How to Reupholster a Chair {Step-by-Step Photo Tutorial}

I’ve been having room envy after seeing so many beautiful home remodels and makeovers lately!

I don’t have time for a big room makeover right now, but I’m pretty sure I can take on a chair make-over. I love this guest post by Allie from Screwed Up Texan. She’s inspired me! Maybe her project will inspire you to do a mini makeover on something in your home as well. -Amy

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How to Reupholster a Chair – A Step-by-Step Tutorial

By Allie
My husband and I are real penny pinchers. My case in point is it took us four years to find dining room chairs that were at the right price for us and our three small children, seeing as our three boys tend to destroy everything we bring into our home.

After four years of checking out thrift shops and Craigslist (both were too expensive for us) I happened upon four very outdated chairs at a garage sale. The price? $5 for all four chairs (that’s less than $1 a chair folks). The only reason I can guess to as why the chairs were at such a rock bottom price is well, they were quite frankly ugly.

I knew I had to update their look if I was ever going to really enjoy them.

But wait! I have never reupholstered anything in my life before and I stink at using sewing machines, so how was I going to change the fabric on my otherwise great and sturdy chairs? Easy friends, easy peasy. The whole process took me and my husband about an hour and if we can do this, y’all can too.

Here’s what you’re going to need:

  • Enough fabric to recover chairs (take measurements and then ask fabric store salesperson how much material you need. I paid $5 a yard for upholstery material at Hancock Fabrics, and needed 2 1/2 yards).
  • Heavy duty staple gun with lots of staples.
  • Hammer or rubber mallet
  • Sharp scissors
  • Screwdriver or drill
  • Wood plugs if chair has them (see steps 12-15)
  • You may need foam batting if your chair’s foam is ripped (ours was not)

Here’s our chair before, with really ugly material that reminds me of my grandma’s couch:

How to Reupholster a Chair {Step-by-Step Tutorial}

The first step you need to do is remove your seats with a screwdriver or drill, and then lay them on your new fabric (step 1).

Then cut around each seat using sharp scissors and leaving plenty of fabric around the edges to cover foam and secure to back of seat which is around four inches on each side (step 2).

Now lay your seat and a fabric square you just cut on a working surface, making sure the correct side of the fabric is facing down so it shows properly in the end. Pull on edge over to the bottom of the seat and fold the edge under so no unfinished edge is showing (step 3).

Staple in center (step 4).

How to Reupholster a Chair {Step-by-Step Tutorial}

Continue stapling, making sure to keep fabric taught, but not too tight almost all the way to the edges. You want to stay about 1 1/2 to 2 inches from the edge of the bottom of the seat (step 5).

Repeat step 5 on all four sides (step 6). Pull corner material up like so and then cut off most of excess, leaving two to three inches of material (steps 7 and 7a)–do not cut off too much material!

How to Reupholster a Chair {Step-by-Step Tutorial}

There is no real science to the next step, which is tucking the corners and stapling them so they lay flat with no wrinkles or folds showing from the side you’ll be sitting on.

We tried three different ways and I think the best way was simply tucking the corners in on themselves and stapling the material so it didn’t move (step 8). Steps 9 and 10 show the finished reupholstered seat.

How to Reupholster a Chair {Step-by-Step Tutorial}

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Attach the seat and you’re finished! Well, unless you also have a back rest to do…

How to Reupholster a Chair {Step-by-Step Tutorial}

In which case you’re going to need to remove the back rest by removing the screws that hold it in place. Some chairs, like ours, have little wooden plugs that will need to be removed before removing the screws.

The wooden plugs are there to hide the unfinished screw ends. You’re going to break the wooden plugs when you remove them, so be prepared to purchase more at a home improvement store (we paid around $2 for 45 wooden plugs, way more than we needed).

My husband devised a great way for removing the old wooden plugs as shown in steps 12-15.

How to Reupholster a Chair {Step-by-Step Tutorial}

Step 16 shows the removed back rest which is now ready to be reupholstered.

Cut your material as in steps 1 and 2. The next step is very important–study the back rest and see how it is currently upholstered. Where are the staples or finished edge and how were the sides tucked in? Is there a top and bottom? Which side does the human back rest on? Once you have the answers to these questions you are ready to move on.

On ours, the bottom of the back rest is the side that is stapled. Start here and begin stapling, again holding the material taught, but not too tight (steps 17 and 18). Cut the excess material off the edges and wrap and secure–with the staples–like a present (step 19).

How to Reupholster a Chair {Step-by-Step Tutorial}

Step 20 shows you how neatly stapled your back rest should be. Notice no wrinkles or folds.

How to Reupholster a Chair {Step-by-Step Tutorial}

Now attach the back rest to the chair with screws and then replace with new wooden plugs if necessary (steps 21-22), and stain if desired.

How to Reupholster a Chair {Step-by-Step Tutorial}

That’s it! You are finished!

How to Reupholster a Chair {Step-by-Step Photo Tutorial}

If you want to go an extra step or two, you can stain or repaint the frame of your chair, add decorative finishing nails, or even take off the old fabric before you start this project if you’re not half-way lazy like me.

I love my “new” chairs!

How to Reupholster a Chair {Step-by-Step Photo Tutorial}


Allie blogs at Screwed Up Texan, where you’ll find lots to keep your curiosity peaked. From easy, down-home, and frugal recipes to humorous real life stories on parenting, trips to the Walmart, and her husband’s Mother Trucker (yes, she is a trucker) there’s plenty to keep you entertained! Visit Allie on Facebook and Twitter.


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  1. I LOVE the results and agree that you got a fabulous deal but wondered about your comment “The price? $5 for all four chairs (that’s less than $1 a chair folks). ” Must be Texas math ?!? :o)

  2. Great job..I have been doing this for years..also love totally redoing the chairs and tables…

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