Reupholstering: What to Know Before You Begin

Re-upholstering is a skill that needs plenty of practice to attain good results, but even the novice can expect a fair outcome, if the basic steps are followed. Get all the information you can, of what this work entails, before beginning.

Right Tools

You can get specialized tools, that can be found in upholstery stores, but if you are going to do just one piece of furniture now and again, it is not worth the expense. Some basic tools can be found in your home, like a sewing machine that can stitch medium to heavy material, scissors, measuring stick, a small hammer, wire cutters and pliers, a steam iron, a staple gun and 1/2 inch staplers. You may need some other items like a screwdriver, a few wood clamps and prongs.

Right Procedure

As with any other skill, re-upholstering, has what is popularly know as “the tricks of the trade,” which have to be learned and mastered first, if the job is to be a success. In order of procedure these are: labeling, measuring, getting new material, removing the old fabric, frame repair if needed, cutting and sewing of new material, placing the new material and finishing.


Label all the parts using a black or white marker. Labeling is done so that it is easy to know where each part has to go, when putting on the new material. Each part has a technical name which you need to get acquainted with like, welt, skirt, deck and front deck, to name but a few.

Measuring and Getting New Fabric 

You have to measure correctly, to get the right kind and amount of material. If you are a newbie, go for solid colors. Patterned material will be more difficult to handle, as patterns really have to match if they are to look good. Measure in length, width and height, and add several inches to allow for padding and stapling where needed, like in the inside back or arms. Pay attention to the run of the fabric, whether it is in length or in width, as this will determine the amount of fabric you will need.

Removing the old Fabric 

Turn the piece of furniture upside down, and remove all the old staples from the bottom, using a screwdriver. Turn it right side up and continue in the same manner.

There is an order in which to remove pieces for upholstering, for example inside back comes off before inside arms. Take a note of which pieces come off first and last as you have to do them in reverse order to put them back on.

Frame Repair 

It is always a good idea to check your springs and joints as you go along, to see in what state they are, and repair them if they are not in good shape. Broken springs have to be replaced, as does stuffing that has gone too flat.

Placing of New Fabric and Finishing

Pick up all the bits and pieces of the discarded material, so you will have a template on which to cut the new material and iron them out so they will lie flat. Use the sewing machine to sew pieces together, and then start reattaching to the inside frame first, using prongs. Finish off at the bottom edge using staples.