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How To Reupholster a Chair Seat

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

In my last post, I talked about how I fixed up and repainted a set of bamboo dining chairs to bring them back to life. In addition to giving the frames a face lift, I also reupholstered all of the chair seats to give them a more modern look. I had never done this before, so I watched a few YouTube videos, poured a glass of wine, and got to work. If you've got a chair laying around and you want to change out the fabric, I promise you can do it! Here's how.

Tools & Materials You'll Need

- Fabric of your choice (I chose a simple white outdoor fabric from JoAnn Fabrics). If you're not sure how much fabric to buy, measure your seat cushion and then add 20" or so to that (to give you 5 additional inches of overhang to work with on all sides).

- Cushion wrap (I bought this)

- Fabric scissors (I bought these)

- Staple gun (a regular stapler will work, but I found the staple gun to be a lot faster and easier to work with. I bought this one.)

- Extra staples

- Pliers

- Flathead screwdriver

Getting Started

Start by unscrewing your chair seat from the frame of the chair. Be sure to save the screws and stow them somewhere you'll remember.

Next, you'll need to remove the current fabric. Flip the cushion over, and use the flathead screwdriver (or staple remover if you have one) to remove as many staples as you can until you're able to pull or rip the current fabric off the seat.

(Note: this step may take a while depending on how many times your seat has been re-covered and how excited the last person got with their staple gun. I recommend setting up in a comfortable workspace, finding something to binge on Netflix, and planning to spend an hour or so just removing staples.)

If the frame of your cushion is jagged or rough at all, you may want to wear gloves for this step to protect your hands. (Learned this one the hard way!)

Here's what one of my seat cushions looked like before I reupholstered it.
Underside of the cushion, looking a bit rough. See that layer of staples? There were 2 more layers of staples underneath.

Adding Cushion Wrap

If you want your butt to have a nice, soft place to land, then I highly, highly recommend wrapping your seat with cushion wrap before wrapping it with your new fabric. If you don't really care about your chair being soft and comfortable to sit on (I mean, you do you, but...why?), then skip this step.

First, unroll the wrap and lay your cushion top-side down on top of it. Use your fabric scissors to cut the wrap, allowing about 3 inches overhang on all sides of the seat. (If you're not sure how much to cut, simply pull the wrap over the sides of your cushion. You should have about 1-1.5 inches overhang on the underside of your cushion, which will get trimmed off later.)

To attach the cushion wrap to your seat, start by pulling the wrap over the seat on one side and securing with one staple in the middle of that side. Do this on all four sides to hold the wrap in place.

Then, starting on one side, pull the wrap at a 45 degree angle away from your first staple. Secure the wrap with 3 staples about an inch apart, moving towards the corner of the seat. Follow these same steps on all 4 sides. You don't have to pull the wrap super tight here; you're just attaching it to the seat frame.

All cushion wrapped and ready to be trimmed.

Now, you're ready for the corners. Grab a corner on the opposite side of where you're sitting or standing, pulling it towards you. Run your hand along the underside of the cushion to make sure there aren't any pleats, and staple in place. Do this for all 4 corners.

(Note: if your cushion doesn't feel as cushy as you want after adding one layer of wrap, add another layer.)

Trim the excess wrap with your fabric scissors.

Adding Your New Fabric

Finally, you're ready to get your beautiful new fabric on your seat! The process of attaching your fabric will be similar to how you attached the wrap.

Start by laying your cushion top-side down and cutting your fabric to size. If you're working with a patterned fabric, be sure to double check how the fabric is lined up on the cushion and make sure it's perfect before you start stapling.

To begin, start on one side, pull the fabric really tight, pushing down on the cushion as you pull to get it as tight as you can. Place a staple in the middle of that side to hold it in place. Do this on all 4 sides (same as you did the cushion wrap, just much tighter).

Then, as we did with the cushion wrap, tightly pull the fabric at a 45 degree angle away from center staple and secure with three staples. Do this on all sides of the cushion.

When you get to the corners, you will likely have a lot of extra fabric. Cut some of this out to make wrapping the corners easier. See below.

To wrap the corners, pull all of the fabric at the corners as tight as you can towards the center of your seat. Run your other hand along the underside of the cushion to make sure it's smooth. Secure with as many staples as necessary to hold everything in place. Do this on all 4 corners.

Final Steps

Now that you have your new fabric secure to your seat, it's time to check your work. Flip the cushion over and run your hand along all sides, checking for any spots that are too tight. You may need to remove and replace your initial set staples so they aren't pulling tighter than the rest.

When you're happy with your staple job, trim your excess fabric. If you've purchased dust cover or upholstery underlining, cut it to size and staple that to the underside of your chair. This step is optional, and I didn't do it because JoAnn was sold out of it when I was working on this project.

Finally, re-attach the seat to your chair and admire your hard work! I recommend spraying it with a fabric protector before use for extra durability.

And now!

Did you try this? How did it go? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

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