How to Reupholster a Chair Seat

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Fabric is a big part of making your favorite chair comfortable and attractive. But over time, even the most durable fabrics can start to look worn out or dated. Fortunately, you don't have to throw out your old furniture because its upholstery has seen better days. With an afternoon's work and some new fabric, you can give your old chairs a fresh new look that will make them feel brand-new again.

Reupholstering a chair seat is surprisingly easy if you know how to do it properly. This guide walks through the steps involved in reupholstering a chair seat quickly and easily. Read on!

Tools and Materials

  • Staple remover
  • Sewing machine
  • Straight pins
  • Fabric pencil or chalk
  • Upholstery fabric
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Upholstery weight thread
  • Polyester welt cord cellulose piping
  • Black breathable fabric for underside of a chair


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 chair's wood part, such as painting, refinishing, or tightening joints. Ensure everything is dry and not sticky to the touch, then reattach the seat. If you encounter a tack strip, along a strip of cardboard with tacks that hold the seat to the frame, instead of screws, pry the seat off with a flat head screwdriver.

Remove the Seat
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Remove the Old Fabric

Turn the seat over, then use a staple remover to remove the old staples and fabric. If the staples are stubborn, pull them out with needle-nose pliers. Be careful not to tear any old fabric pieces. Save the old seat fabric because you'll need to use it as a pattern.

Remove the Old Fabric
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Replace Batting 

Cut a piece of batting the same size as the seat. Using a staple gun, tack one side in place, so it doesn't shift when you flip the seat over. Pull the batting tight and staple again to secure it in place. Flip the seat with the fabric back so that batting is on top. Trim away extra fabric from around each

Replace the batting if it is flattened or torn by opening a new roll of batting and cutting it to size. Staple down one side, leaving about two inches exposed, then pull the other side over so you have an equal amount of exposed fabric on both sides. Staple along this edge as well, but fussy no further than 2 inches in from the edge. The batting should still fit inside your cushion, but it will be thicker and more plush.

Staple both ends of the batting into place, then flip the seat over and do a final check to make sure it's centered and fits nicely on top of the cushion before you staple the fabric down all along its edges.

Center Your Pattern

If you're using a pattern, be sure to center it on your seat before you staple it down. This might seem a little counterintuitive, but an off-center pattern can throw your entire look off and take away from your finished product. After you've centered your pattern, mark the corners with straight pins. Alternatively, you can skip this step if your fabric doesn't have a pattern.

Cut the New Couch Cover

After you've prepped the seat, it's time to cut the fabric. If you don’t have a fabric yet, you can get inspiration from these DIY couch cover ideas. You may need to adjust this step depending on how old your chair is and what shape its existing seat cover is in, but most of the time, you'll be cutting a rectangle slightly larger than your chair. Keep in mind that you don't want to go much bigger than the size of your existing seat cover.

Weight down the old cover at the corners and trace around the old seat cover with a pencil or chalk. Smooth out the edges with your hands as you trace it, so your new cover doesn't end 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, then press down your fabric if it's wrinkled or creased.

Attach the Fabric to the Seat

Turn your new seat cover right side down, then place the seat cushion also right side down on top of it. If you have the pins, mark the corners of patterned fabric and ensure they're aligned with the corners of the seat cushion. Start with the top edge, staple once in the center.

Attach the Fabric to the Seat
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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, a staple from the center outward until the side is completely stapled. Keep pulling the fabric tight and smooth the fabric underneath from the center. Leave the corners unstapled and repeat all sides until everything is stapled but not the corners.

Complete the Corners

The corners are the most difficult to reupholster.  Grasp one corner of the cover and pull the point toward the center of the seat cushion, then staple it. Arrange the remaining unstapled corner fabric into small even pleats, pull tightly, then staple. Ensure you don't staple over the screw holes. Repeat for the three remaining corners.

Attach Welting

Attach welting to the edges of the chair seat with a staple gun. Cut a piece of 4-inch long welting twice as wide as you want your finished cushion size to be, then fold it into fourths over the end of the fabric strip and staple it. Pull the loose end of the fabric around under itself and staple it in place.

Sew Welting

You can sew furniture upholstery just like how to sew curtains. Pin the side panel to the seat fabric, making any necessary adjustments to the fit or pattern placement. Mark the position for the bottom welting. Remove the side fabric from the chair and sew the welting to the right side of the panel, at the top and where marked near the bottom, starting and ending at the back. For a finished edge, fold the end of the piping under before attaching.

Attach Sides

Put a thin bead of hot glue down the side edge of one side panel and push the exposed staple on the bottom rung of the chair frame into it. Fold the side panel down over the tack strip, pull tight and staple in place to the underside of the chair with the bottom welting fitting snugly along the edge. Snip snotches in the fabric underneath the seat as you smooth around corners. Use a flathead to tuck any excess fabric underneath.

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. Flip the staple fabric to the underside to conceal any springs or webbing and act as a dust cover. Make sure the fabric is tight against the welting and that it covers up all raw edges of the upholstery fabric. Attach underside to finish chair upholstery.

Reattach the Seat
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FAQs on How to Reupholster a Chair Seat

Do you have to remove old fabric when reupholstering?

Yes, as long as the old fabric isn't darker than the new fabric, you can upholster a chair right over it.

How long does it take to reupholster a chair?

It could take anywhere from 1 to 6 hours, depending on how many springs are in the seat.

Final Thought on How Reupholster a Chair

There you have it. You don't have to break your bank to buy a new chair, yet you can reupholster a chair and make it look great with a little patience and time.



Heather Hardy

Heather Hardy

Heather is a professional writer with a background in real estate and home renovation. She enjoys research and contributing to DIY publications and loves to review home products and appliances.

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