How To Reupholster A Chair Seat

Have you been wondering how to reupholster a chair seat? It seems every time I go to the Restore or Goodwill, I see dining style chairs that just need updated upholstery and a little love. And, of course a little chalk paint for color never hurts! Once upon a time, I passed by these chairs, too afraid to tackle the reupholstering job they called for.

But, things changed one day when browsing my local Restore. I came across a beautiful Duncan Phyfe Rose Back Chair. The chair’s seat was in awful condition with old fabric and a flat worn out seat cushion. But the chair was otherwise beautiful with such pretty detail on the chair back. I had a vision of a beautifully painted chair with a newly upholstered seat. I paid for the chair and loaded it in the car. My next mission was to learn how to reupholster a chair seat!

How To Reupholster a Chair Seat
This is the Duncan Phyfe chair that caught my eye at the Restore.

Resources Used To Learn How To Reupholster A Chair Seat Cushion

When I got home I hopped on Google, Youtube and Pinterest to find tutorials on how to reupholster a chair seat. Honestly, what I learned from my search, and from my experience now with reupholstering four different chair seats, is that you don’t need fancy expensive tools to do this simple job. There are tools that get the reupholstering job done more quickly and efficiently, but they are not mandatory for most jobs. However, that may be different f you have a set of 6 or 8 chairs you need to re-cover. In that case, you would benefit from professional equipment!

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Project Supplies Needed

Needle Nose Pliers – to remove staples or tacks

Upholstery Tool – to remove stubborn tacks and nails

Screwdriver Set – to include a Phillips Head and a Flat Head Screwdriver

Staple Gun – I now use a Ryobi AirStrike 18V One + Cordless Crown Staple Gun and I love it!

Pictured below Arrow T50 Staple Gun – non-electric – my first staple gun

New Chair Upholstery Cushion to cut to size

Upholstery Batting to wrap around the cushion.

Simple But Effective Tools

How To Reupholster A Chair Seat: Step by Step

REUPHOLSTER STEP 1: Remove the old chair seat

Flip the chair over and look for the screws holding in the seat. This could require either a Phillips head or a flat head screwdriver. Remove the seat and set the chair aside.

How To Reupholster a Chair Seat - Chair underneath

REUPHOLSTER STEP 2: Re-paint the old chair or leave the original color

If you are going to paint or re-stain the chair do this now before you replace the seat cushion. I just love a pretty painted chair! My favorite paints to use are Dixie Belle brand chalk mineral paints! So many colors to choose from, even metallic colors, and they provide great coverage! If you use regular chalk mineral paints you’ll need to topcoat. However, more recently I have discovered Dixie Belle Silk Paints. Silk is an all-in-one paint that includes primer, color, and topcoat all in one product. Two coats and you are done! If you’d like to know more about Silk paint you can read my most up to date post all about Dixie Belle Silk!

How To Reupholster a Chair Seat
Chair prior to painting and new upholstery

REUPHOLSTER STEP 3: Remove the old upholstery

Typically the upholstery is stapled to the bottom side of the seat, which is most often a flat wooden base. It may also be held down by upholstery tacks or brads. The best way I have found to remove the staples or brads is with a combination of a upholstery tack lifter tool, a flat head screwdriver and pliers. They can be stubborn to pull out so just use caution.

How To Reupholster a Chair Seat

REUPHOLSTER STEP 4: Pull off the old upholstery and decide if you need to replace the cushion and the batting also

Once you have the staples out, pull off the old upholstery. Its always interesting to see the condition of the foam and batting underneath. If it is in good condition you can certainly reuse it. If it is in bad condition just toss it. I have learned to check the floor and area for stray staples that got away. I’d hate for anyone to step on those!

REUPHOLSTERY STEP 5: Cut the new seat cushion out

Using the chair seat as a guide cut the new foam cushion to the size needed. I use scissors or box cutter to do this. I find that most foam chair cushions are bigger than most dining chairs. When buying the foam cushions consider desired thickness too. They come in different thicknesses as well.

How To Reupholster a Chair Seat
Lay the wooden seat base on top of the new foam cushion. I use a pen to outline the base on the foam then cut following that outline with scissors or a box cutter. Just use caution. If the foam is thick it’s hard to cut.

REUPHOLSTERY STEP 6: Also cut out the new upholstery and batting to size needed

Cut out the new upholstery using the old upholstery as a size guide. Think about the direction of the pattern and how you want the pattern to face. If you have a big design you will likely want that centered in the middle of the seat. Cut a little larger than the old upholstery to give room to staple it down especially you are using more padding for the new seat cover.

Sizing the new upholstery material

When using new batting, go ahead and cut that batting to the right size at this point. Use the old chair material or the foam cushion as a guide. I find it helpful to layer the foam cushion, then the batting and then the upholstery when doing your cutting to make sure and account for the thickness needed. See Step 7 for more details.

REUPHOLSTERY STEP 7: Layer the batting, upholstery, and the foam around the seat base

Layer the upholstery, batting and foam and lastly the chair seat base. Lay the new upholstery (already cut) on a flat surface or table top, pattern side down, again considering which direction the pattern will need to face in relation to the the front of the chair seat. Then top that with batting and then next the foam cushion and lastly the chair seat base.

REUPHOLSTERY STEP 8: Staple the new upholstery around the seat base

Pull the upholstery material taut but not too tight and keep the tension even as you pull the it around and staple it to the wooden seat base. The corners are the trickiest. I tend to fold the corners like pleats, accordion style, gathering the material and then stapling. I’ll admit I still haven’t mastered corners but just play around with it until you get the look you want! Like I said earlier I have used both a non-electric staple gun and an electric one. I much prefer the electric one! So much easier to use. I now love my Ryobi 18V One Plus Cordless Crown Staple Gun.

How To Reupholster a Chair Seat

REPHOLSTERY STEP 9: Screw The Newly Re-Upholstered Seat Into Place

Replace the reupholstered chair seat and screw the seat in place! When you are stapling down your material in Step 8 you have to make sure not to staple the material over the screw holes! I’m speaking from experience here! I’ve done this more than once! If you painted the chair this step would be done after the chair is fully dry and top coated or waxed. The newly upholstered seat is like the finishing touch on your masterpiece!

It’s So Simple To Update Old Dining Style Chairs!

Now that you see how simply you can update old dining style chairs, I encourage you to give it a try! It really is super simple and easy! Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can!

Next time you see those old used chairs that have those great bones, but need some love, don’t be afraid to take the leap and buy them! Especially now that you know how easy it is to reupholster a chair seat cushion! It’s so fun to see the transformation with new upholstery! And, if you just so happen to add a little chalk paint for some color then that’s even more fun!

So, are you ready to tackle a simple chair seat reupholstering job? I’d love to see your pictures in the comments!

SUMMARY: A Few Other Blog Posts To Check Out

For tips on prepping furniture for a smoother finish with chalk paint, check out this blog post

For chair makeovers I want to share two posts that can be helpful:

Chalk Paint Makeovers: Furniture Makeovers Made Simple and

How To Paint Upholstery With Chalk Paint and Apply Prima Transfers to the Painted Upholstery

Let me know if I can answer any questions you have about your projects!

Vintage Gossip Bench

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    1. Thank you so much Sherri! That sounds like a fantastic idea! I’ll have to give it a try! I always love to learn new helpful tips!
      Thanks again! Take Care!

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