How to Upholster Dining Room Chairs

dining room with exposed brick, woodstove, and upholstered chairs at a long table
  • 5-15 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 100-1,000
What You'll Need
Upholstery staples and stapler
Flat surface

If your dining room set is beginning to look faded, it may be time to upholster your dining room chairs. Reupholstering allows DIY-ers to change the look of their favorite furniture completely or to restore it to its original flair. Anyone can complete this moderate difficulty project with the tools and time required.

Step 1 - Prepare the Chair

To reupholster, you must first remove the seat from the chair's frame. Unscrew the seat from the chair's bottom by flipping the seat over. Look for connecting bolts, and use a wrench to remove them. If the existing fabric has an odor, or if padding is leaking from the cushion, remove the original upholstery. This is a painstaking process that requires a screwdriver and a pair of pliers to pull up all of the staples. Leave the original upholstery if at all possible.

Step 2 - Measure and Purchase Fabric

Take measurements of the chair's seat. If the seat has curved edges, always take the longest measurement. Add three times the measured depth of your seat to both the length and the width. Thus if you have an eight-inch by eight-inch cushion that's two inches deep, you will need a 14x14 inch cut of fabric. Bring these measurements to the fabric store or even a thrift store if a retro or eco-friendly design is desired. Purchase durable fabric that will not easily show stains and that will stand up to heavy use. If the chair is to be decorative, a less durable fabric may be purchased.

Step 3 - Cut the Fabric

Place the fabric face down on a table or other flat surface. Place the seat face-down on top of it. If you are using a patterned fabric, line up the seat with the pattern to sit nicely. If you do multiple chairs in a pattern such as stripes, you may want to mark each fabric piece a matching section of the design so that each chair is consistent with the others. Pull the fabric around the seat and trim the excess, leaving only enough so that the fabric can be folded over the edge and 1 inch around the bottom on all sides.

person upholstering a chair with fabric and a mallet

Step 4 - Staple Fabric to the Chair

Staple the fabric along the underside where the one-inch remainder was kept. Make sure to keep the fabric taut and smooth while doing this. Otherwise, it may have wrinkles and bunches when finished. Continue until the fabric is smoothly in place. Any bunching should be on the underside of the seat and not the top cushion. If the top is not smooth, remove the offending staples and re-staple.

Step 5 - Reassemble the Chair

Place the newly upholstered cushion on the chair, and tighten the bolts underneath the seat. Repeat with any other chairs in the set.