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How to Reupholster a Dining Room Chair: An Easy Home Improvement Project

Updated on April 17, 2016

Reupholstering Furniture is an Easy DIY Home Improvement Project

Reupholstering dining room chairs is a very easy home improvement project to undertake, and the results give any room an instant face-lift. We had six heavily stained dining room chairs in desperate need of a makeover. The cost of professionally reupholstering the chairs was prohibitive, so I took the plunge and bought upholstery fabric from a local craft and hobby shop.

The total cost of reupholstering our six dining room chairs was $65, which included the shipping cost for the special-order fabric.

This home improvement project requires no special skills: there is no need to sew, use heavy machinery, or make difficult mathematical calculations. I am not a "crafty" person and have no ability to sew, but I was able to recover all of our dining room chairs with little difficulty. The most difficult part of the process was actually removing the old fabric, which was held down with approximately ten million staples! The only tools required for this project are scissors, a screwdriver, needle-nose pliers, and a staple gun.

An Easy Way to Spruce Up the House

Give old, stained chairs a spiffy new look with new upholstery fabric. Reupholstering chairs is an easy DIY project anyone can do!
Give old, stained chairs a spiffy new look with new upholstery fabric. Reupholstering chairs is an easy DIY project anyone can do! | Source

Reupholstering: Tools and Fabric Required

The following tools are necessary to reupholster dining room chairs:

  1. Screwdriver to remove the chair seat (Phillips or flat-head, depending on the type of screws used to hold the chair seat onto the chair).
  2. Scissors or utility knife to cut the old fabric off the chair.
  3. Staple gun.
  4. Needle-nose pliers to remove old staples holding the stained fabric down.
  5. High quality upholstery fabric. For six dining room chairs, I required 2 1/2 yards of 54" width home decorating fabric. The fabric must be purchased in whole yards, so I purchased three yards of fabric.


Measuring Upholstery Fabric

Upholstery fabric is sold in rolls, usually with a specified width. The fabric I purchased for my chairs, for example, had a 54" width. This was wide enough to accommodate two chairs. I purchased 3 yards of the 54" fabric to cover six chairs.

To determine how much fabric you will need, simply measure the bottom of each seat and add approximately 6" to the outside edge. This will give you enough material to wrap around the seat and staple it to the bottom of the chair.

Selecting Fabric Size

Be sure to order enough fabric to overlap the seat size by about 4-6" on each side of the chair. This will allow enough fabric to comfortably wrap and staple to the underside of the seat.
Be sure to order enough fabric to overlap the seat size by about 4-6" on each side of the chair. This will allow enough fabric to comfortably wrap and staple to the underside of the seat. | Source

Choosing New Fabric

The white, stained fabric on our dining room chairs was not washable. For our family, finding a cleanable, patterned fabric was a priority. Upholstery fabric should not stretch easily, or the fabric will warp and become loose on the seat over time. Choose a tight weave in a non-stretchy fabric.

The pattern on the upholstery fabric matters: solids and random patterns are easier to line up with a chair seat than stripes. Despite the difficulty with aligning striped material, the upholstery fabric I fell in love with had a striped pattern: I simply lined up the fabric carefully with the chair seat and made sure the stripes did not get off-kilter during the process of stapling on the new fabric.

Upholstery material is usually a heavy fabric, and may be made from cotton, polyester, vinyl, or other materials. The "cleanability" of the fabrics will depend on the material: wool will have to be professionally cleaned, for example, while vinyl will be easy to wipe clean with a cloth. I chose a cotton/poly blend that was cleanable with solvents or water based cleaners. The label on the cloth will state how the material should be cleaned: check this label prior to purchasing your cloth.

The "cleaning codes" on upholstery fabric are as follows:

  • W: Clean with a water based cleaner.
  • S: Clean with a solvent based cleaner (do not use any water or products containing water).
  • S-W: Clean with water-based or solvent cleaners.
  • X: Do not clean with water-based or solvent cleaners. Professional cleaning recommended.


Upholstering Dining Room Chair Pictures

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pulling tightly, tack the fabric to each side of the wooden base with the staple gun.Once the sides are tacked down, continue to pull the fabric taught and staple along the edges. Gather the fabric on the corners last, and staple them tightly to the base.Ensure the fabric is smooth and even over the chair surface.Replace the seat onto the chair and screw the wooden base into place.Enjoy a whole new look for a fraction of the price of professional reupholstery!
Pulling tightly, tack the fabric to each side of the wooden base with the staple gun.
Pulling tightly, tack the fabric to each side of the wooden base with the staple gun. | Source
Once the sides are tacked down, continue to pull the fabric taught and staple along the edges. Gather the fabric on the corners last, and staple them tightly to the base.
Once the sides are tacked down, continue to pull the fabric taught and staple along the edges. Gather the fabric on the corners last, and staple them tightly to the base. | Source
Ensure the fabric is smooth and even over the chair surface.
Ensure the fabric is smooth and even over the chair surface. | Source
Replace the seat onto the chair and screw the wooden base into place.
Replace the seat onto the chair and screw the wooden base into place. | Source
Enjoy a whole new look for a fraction of the price of professional reupholstery!
Enjoy a whole new look for a fraction of the price of professional reupholstery! | Source

Upholstering a Chair: A Step-By-Step Guide

  1. Unscrew the seat of the chair. Remove the screws and set them aside in a safe place.
  2. Use scissors or a utility knife to cut away the old fabric. Use a flat-head screwdriver to pry up the old staples if necessary, and needle-nose pliers to pull the old staples out of the wooden seat base.
  3. If the foam of the seat is in poor condition, replace it with new high-density foam. Simply glue to new foam to the wooden seat base. I did not need to do this with our dining room chairs.
  4. Cut out a square of upholstery fabric to fit the seat. I cut a square about 4-6" larger than the seat of the chair, to have enough fabric to wrap and staple under the seat.
  5. Place the seat cushion and wood base on the fabric, making sure the "right side" of the fabric is facing out. Grab a section of fabric and pull it very tightly: staple one side of the fabric to the wood base.
  6. Continue to pull the fabric until it is very taught and staple the fabric once on each side of the chair base to tack the fabric to the seat.
  7. Staple the fabric around the edges of the seat, pulling the fabric so that it remains taught.
  8. Pull the corners of the fabric in last, trying to create a smooth corner. You may need to cut some of the fabric away to get the best effect. Hold the bunched fabric very tightly and staple it down. Repeat with each corner.
  9. Place the reupholstered seat onto the chair and screw it back into place.

Reupholstering: A Poll

Why do you need to reupholster your furniture?

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    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Awesome. You answered my question perfectly! I have actually recovered some chairs similar to this before. They also had a light fabric. I didn't use high quality material though, so I'm going to have to redo them at some point. Your chairs look great. The video is a nice touch, too! Thanks for answering this question. Maybe we'll win something! Great job!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      I'm glad it answered your question well, Victoria! I love home improvement projects - small touches can make such a big improvement to any house!

    • Nan Mynatt profile image

      Nan Mynatt 5 years ago from Illinois

      I marked you up on this one. You made it seem so easy to do, that I am going to do (6) chairs this spring. Thank for all of your tips.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      Nan, it is really easy to do. I am not "crafty" by any means (the last time I tried to sew anything, I gave myself a blood blister). If I can do it, anyone can!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great tutorial! Thanks for the detailed video and instructions.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      I am so pleased with how our chairs turned out, randomcreative! The kids can sit on the chairs and spill without ruining the furniture. Huge relief to this mama!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      You got me inspired to cover my nasty chair seats. These are beautiful chairs and were given to me. Unfortunately, they had sat uncovered in a warehouse for years so the seats are dirty. I will attempt this and thank you for the video. It is great.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      Hyphenbird, it is really easy to do! I had never tried reupholstering before this project, and doing the dining room chairs was really easy. Take care if you have antiques, though - I would consult a professional if your chairs are valuable antiques. I want to get a couple of club-style chairs for our living room, and I'm looking at thrift shops now that I know reupholstering chairs is so easy!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      Great hub. We do this all the time and it is so easy.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      It is a fun project to do, isn't it, moonlake? Now that I've done this once, I want to try it on some other furniture!

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