A woman reupholsters a kitchen stool using scissors to trim the foam

How to Reupholster a Dining Chair without Sewing

Do-It-Yourself projects are still trendy, but beyond that, they’re an age-old way of saving money by using what you already have. Furniture is one of the easiest things to update when it comes to taking on a DIY project, with many people painting old wooden pieces to give them a new look. But if you’re moving beyond painting and into the realm of furniture with fabric and cushion, it can be a bit intimidating to reupholster – especially if you don’t know how to sew! But reupholstery doesn’t have to be scary, and even for people with little to no sewing experience, you can freshen up those old dining room chairs for a new look in no time. Here’s how!

  1. Gather supplies. You’ll need:
    • Chair
    • Fabric to replace old chair cover (either an upholstery fabric or a medium-weight drapery fabric)
    • Upholstery foam (2” thick is ideal)
    • Awl, staple remover, or other upholstery tool (such as this one)
    • Dacron padding
    • Cambric dust cover fabric (optional)
    • Serrated knife
    • Fabric scissors or rotary cutter
    • Staple gun (nothing fancy – something like this works just fine)
    • Marker or chalk
  1. Remove the old fabric. Take off the cushion (you may need to unscrew it from the chair). Turn the cushion over and detach the dust cover, a mesh-like fabric on the bottom of most dining chair cushions. Then remove all the staples or tacks that connected the dust cover to the fabric. Remove any additional fabric, staples, or tacks
  2. Add foam. If you have a newer chair, you may not need to replace the foam. But if the original foam is torn or ruined or if you have an old chair that doesn’t have foam at all, you’ll want to add new foam to it. To remove the foam, strip the seat down to the wooden frame (it may have a solid plywood base). If desired, measure and cut a piece of cambric fabric to staple to the chair seat so the foam doesn’t sag. (The foam will be placed on top of the cambric.) Place the chair frame onto the foam (seat side down) and trace around it using a marker or colored chalk. Next, cut the foam out using your serrated knife.
  3. Add padding. Place the foam on top of the cambric (which has already been stapled to the chair frame), and place face down on the Dacron padding. Cut the Dacron padding in such a way that it wraps around the bottom of the chair frame about 2” all the way around. Use the staple gun to hold each side of the padding in place by putting one staple in the center of each side. Then begin stapling the rest of the padding to the frame. Work your way out from the center staple on, with staples roughly an inch apart from one another, leaving room at the corners. Focus on one side of the frame at a time, pulling the padding tautly as you go. For the corners, pull the loose padding towards the center of the chair and staple, continuing to staple the loose padding on either side of the corner. Use your scissors to cut off the excess padding.
  4. Attach the new fabric. Lay the new upholstery fabric out, face-down. If your fabric woven or double-sided, double check to make sure the side you want to show is the side that’s faced down. Place the chair cushion face down on top of it and cut the fabric, leaving an extra 3-4” to wrap around the back (the bottom of the cushion). As you cut, make sure your fabric is being cut straight. Just as you did with the padding, place a staple in the center of each of the four sides to hold it in place. Then begin stapling (again, just as you did with the padding), running your hand over the front as you go to tighten the fabric. Leave a few inches free at the corners. When it’s time to staple the corners of the fabric, pull the loose fabric towards the center and staple. Then, pull one edge over, staple (forming a pleat), and do the same with the other side. Repeat for all corners. Finally, trim off the excess fabric.
  5. Attach the dust cover. This is an optional step, but it does give a nice polished look to the finished product! Grab the cambric fabric once again and cut down to the same size as the frame. Fold under the edges and staple.
  6. Reattach the cushion! Depending on how you removed the cushion, reattach the same way. Again, this often involves screwing it back in.

Voila! Your chair is now updated and you’re ready to run…or rather, sit! Grab a cup of your favorite beverage, a good book, and stay awhile.