How to Upholster a Chair Seat

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Economical and environmental are two important words in decorating today and two reasons why you might be interested in learning how to upholster your own chair seats. Whether it's a sturdy but faded garage sale treasure or Grandma's beloved but tattered rocking chair, upholstering a chair seat is a quick and fun way to keep money in your pocket and usable furniture out of the landfill while still getting the up-to-date designer looks you want in your home.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Pencil
  • Plywood
  • Power saw
  • Clamps
  • Sandpaper
  • Measuring tape
  • Foam
  • Power drill
  • Wood screws
  • Batting
  • Scissors
  • Upholstery fabric
  • Staple gun
  • Staples

How to Upholster a Chair Seat

  • Determine if the existing foundation of your seat can be reused by turning the seat over and unscrewing the seat from the chair. Remove the current fabric, batting and foam, if any, and assess the plywood. If it is sturdy, proceed to Step 2. If the plywood must be replaced use the old one as a template to cut new seats. Place the old wood on top of your new plywood and draw around it with a pencil. Using clamps, secure the plywood between two sawhorses or another appropriate cutting surface.

  • Use the power saw to cut the plywood shape by following the pencil line. A circular saw is the best tool for this job. Be sure to read the operating instructions and use appropriate safety equipment such as protective glasses. Lightly sand the edges of your new seat with a medium grit sandpaper to smooth any rough edges. Fit your power drill with a bit that is slightly smaller than your screws and pre-drill a starter hole in each of the four corners of the plywood.

  • Measure your plywood seat, and cut a piece of one- or two-inch-deep upholstery foam to fit. Cut the fabric and the batting, leaving approximately 6 inches overhang on each of the four sides.The extra fabric will be pulled up and around the foam then stapled into the plywood seat.

  • Iron your upholstery fabric and place it right-side down on a sturdy work surface. Place the batting on top of the fabric.Center the foam on top of the batting and place the plywood seat on top of the foam with the pre-drilled holes visible.

  • Start with the side farthest from you, the "north" side. Pull the fabric and batting up and around while keeping everything taut but not overly tight. Place a staple through fabric, batting and wood in the approximate center of the fabric. Repeat on the south side, then east and west. Continue stapling the fabric and batting to the plywood in this fashion, working from the center to the outer edges. This method will help decrease wrinkles and irregularities in your upholstery fabric.

  • When all the stapling is completed, trim away any excess material and batting. Turn the chair upside down and screw the newly upholstered seat back into place.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have one, use an electric kitchen knife to cut the upholstery foam. It will slide through the foam like butter. If you are using thicker foam than what has been recommended you may need more than a 6-inch overhang of fabric, so be sure to double check your measurements. If you don't have a power saw and don't wish to purchase one, many lumber stores will cut wood to your specifications when you purchase supplies from them. An electric staple gun may be slightly more convenient, but a hand held stapler and a little bit of elbow grease supply all the power you'll really need.
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