You brought home Grandma’s dining chairs, along with memories of many a wonderful family feast. The frames are sturdy, classic and elegant, but ew, those cushions! Perhaps the seats are threadbare from use, or the fabric reflects Grandma’s flirtation with pop art in the 60s. Those chairs need a fresh look. Reupholstering dining chairs is an easy DIY project if you have the right tools. The most important being a good upholstery nail gun (or staple gun) made especially for the job.
Recovering the Chair Seat
Gather your staple gun, a screwdriver, a tool to remove old staples or tacks, and your new fabric. You’ll probably want to have some new foam padding and cotton batting as well. It’s a good idea to take pictures every step of the way, to remind yourself of what goes where. Additionally, if you’re doing multiple chairs, mark which seat goes with what frame – they may not match exactly.
Unscrew the seat from the chair frame. Next, decide if you can simply cover over the existing fabric, or if another layer will make the sides of the seat too thick to fit back in the frame. Odds are, you’ll want to take the old fabric off and start fresh.
Turn the seat over and carefully remove old staples or tacks that secure the fabric to the seat cushion frame. If you find straw, horsehair or a crumbling, yellowed piece of old foam under there, you’ll want to replace it. Put new foam on a surface that can withstand cuts and scratches. Set the old cushion upside down atop the new foam and use a box cutter or other sharp knife to trim the foam to size.
Pick up the new foam with the seat on top of it, and put the whole thing on top of new cotton batting. Pull the batting tight over the edge of the seat cushion frame and staple it to the frame in the middle of each side to hold it in place. Then work your way around to staple the batting snugly to the frame. Fold at the corners as if you are wrapping a gift and staple them. Once you staple the batting all around, trim the excess.
Lay your new fabric out upside down, and put the cushion frame, with its new padding and batting, on top of it. Hold the fabric to the cushion and lift it to see if you positioned the fabric correctly (if there’s a pattern, make sure to center it). Then, repeat the same steps as the batting. Staple in the middle of each of the four sides, and then work your way around, folding the corners like pleats and stapling them down. Make sure the fabric is taut on the top side of the cushion. If not, you can just remove the staples, pull the fabric tighter and re-staple it. Even though no one is going to see the underside, you can cover it with cambric to keep dust out. When all is snug, trim excess fabric and screw the seat back on to the chair frame.
That’s it! Enjoy your “new” dining chairs!