How To Re-Upholster Your Dining Room Chairs

 Re-Upholstering No-Welt Chair Seats

Are your dining chairs stained, dingy or just plain out of style?  Does your dining room need new inspiration? Re-Upholstering your dining room chair seats is inexpensive, easy to do and can really give the room a lift.

With just a few yards of fabric, a screwdriver and a staple gun you can have Re-Upholstered dining room chairs in no time. Chairs with a simple rectangular design are almost as easy to reupholster as wrapping a package. 

To start Re-Upholstering your dining room chairs. Turn the chair over and unscrew the entire seat.  Inspect the decking on the underside.  If it is in good condition and can be re-used, remove the staples carefully so as to keep the decking intact.  A sturdy flat head screwdriver will usually work best.  If you have trouble prying them out with the screwdriver, be creative…  Look around your tool bench, your kitchen draws, etc and see what might work best.  My friend recently used a cheese knife; the kind with forked tip.  Worked like a charm!

Next, you will have to make some decisions.  Inspect the condition of the current upholstery, including:
The general condition of the fabric.  Look for holes, tears or any other wearing that compromises the integrity of the fabric.  

Inspect the condition and the suitability of the padding.
If the current fabric and padding is in good condition, your project just got even easier!  You will be able to wrap the new fabric right over the existing.  Before you make this decision though, be sure the old fabric won’t show through the new. 

If the existing fabric needs to be removed, pull out the staples and peel the fabric away from the padding.  If your padding also needs replacing, you can just pull it all off as expeditiously as possible.

Replacing the padding can be done in a number of ways.  Cotton or polyester batting work well.  You may also choose foam or a combination of the two.  Experiment a bit to see what materials will give you the look, feel and comfort you wish to achieve.

When I am Re-Upholstering dining room chairs I like to make a paper template from which to cut the fabric.  This does not have to be precise. Fortunately, there is a bit of latitude in determining how much fabric to wrap around.  For the template, you can use newspaper, wrapping paper, tissue paper; any paper that is large enough to make a pattern from will suffice.

If you have removed the existing fabric, you may be able to make the template from this piece.  If not, lay the base on the template and draw a margin wide enough to wrap around and on to the backside. It should be large enough to securely staple it on to the base.  Usually this is about 1 – 1.5”.

Now you are ready to cut the new fabric!  Slow down and pay attention here.  If you are using material with a repeat, plan this part carefully.  You will want the repeat to be uniform for all the chairs.  If it has a central design, take care to position the design in a pleasing manner.

If you are Re-Upholstering several dining room chairs, I recommend completing the first one before cutting the fabric for the rest.  If you have made any errors, you want to figure that out now – not when you have everything cut assembly line style.

Now you are ready for the fun part.  Your project begins to ‘come to life’ as you position the batting and wrap the fabric around the base.  Turn it upside down and begin to staple center back, then center front.  Turn it and check your positioning.  Then gradually work your way toward the corners, stapling about every 1-2”.  Next staple the center left then center right.  Work out toward the corners leaving about 2” either side of every corner. 

Here is where you have to make some judgments and determine how to ease and finesse the corners for the most pleasing outcome. Take your time here and experiment with stretching, folding, easing to see what methods provide the best outcome.  It will vary depending on the shape of the chair seat and the thickness of your fabric.  Once you decide on the best method, just be sure to be consistent with all the corners on all the chairs.  You will probably need to trim some of the excess fabric from the corners.  Just be careful and THINK before you trim.

Now, your fabric is secure, the front looks great, the corners are neat and smooth.  You will finish it off with a decking.  This will give the underside extra stability and most of all a professional, clean, finished look.  If you can reuse the old decking, simply position it and staple it on.  You’re almost finished!

If you need new decking, a dark, lightweight fabric is typical.  You can however, be as creative or as practical as you like.  You could purchase fabric for this purpose at a fabric store, use up fabric you have around or even choose a coordinating fabric. (Although that is not really all that exciting, since it only shows to pets, children and the occasional adult that may crawl under the chairs.)  Just be sure to choose a lightweight fabric that you will be able to turn the raw edges under and staple down for the proper finish.

You will need to cut the decking to match the underside of the base of the chair, allowing a bit of fabric to turn under to give it a finished professional look.  You can work this out with just a little pre-planning and concentration.  Once you have the piece cut, staple it in much the same way you did the top.  Beginning with the back center, then the front center working your way out to the corners.  Then continue in the same manner for the sides.  When your staples are in place, flip it over, place it on the chair, take a moment to admire before you flip the chair over and drive the final screws to put it all back together.

This project is easy!  Along with these guidelines, use your creativity, your intuition and mostly your common sense to achieve a fabulous new look!

Tips and Tricks for Re-Upholstering dining room chairs:
 -If replacing batting or foam, a little spray adhesive on the wood base of the chair will keep the batting from slipping.
 -Pull the decorative material as taut as possible without stretching or disfiguring the fabric.
 -If your fabric has a repeat or a design, using tissue with a bit of transparency for the template will make aligning the design much easier.
 -Keep the bases and the chairs paired correctly.  When you go to screw the base back down, if you’ve mixed up the bases and chairs, the screw holes may not line up consistently.
- Pay attention to the screw holes on the base as you staple the fabric.  Try to keep the fabric from covering the screw hole.  If it MUST be covered, mark it with a pen or chalk mark as you work.  If the fabric covers the hole, you will need to make a small hole to control the fabric so it doesn’t skew with the twists of the screw.