DIY Project: How to Reupholster Dining Chair Seats (2024)

Reupholstering a chair is one of the simplest do-it-yourself tasks for beginners. If the chair's bones (legs and supports) are in good shape, you can change a chair's look with little effort, saving you the expense of purchasing new chairs. You only need a staple gun and new fabric to customize the cushions with any pattern you like. This DIY project makes it especially easy and affordable to redecorate your home or add a fresh dash of color to any room.

Replacing the fabric on cushions for dining chairs can be completed in an hour or two. Larger chairs, like fully upholstered accent chairs or recliners, require much more time. Starting your introduction to upholstery with a dining chair is a great way to learn about the process without a complex project.

Below, learn how to reupholster a chair seat to give your furniture a brand-new look.

Before You Begin

The easiest way to start reupholstering is to remove the cushion from the chair and remove the old fabric. The size and shape of the material is a good guideline for determining how much new fabric you will need.

When selecting fabric, choose astrong fabricintended for upholstery for a durable, long-lasting piece of furniture. One yard of fabric can typically reupholster two standard dining chairs.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Drill or screwdriver
  • Staple remover
  • Straight pins
  • Fabric pencil or chalk
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Staple gun


  • Upholstery fabric
  • Welt cord (optional)


How to Reupholster a Chair

DIY Project: How to Reupholster Dining Chair Seats (1)

  1. Remove the Seat

    Turn the chair upside down, and unscrew the seat from the frame using a drill or screwdriver. Make any necessary repairs to the wood part of the chair—painting, refinishing, or tightening joints. Ensure everything is dry and not sticky.

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    When reupholstering, you may encounter a non-removable chair seat that includes a tack strip: a long strip of cardboard with tacks holding the seat to the frame instead of screws. Remove the strip by prying the seat off with a flathead screwdriver.

  2. Remove the Old Fabric

    Turn the seat over. Use a staple remover to remove the old staples and fabric. If the staples are difficult to remove, pull them out with needle-nose pliers. Save the old seat fabric to use it as a pattern.

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  3. Replace the Batting (Optional)

    If the padding is in bad shape, you want a softer seat, or want to soften the edges of furniture, you can add a new layer of foam batting. It's called upholstery batting or Dacron and is sold in most fabric and hobby stores. Here's how to put it on:

    • Cut a piece of batting at least 4 inches larger (all around) than the area you want to cover.
    • Attach it with a staple gun to one end of the seat.
    • Wrap it around the cushion.
    • Staple it to the other end.

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  4. Center Your Pattern (Optional)

    If your new seat fabric has a pattern, turn the seat right-side up and place the new material on top. Pressing around the perimeter of the seat, center your pattern, then mark the corners with straight pins.

    Note: You can skip this step if your fabric doesn't have a pattern.

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  5. Cut the New Seat Cover

    Turn the new fabric right-side down and put the old seat cover on top as a pattern. Note the locations of your pins. Adjust them if needed, feeling underneath to find them. Line up the corner creases of the old seat cover with your straight pins.

    Weigh down the old cover at the chair seat corners, then trace around the old seat cover with a pencil or chalk. Smooth the edges with your hands as you trace it so your new cover doesn't end up too small. You can pin the old seat cover to your new fabric before tracing if you don't feel confident about smoothing it as you go.

    Remove the old seat cover, then cut out the new one using the pencil or chalk lines as your guide. To prevent fraying, use your sewing machine to zigzag or serge around the edges of your fabric. If you don't want to sew, fold tape along the edges. Press ​downyour fabric if it's wrinkled or creased.

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  6. Attach the Fabric to the Seat

    Turn the new seat cover right-side down. Place the seat cushion, also right-side down, on top of it. If you have pins to mark the corners of patterned fabric, ensure they are aligned with the corners of the seat cushion.

    Starting with the top edge, staple once in the center. Repeat with the bottom edge, pulling the fabric tight before you staple. Repeat with each side, and keep pulling the fabric tight before you staple.

    Working one side at a time, staple from the center outward until the side is completely stapled. Keep pulling the fabric tightas you work and smooth the material underneath from the center. Leave the corners unstapled. Repeat on all sides until everything is stapled but the corners.

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  7. Complete the Corners

    Grasp one corner of the cover and pull the point toward the center of the seat cushion, then staple it. Finish reupholstering the chair seat's corners by arranging the remaining unstapled corner fabric into small, even pleats, pulling it tightly, then stapling it down.

    When reupholstering a chair with rounded corners, you may need to make multiple pleats on each corner for a flat, smooth finish. Make sure you don't staple over the screw holes. Repeat for the three remaining corners.

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  8. Add Welt Cord

    For a professional, finished look, add welt cord. You can buy decorative cording in fabric or upholstery shops or make your own. To apply the welt, arrange it along the edge of the seat and staple the welt's lip (the flat edge). Only the rounded edge with the cord inside should show when you turn the chair over.

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  9. Reattach the Seat

    Place the seat on the chair frame and align the screw holes. Get the screws started so the seat doesn't fall off once you turn the chair upside down. Turn the chair over and tighten the screws until the seat is firmly attached. Be careful not to tighten too much, which can strip the holes.

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  • Can you reupholster a chair over existing fabric?

    Reupholstering over old fabricmakes the process much easier. If your new material fits snugly over the furniture's original upholstery and is a darker color (or thick enough to prevent the pattern from showing through), you can upholster directly over existing fabric.

  • How many yards of fabric do I need to reupholster a chair?

    One yard ofupholstery fabricis equivalent to 3 feet long, but different fabrics can vary in width. Determine the width of your new fabric first. To calculate how much material you'll need to reupholster a chair, measure the surface of the current fabric and add at least 1 to 2 inches to allow for seams and potential fraying.

  • Is it worth it to reupholster a chair?

    It is worth it to reupholster a chair since it's typically much cheaper to reupholster than to replace it. Only about 1/2 yard of fabric is needed when reupholstering a dining chair seat.Adding new fabricto a fully upholstered chair requires more material but often costs less than purchasing a new chair, depending on the type and amount of fabric used.

DIY Project: How to Reupholster Dining Chair Seats (2024)
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