How to Reupholster Chairs: Your Beginner DIY Guide | Wayfair (2024)

Learn how to reupholster chairs.

How to Reupholster Chairs: Your Beginner DIY Guide | Wayfair (1)

Are the seats of your favorite chairs old and no longer comfortable? Is the fabric outdated or torn? Instead of heading out to purchase new furniture, why not make the environmentally friendly choice of learning how to reupholster chairs? With our gorgeous range of upholstery fabric and this step-by-step guide, you will be able to grasp the basic techniques needed to salvage an old bench yourself.

How to Reupholster Chairs: Your Beginner DIY Guide | Wayfair (2)

The most important consideration before you try to reupholster furniture, is to ensure the chair frame is still in good shape. As a beginner, you would be better off starting with just the seat of a dining room chair that has strong bones as a foundation. Below is a list of the tools you will need before you can begin to update any worn out seats and bring your tired looking chairs back to life.

  • Needle nose pliers or side cutters
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Circular saw or jigsaw (if necessary)
  • Sander or router (if necessary)
  • Jigsaw or serrated bread knife
  • Foam rubber spray adhesive
  • Fabric pencil or chalk
  • Measuring tape
  • Fabric scissors
  • Staple gun
  • Staples 3/8 or 5/16 inch


  • Black dust cover fabric for bottom (if necessary)
  • High-density foam (2.6 inch is ideal)
  • Base replacement if needed (wood or otherwise)
  • Upholstery material
  • Batting 1/2 inch (measured to the base plus 4 inches)

Shop Sewing Notions

Shop Serrated Bread Knives

Shop Upholstery Fabric

Step 1: Remove the Seat

Start off by removing the chair seat from the frame. This may require you to flip the chair over to unscrew the base or prise it out if it was simply dropped in.


You would do well to photograph the chair before dismantling to ensure you have an image of what it looked like and the way the fabric was installed before you begin to strip it.

Step 2: Refinish the Frame

If you intend to sand, paint, or stain the frame, this is the best time to do so. You should also perform any necessary repairs to cracks or splits and wait until any glue or paint is entirely dry before you start to reupholster the chair.

Step 3: Remove the Old Upholstery

Part of learning how to reupholster chairs is carefully dismantling the original fabric while keeping it intact to be used to create a pattern. Use your pliers or side cutters to remove each staple. For any stubborn ones you can push a flathead screwdriver beneath to make them easier to access.

  • When the first few staples are gone, you should be able to pull up longer pieces of fabric to loosen the staples.
  • Take care not to rip or tear the original fabric.
  • Once the old upholstery is off, you will have exposed the batting (a thin white protective fabric over the foam rubber), and foam rubber – both of which you can also remove.
  • The foam rubber will likely be glued onto the base so you should be able to simply pull it off.
  • If you do encounter a dust-cover at the bottom of the seat, make sure to remove it in the same way.

Step 4: Measure for Your Fabric

Once you have selected your durable material for your dining room seat, you will need to take into account a number of factors to help you estimate the amount of fabric you will need for this task.

  • Use your tape measure to get the width and length of the original fabric. If this is your first time reupholstering a chair, it's best to start with a single seat.
  • Make sure to add at least three inches of extra fabric on all sides.
  • If your fabric has a pattern, you may want to order a little extra so you can correctly center the designs.
  • Use this measurement to select the amount of upholstery fabric you will need.
  • Fabric rolls only have a specific width but the length can extend as long as you need, so make sure to choose the latest measurement for the length.


When it comes to ordering fabric, it's better to have too much than too little. This is even more applicable for patterned fabric (particularly if you intend to match up designs), always be sure to order extra to be on the safe side.

Shop Upholstery Fabric

Step 5: Replace the Chair Base

If you need to replace the base of the dining room seat, this is the time. Most chair bases are made from composite or plywood, but real hardwood will be stronger and last the longest.

  • Place the original seat over the base material of your choice and draw an outline.
  • Use a circular saw or jigsaw to cut out this shape and then soften or round any sharp edges with a sander or router.

Step 6: Cut the Foam Rubber

Replacing the foam rubber is always a good idea as it will make the chair feel firm and brand new. Take the old foam base and once again create a template on the new material.

  • To cut the foam, use either a jigsaw or a serrated bread knife.
  • If you use the knife, be sure to pull it towards you, making use of short strokes and light pressure to prevent tearing the foam.
  • Once it is cut and evened out, you can use foam adhesive to glue it onto the new base.
  • Ensure the glue is specifically for foam as incorrect adhesive can eat away at the material.

Shop Serrated Bread Knives

Step 7: Cut the Fabric

The most complex part of learning how to reupholster chairs is working with the fabric. Place your original seat fabric over the new fabric (both with the wrong side facing up), and draw out a pattern, this time making sure to add an additional three inches on each side.

  • Pay attention to any designs and fabric grains and try to center and position any patterns in the manner that will properly display the motif you want to display.
  • Use your fabric scissors to carefully cut out your new cover.
  • You should also cut the batting out now too, this time making sure to leave around four extra inches of overhang on all sides.

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Step 8: Install the Batting

The batting protects both the foam rubber and the fabric by acting as a lining between the two. Start by placing the batting on your work table and position the foam and base (make sure the glue is dry) over it, with the foam facing down.

  • Center the seat on the batting and begin with one side first.
  • Gently pull the batting up and around the foam to the front of the base and use the staple gun to place one or two staples to secure it in place.
  • Continue this on all sides, making sure to flip the chair over to check the batting is even and flat.
  • When you get to the corners, pull them neatly so you can fold and tuck them away and place a staple to secure them.

Step 9: Install the New Fabric

Place your batting-covered seat base on the fabric (wrong-side up) and make sure it is centered and correctly positioned.

  • Start by tacking down the front and back edges first. Drive a single staple through the center of each side, making sure to leave at least three inches of overhang on each side to hold onto.
  • Flip the seat over and check the pattern alignment again. Beginning at the center of the front staple, work outwards placing a staple around every two inches.
  • Use your hand to stretch and tighten the fabric to prevent and smooth out any wrinkles. This is what the extra fabric is for.
  • Stop two inches from each of the corners.
  • Repeat on the back and sides, making sure to continuously flip the chair over and check the fabric is centered.
  • To finish the corners, first tuck the center piece underneath and staple while you stretch and angle the fabric. You may need to flip the chair right-side-up and fold and tuck the material to each side (similar to wrapping a gift). Then flip back over and staple the ends tightly.
  • Carefully work to cut away any excess batting and fabric while leaving one or two inches beyond the staples.


If at any point you find the fabric has gone crooked, you can remove a few staples with the screwdriver, smooth or stretch the fabric to reposition, and reattach it.

Step 10: Install the Dust Cover

If your chair had a dust cover or you would like to install one, you can do so now. By stapling it onto the underside of the chair, it will not only protect the fabric but also help to give the bottom a more professional look.

  • Measure the underside of the chair and cut the dust cover fabric a little larger than needed.
  • Fold the edges beneath itself (but still covering the stapled edges of the original fabric) and staple about every inch or so as close to the edge of the fabric as possible for a neat and clean appearance.

Step 11: Reattach Upholstered Chair

It is finally time to reattach the seat to the chair frame. Use the pre-existing holes from where you removed the seat and screw it back in place.

  • Ensure it is firmly secured but don't over-tighten the screws as you could strip the holes.
  • You can finally enjoy your handiwork.

Now that you know how to reupholster chairs, you will be able to not only refresh old furniture but also customize and redecorate any space to your precise specifications.



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How to Reupholster Chairs: Your Beginner DIY Guide | Wayfair (2024)
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