Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Recovered Dining Chair Tutorial

Ready for another tutorial? I've finished up a custom job recovering some breakfast chairs and decided I'd do my post on that. It's such a simple update that can make a world of difference in a room. If you have kids, you know what I mean (why is it so hard for food to stay on a plate or in the mouth?!). Here's a few tips before we start:

  • If you have kids, pets or tend to be messy, use either an outdoor fabric, one that's wipeable (like microsuede, leather or vinyl) or laminate a piece of whatever fabric you like. You can by the small laminating rolls for around $5-10. I buy mine at a discount warehouse so I don't know what they typically retail for.
  • Give yourself plenty of fabric! I've cut it close more times than I'd like to admit and it's stressful! Not to mention there's no guarantee you'll always be able to get more (depending on where you got it).
  • Check the integrity of the seat bottom. I had to re-cut seat bottoms for my example because the originals were made from mdf and finally gave out after 20 years!
  • Be careful not to strip the screws out. Slow and easy does it. Not too much torque on the drill!
Alright.  Here's the finished reupholstering job:

Amazing what fabric (and new seat bottoms) can do!

And here's the original:

(Would you believe I forgot to take the before picture?!?!?!? I just realized that as I was hunting for it. Sorry! You can see the original cream fabric in the pics. You're not missing anything!) Here's a snapshot  of what the bottoms were looking like. At least I remembered to take a picture of that!

The owners didn't realize they were broken. I was afraid they might not like how the new chairs were no longer "contoured" to fit the backside so well!

Step one:
Gather your supplies.

1. chair/chairs to recover
2. fabric - measure each direction of the chair and add about 3" each way. If you are using a repeat, be careful to allow for waste. The bird fabric I used on my French Table Redo had a ton of waste!
3. a pneumatic staple gun is preferable, but an electric or manual will work
4. staples for your gun - I use 5/16" (not wire). LOTS of them.
5. scissors
6. needle nose/wire cutting pliers
7. drill (and bit equal in size or slightly smaller than screws holding seat in if replacing seat bottoms)
8. a "claw" tool 
9. replacement padding if needed (look at what you're removing and use the same if possible, unless it needs "beefing up". I like to use an egg crate mattress topper!
10. plywood (basic 3 ply will work) if redoing bottoms. Get a big sheet and have Lowe's/Home Depot cut it down for you. Cut pieces larger than seat measurements by about 1" each direction (they don't measure well sometimes, so you might want to even add another inch each way!)
11. jigsaw if making new bottoms and safety equipment (goggles/gloves/close-toe shoes/dust mask)

Step 2:
Remove seat bottoms with drill or screw driver. Careful not to strip the screws out!

Step 3: 
Remove all the old staples and fabric if reusing bottoms (this is the tedious part!).
If not, see if pad is salvageable by cutting off fabric carefully.

This is where you'll use that claw tool and the needle nose pliers. I tried using a staple remover. Don't bother. It's faster with the pliers.

"The Claw"
I have no idea what this is really called:)

Grab and roll instead of trying to pull straight out.

 Step 4:
If replacing seat bottoms, use old bottom still in tack as a pattern and trace it onto your pre-cut plywood.
Old seat bottom on top of new board to cut.

Trace pattern on new board.

Step 5:
Clamp pre-cut plywood piece to a cutting table or something sturdy and cut with jigsaw along traced line.
LOOK OUT for pieces falling on toes (ask me why:)!

Cutting out new seats.
New bottom and old pad.

Make sure padding overlaps slightly as shown here. This protects users from hard edges.

 Step 6:
Lay seat bottoms with padding on fabric and position ALL cutouts on fabric BEFORE cutting.
Make sure you can get all them out of the fabric you have. Be very careful of how stripes, patterns or repeats fall on the seat bottom. Give plenty of extra on all sides and allow for padding thickness.
CENTER! Attention to detail is critical here. 

Carefully align pattern if there is one.
Step 7:
If laminating fabric, do so after cutting out pieces. 
Cutting will cause the laminate to come loose along the edges so it's better to cut first.
In addition, the laminate I buy is only wide enough for one seat bottom at a time, anyway. 

Step 8:
Center padding on bottoms and attach with a spray adhesive if possible.
(not mandatory)

Make sure it fits!

Step 9:
I like to wrap the chairs with a thin layer of batting first (stapled just like the fabric)
to get the foam shaped right before putting the fabric on.
Keeps it smooth.
Don't overlap corners of batting. Just pull together and clip corners off with scissors, otherwise it gets to thick and bulky in this area. They make a spray foam adhesive to seal the corners together or you can just stitch them together with a needle and thread. This step is not mandatory. Look at what your replacing and just go with what they did if not sure.

Step 10:
Lay bottom on fabric and pull fairly tight, putting one staple in the center on each side.
Then go back and work your way out to the edges, alternating sides across from each other to keep the pattern straight and fabric smooth.

Use your whole hand to pull tight (watch the pattern!) instead of using just your fingers.

Step 11:
Fold in the corners and carefully lay fabric so it creates a smooth edge and lays as flat as possible on bottom. This is the hardest part in my opinion. I sometimes really have to fuss with a piece to get it "just so". Don't overlap too much or you'll end up with a thick corner that doesn't allow the seat bottom to screw back in flush and tight.

Step 12:
Trim off excess.

Finished and trimmed.
Step 13 (optional):
 If you want it to look really professional, cut a layer of cambric or bottom cloth the size of the seat bottom, turn edges under about .5" and press. Hot glue, FabricTac®, staple or tack it over the exposed wood and staples to create a more finished appearance. (If gluing, apply a thin ribbon all the way around the edge. If stapling or tacking, only do corners and the center of each side.) This also helps to prevent unraveling of some fabrics.

Step 14 (if new seat bottoms were cut):
Drill new holes in seat bottoms.
Line up seat bottom on chair as if to screw back into place. Take a drill bit slightly smaller than the screws originally removed and drill into the aligned seat bottom through the screw holes on the seat frame. BE VERY CAREFUL to avoid going to deep and ruining your upholstery! 

Drilling new holes.

Step 15:
Screw seat bottoms back onto chair frame.
Align seat cushion on the chair frame and while holding in place tightly, screw in two opposing corners to hold your position. Then screw in the other two remaining screws. 

Screwing in seat bottoms.
Step 16:
Set out newly upholstered chairs for all to admire!

The finished product.

Well, there ya go. You've got my take on recovering a dining/breakfast chair. Now, I KNOW a bunch of you need to do this, so hop to it. You'll be shocked at how it transforms your room!


  1. Well, Miss Bee! That is a great tutorial and will come in very handy for the new do-it-yourselfers that are out there! VERY nice job! Hugs- Diana

  2. I hadn't thought of laminating fabric. When I did my dining chairs five years ago, I put a layer of clear vinyl on top of the fabric and yes that was A LOT of staples. It has held up well though, only one has a small tear it in, even after all our moves and three kids wear! When we arrive at our newest destination, I have four chairs from the breakfast table I plan to recover. Maybe I'll try the laminate on them. I'll keep you posted on how they turn out, looking forward to some egg crate foam on these, they sure could use both a lift and some cush! :-)


  3. I love how the chair turned out! And thanks for stopping by my blog after commenting on my Centsational Girl column! Appreciate the kind words!

  4. It's actually very difficult in this full of activity life to listen news on TV, so I simply use the web for that reason, and get the most recent news.

    Also visit my website :: online casino
    my page > online casino

  5. Thanks for one's marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author.I will make certain to bookmark your blog and will come back later on. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great writing, have a nice evening!

    My weblog - read more here
    my site :: click to read more

  6. This paragraph is actually a pleasant one it helps new net users, who are
    wishing for blogging.

    My blog post; psychic readings online

  7. Smilearrow Find best products values got thousands of online top most bought items key points, rankings, price, photos lot of cool stuff to get from

  8. Searching for the Best Convertible Car Seat? Want to get a reliable place? need a detailed review? Browse here, you will get a list of 10 best convertible car seat to choose yours spending a very short time. A complete and easy to read buying guide is also available for you here


One of the highlights of each day is hearing from my readers!

Follow Me on Pinterest