Reupholster a Chair Seat

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You can use old drapes or even discarded clothes as new seating fabric for chairs with an upholstered seat.
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“If I Had a Hammer” has more than 100 home improvement projects that are friendly on the environment and your wallet. Author Andrea Ridout offers easy-to-follow instructions and illustrations designed to make DIY simpler than ever.

Chairs with an upholstered seat that fits into a frame are easy and inexpensive to re-cover using just a small amount of cloth. You can use old drapes or even discarded clothes as new seating fabric. Try mixing and matching patterns. This is a great job for a beginner or a teenager. Supplies are available at most fabric stores.


Staple remover and pliers
Tape measure
1- to 2-inch thick foam upholstery rubber
Thick cotton upholstery batting
Fabric (usually nonstretchy, closely woven varieties)
Staple gun
Scissors and/or utility knife
Wood screws


1. Cut the materials. First, remove the old seat from the chair frame, watching out for sharp nails or staples. If the old batting or foam is brittle or hardened, it should be replaced with a new piece of foam rubber, cut to the same size as the chair seat. Also, cut a piece of cotton batting approximately 4 inches larger than the chair seat. Finally, cut a piece of fabric approximately 4 inches larger than the chair seat in each direction, making sure the fabric design is straight and centered on the chair seat.

2. Install foam and batting. Center the new foam on top of the piece of batting, then place the top of the chair seat (facedown) on top of the foam. Pull the batting up and over the edge of the side of the chair seat and staple it into place on the underside of the seat. Repeat on the other side, then the back, and finally the front, pulling tightly and stapling all edges into place. Keep the corners as neat and flat as possible. Trim any excess batting with scissors or a utility knife.

3. Install fabric. Lay the fabric facedown and center the newly padded seat on top of it. Look at the design in the fabric and make sure it is straight and centered. Repeat the stapling process with the fabric, starting at the sides first, then the back, and finally the front of the seat. Trim off any excess fabric with a scissors or a utility knife. Drop the seat into place, and secure the wood screws, if necessary. Enjoy!

Reprinted with permission from If I Had a Hammer, published by Harper Collins Publishers, 2008.

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