if needed. After the zippers were installed, we pinned and sewed the walls of the cushions to the cutouts of the seat cushion tops and bottoms.

To make the back cushions, we measured the length and width of the old back cushions, sewed brand new ones from the new fabric, and stuffed them with the Poly-Fil stuffing.

Finished seat cushions!
Finished seat cushions! | Source
Finished pillows!
Finished pillows! | Source

12. Finishing Touches: Dust Cover & Legs

The last step in the process is to put the finishing touches on your couch. This includes stapling on the new cambric dust cover and attaching the legs. To save money, instead of buying a new dust cover I used an old purple sheet. I tipped the couch up and stapled the new dust cover onto the couch. After it was stapled, I cut the excess.

For the legs, I spray painted them with a hammered metal spray paint. After that, I affixed the brackets for each of the new legs to each corner of the base of the couch, and screwed the legs in.

And from there, I was finished! I hope you found this tutorial helpful for your own project.

After I got the front inside back part of the couch upholstered, it was all really smooth sailing. Here's the front of the couch with the seat cushions!
After I got the front inside back part of the couch upholstered, it was all really smooth sailing. Here's the front of the couch with the seat cushions! | Source
Here's the back of the couch, finished.
Here's the back of the couch, finished. | Source
And the couch finished from the side.
And the couch finished from the side. | Source
And here's the before and after comparison!
And here's the before and after comparison! | Source

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • grand old lady profile image

        Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

        11 months ago from Philippines

        I love what you did to your sofa:).

      • old albion profile image

        Graham Lee 

        3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

        Hi Tori. Another first class hub.Your ability and easy to understand style is excellent.

        voted up and all.

        Graham.

      • Miss Info profile image

        Miss Info 

        4 years ago from New York City

        Great job! Awesome hub. I'm impressed.

      • hellovictoria profile imageAUTHOR

        ToriM 

        4 years ago from Atlanta

        don't be discouraged!! I was quite intimidated starting this project...after I started ripping off the fabric it really hit me that I was committed to the project now, haha. But just keep trying - as long as you have the right tools and material you can do it! :) I hope if you do reupholster again that the tutorial comes in handy and that you will be able to send pictures :)

      • North Wind profile image

        North Wind 

        4 years ago from The World (for now)

        Wow! You did a great job and this is a useful tutorial. If only I had this a few years ago when I tried to reupholster my old couch. I used staples and regular black material but the result was a disaster! It was a standing joke in the family.

        I do not think that I have the courage to attempt another reupholstering myself but if I do I know which tutorial to follow.

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