Your Step-by-Step Guide to Reupholstering a Chair

Learn how to reupholster a chair with these basic techniques that give your furniture a fresh look.

Project Overview
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $50 to $200
  • Yield: One reupholstered chair

Ripped, stained, or dated fabric can turn a favorite chair into an eyesore. Luckily, as long as the bones of the furniture are in good shape, a bit of fabric and some staples can give an outdated chair an entirely new look. Whether you're updating an old favorite or refreshing a flea market find, reupholstering a chair is a DIY project that can make a big impact. Follow our step-by-step guide on how to reupholster a chair to give your furniture a fresh look.

Before you begin chair reupholstery, there's one important thing to note: Because you are using the old upholstery as a guide for the new pattern pieces, you might want to complete the first step, which involves removing all the old fabric, before you shop for supplies. Measuring all the pieces and cord lengths will help you determine how much fabric you need to reupholster a chair. When in doubt, err on the side of too much fabric so you don't come up short.

Attaching side fabric to chair
Jay Wilde

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Camera or notepaper and pencil
  • Marking pen
  • Scissors
  • Staple gun
  • Straight pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Flathead screwdriver


  • Staples, 3/8- or 5/16-inch
  • Batting, 1/2 inch
  • Upholstery fabric
  • Chalk
  • Polyester Welt Cord Cellulose Piping
  • Upholstery-weight thread
  • Tack strips
  • Fabric glue, optional
  • Upholstery tacks or nailhead trim, optional
  • Black breathable fabric for underside of chair


  1. Remove Old Fabric

    Removing old fabric from chair
    Marty Baldwin

    Photograph the chair before you strip the original covering. Take overall and detail photos for reference when reupholstering the chair.

    Disassemble the chair as needed and remove the upholstery pieces, taking care not to tear any of the old pieces of fabric—you will need them as patterns. Begin by removing the black cloth from the underside of the chair, then loosen the pieces attached to the frame. Remove the pieces and mark each with its location on the chair with a marking pen. For example, label the pieces as outside back, right side back, left side back, inside back, seat, and seat sides. Mark "T" for top or "F" for front to indicate the direction of the piece on the chair. Note on each piece the location of welting and where pieces are sewn together. Save pieces of welting and tack strips to use as a measure for new pieces.

    Related: Crucial Tips You Need to Know Before You Reupholster Furniture

  2. Replace Batting

    Replacing batting on chair
    Jay Wilde

    If worn or stained, remove old batting from chair back and seat. Check springs and webbing for damage and repair if necessary. Sand, prime, and paint the frame or legs if desired; let dry.

    Cut a piece of 1/2-inch-thick batting to cover the chair back and seat, if needed. Cover the chair back first, stapling it down. To prevent visible indents from the staples, pull gently on the batting around each staple so the staple is inside the batting. Next, cover the seat with batting in the same way, folding neatly around the corners.

  3. Make New Pattern

    Cutting new pattern for chair
    Jay Wilde

    Lay the original upholstery pieces wrong-side up on the wrong side of the new fabric, watching for the grain, placement of the pattern or motifs, and direction of the pattern. Pin in place and cut around the pattern, leaving 2 to 3 inches of fabric beyond the stapled edges of the original pieces. This will give you fabric to grasp when stapling; the original pieces were trimmed after they were stapled. Repeat this process to cut out each fabric section. Transfer the markings for direction, welting, and seams onto the new pieces with chalk.

    If preferred, combine the chair reupholstery pieces into covers for the seat and back that can be applied all at once. Place the fabric sections together inside out and sew together, adjusting for curves as needed.

    Related: The Ultimate Sewing Guide for Beginners

  4. Attach Base Fabric

    Attaching base fabric
    Jay Wilde

    Place the new inside back, right-side back, and left-side back pieces on the chair in the appropriate locations, using the "T" markings and your photos as guides. Pin the pieces together, making any necessary adjustments to the fit; you may need to trim excess fabric to make it fit snugly. When you're pleased with the fit, pull fabric taut and staple in place on the apron of the chair seat. Use as many staples as necessary to secure the fabric and keep it smooth. Be sure you place staples on the chair back where they will be covered by the back panel. Trim excess fabric.

    If using a cover, apply the new cover to the seat base and adjust as needed. Pull the fabric taut and staple to the frame where the old cover was previously attached, starting at the front edge and working toward the back. Tuck excess fabric under at the corners.

  5. Make Welting

    Making welting for chair
    Jay Wilde

    Using the old pieces as your guide, determine the length of the welting needed to go around the seat apron at the top and bottom. Cut enough 2-inch-wide bias strips to equal that length, allowing a few extra inches. Join the strips with diagonal seams and trim the seam allowance to 1/2 inch. Fold the bias strip around the cord and use a zipper foot to sew in place. The welting will go around the bottom of the seat apron.

    Related: How to Make Welting for Your DIY Chair Upholstery Project

  6. Sew Welting

    Sewing welting for chair
    Jay Wilde

    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.

  7. Attach Sides

    Cutting excess fabric off of chair
    Jay Wilde

    Holding the right side of the panel up against the seat, staple the top welting in place around the seat. Add a tack strip around the panel top against the welting and staple in place. 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 notches in the fabric underneath the seat as you smooth around corners. Tuck any excess fabric underneath using a flathead screwdriver.

  8. Attach Back

    Attaching back fabric to chair
    Jay Wilde

    Place back panel in position and fold the right side over the top of the chair back. Apply a tack strip to the top of the back rear and staple in place. Fold the panel back over the strip and pull tight toward the bottom of the chair back. Fold bottom edge under and staple to the underside of the chair back.

    If using a cover for the back, slip it over the chair back. Pull the fabric tight and staple to the frame where previously attached. Tuck under raw edges where visible.

    Reassemble the chair if needed. Trim any excess string or fabric.

    Editor's Tip: Use fabric glue or decorative upholstery tacks to secure excess fabric to the back of the reupholstered chair.

  9. Attach Underside to Finish Chair Reupholstery

    Stapling fabric to underside of chair
    Cameron Sadeghpour

    Cut a piece of black breathable fabric for the underside of the chair using the old piece as your guide. Flip the chair upside down, and 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. Turn right-side up, and enjoy your newly-reupholstered chair.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does it cost to reupholster a chair?

    The cost of having a chair professionally reupholstered varies but you can expect to pay approximately $150-$600 to reupholster a dining room chair and $300-$1,200 to reupholster an armchair or wingback chair. Conversely, a DIY reupholstery project will only cost you fabric (two to eight yards at approximately $20-$70 per yard) and other materials. 

  • When should you skip reupholstering?

    You can save lots of money by reupholstering yourself, but if the structure of the chair needs repair (or it needs new springs or webbing) it may be more costly than it’s worth to embark on a chair makeover. 

  • Which types of fabric work best for reupholstering a chair?

    Stick with fabrics that are resistant to mildew and fading (like wool, poly blends, and leather), and avoid delicate fabrics (like silk) if you have pets or children. Check the fabric details for the Wyzenbeek rating (a manufacturer-administered rub count, which tracks the fabric’s resistance to abrasion). For living room chairs, look for medium to heavy-duty fabric (10,000-30,000+ rubs). 

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