No matter how much you loved your original dining room set when you first bought it, chances are you’ll eventually want to update and recover the upholstery on the chairs at some point during its lifetime in your home. Fortunately reupolstering dining room chairs is a relatively quick and easy process, even for people who don’t attempt a lot of home improvements. By re-covering the fabric on your dining room chairs on your own you could potentially save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars that would normally be paid to a furniture expert.
Choosing An Upholstery Fabric
Before you begin your project you’ll want to find a new fabric to cover your dining room chairs with. There is an almost infinite variety of fabrics and patterns to choose from, and some fabrics can get quite expensive, but there are some clever tricks you can use to save money.
First, you’ll want to figure out approximately how much fabric you’ll need for each chair. To do this measure a chair cushion’s width and depth and add about another 12 to 14 inches to each measurement. If you have chair cushions that are 24″ by 24″ then you’ll probably want to figure on using a piece of fabric that’s about 36″ x 36″ inches to re-cover a single chair cushion. Another quick and easy way to measure how much fabric you need: Slice up a large garbage bag or use a roll of paper and wrap it around your chair cushion, from the bottom of one side to the bottom of the opposite side. Measure how much garbage bag is needed and plan on buying that much fabric for each chair.
You’ll want a durable fabric that isn’t too thin and relatively smooth so that it doesn’t catch or pull on clothing or jewelry. It’s even better if the fabric you choose has any sort of stain resistant covering or chemical additives. Fabric with busy patters can hide stains easily and solid or simple patterns can often add a bit of elegance to a dining room set.
Don’t limit yourself the fabric store with bolts over high-priced fabric. Look online for deals (most stores allow you to request samples) or look at discount stores and clearance racks for fabrics you wouldn’t normally think of using. Table clothes, window coverings and even cloth shower curtains can all be used to make excellent chair coverings, especially if they are durable and priced well. We spent less than $100 for 8 sets of curtain panels which we then used to cover our dining room chairs. We had several panels left over so we hung them in our dining room so that our chairs now match our window coverings. It’s a subtle but distinctive touch.
Removing the Chair Cushion
Most dining room chairs have a simple construction which makes it pretty easy to remove the cushion portion of the chair. Most chair seats can be removed by unscrewing the four to six screws underneath the chair. Almost all wood chairs use this same method.
Once the chair cushion is removed you’ll want to save the screws and clean off any extraneous or damaged material on the underside of the cushion. Generally, you’re better off leaving the original fabric on the cushion and just re-upholster over that. The original material adds another layer of protection to your seat foam and it helps keep your cushion shape consistent.
Measuring and Cutting the Fabric
Now that you have a chair cushion off and ready to be covered you’ll want to make sure you have the right amount of fabric. You can do this by laying out the fabric on the floor or large table, placing your cushion down (seat side against fabric) and then folding the edges of the fabric up and over the cushion. You’ll want your fabric to wrap around your cushion and cover a good four or five inches over the edge of the seat cushion bottom.
Once you’ve got your measurements (measure twice if needed!) you can now cut our your fabric. Remember that it’s always better to have a little extra fabric available than not have enough fabric, so be generous with your figures.
Attaching the Upholstery to your Chair Cushion
Now it’s time to finally reupholster your cushions. Lay your fabric square out face down and place your cushion (seat down) into the center of the fabric. Now folder one edge around the cushion and using a staple gun, attach two to three staples to keep it in place. Pull the fabric tight on the other side of the cushion and pop in a few more staples. Repeat on the two remaining sides.
Your staples should be long enough to drive through the fabric and the wood at the bottom of the cushion without sticking out. We used 3/4″ staples and they worked pretty well. You can use a manual staple gun, but the job will be much easier and move along much more quickly with an electric or pneumatic staple gun.
Once your sides are in place you can pull the fabric tight around the corners and again, pop in a few staples. Unless you fabric is really thick you probably won’t have a difficult time pulling your fabric tight and avoiding any overlaps on the corner. You may need to fold the corner fabric underneath the chair, but a staple or two will keep everything in place.
If you have excessive fabric on the back of your chairs you may want to go around and trim off some of the extra fabric. That fabric can droop over time and even be visible under your chairs over time.
Reattach the Chair Cushion
Now that you’ve put new upholstery on your chair cushion it’s fairly easy to attach it back on your chair frame. You’ll need to place it back on the chair and then drive those screws back the same way they came out. Ideally you’ll want to get as close as possible to using the same holes. If you recover your chairs often enough you may eventually need to replace the board beneath the cushion, but that’s a slightly more involved (and rarely needed) project.
Dining Room Chair Re-Upholstery Video
It seems like a lot of work, but once you get going you’ll be reupholstering each chair in no time. Our first chair took about an hour for us to work through all the steps, but by the end we were finishing up the chairs in less than 15 minutes a piece.
Now sit back and enjoy your new dining room chairs!