How to Reupholster a Chair with Arms- Step by Step Guide

How to Reupholster a Chair with Arms

One of the best ways to restore a worn-out chair is to reupholster it. It is much better than purchasing an entirely new piece of furniture. All you will need is to replace the old fabric and a little bit of the batting.

Within no time, your chair will look as good as new. But do you know how to reupholster a chair with arms? If you have never done it before, this article outlines a straightforward way to revamp a tattered chair. Read on to understand more about it.

Things Needed to Reupholster a Chair with Arms

The tools:

  • Stapler
  • Scissors
  • Screwdriver
  • Bread knife
  • Pliers
  • Basic hand tools

The materials:

  • A piece of high-density foam
  • Upholstery fabric
  • Upholstery staples
  • Quilt batting
  • Plywood (where necessary)

How to reupholster a chair with arms

It is easy to reupholster a chair with arms if you have the suitable materials and follow the correct steps. Here is s step-by-step guide on how you can make an old chair comfortable again:

Step 1: Remove Fabrics and Various Pieces of the Chair

First, you need to remove the fabric and pull apart the chair. The perfect place to start is at the bottom. In most cases, furniture makers finish chairs at the bottom. So, that is where you should start your reverse engineering. What was installed last comes first.

Possibly, you bought the piece from a garage sale. In that case, you need to disinfect it using a suitable spray. Once you’re sure that the chair is safe to handle, you can go ahead and strip it down. When you finish this step, all the fabric and pieces of the chair should be removed.

Some chairs might have a bottom frame, which holds the fabric together. You need a thin screwdriver with a thin flathead to penetrate the space between the chair and the frame. After disengaging all the nails, you can pry them apart. Don’t forget to wear work gloves.

Step 2: Remove Panels Starting from the Bottom

Fabric is usually held together using staples, which you should remove carefully. Even though it will take you a while, careful removal leaves behind marks, acting as a template for installing the new fabric. You need a flathead screwdriver and a pair of pliers for this job. Make sure you remove all the staples before removing the material to prevent ripping apart.

As you remove the sections, be sure to label them to know where they will fit once you start putting them together. Part of the sections you must mark is the piping since it’s already in perfect shape and size. Therefore, it can fit perfectly in its respective areas. Label the section, the side from which you removed it, and the direction it should go in.

Step 3: Open the Ply Grip

The back and sides of a chair have sharp metal teeth called ply-grip. You need to be very careful with the ply-grip because it is very sharp. Use a butter knife to open the ply-grip up. Slowly pry the ply-grip open. You may want to avoid bending the ply-grips to avoid the cost of buying new ones once you start reupholstering the chair.

Step 4: Remove all the Fabric

Keep removing the fabric panels until you have an exposed chair. Watch out for the batting and foam pieces that may require removal to loosen the fabric. If the chair has become less comfortable, you can add more foam or batting. You might want to completely replace the batting if you had bought the chair in a garage sale.

Step 5: Cut New Fabric Patterns

After removing all the old patterns, you have to cut the new fabric into new patterns. You can do that by laying the old upholstery (face down) over the new material. If your new fabric is patterned, watch out for how you can center images once you have attached the fabric.

Step 6: Attach the New Fabric

Now, you have to know how to reupholster a chair with arms. Start attaching the fabric with the last piece you removed. In that case, upholstering a chair is the complete reverse of the process involved in removing the old material. Take each part of the fabric, put it in the right place, tuck it in, and re-staple it in the place where you removed staples.

Step 7: Reattaching the Piping

Like everything else, you need to attach the piping by reversing the removed order. Remember that the order of replacement depends on the chair you have. You may use new or old piping. Use scissors or a seam ripper to open and remove the piping from the cord for old piping. You can make new piping using a strip of fabric 2 inches wide. It should exceed the length of the cord by up to 3 inches. You can sew the piping and have it ready for installation using a sewing machine.

Step 8: Replace the Woodwork

Do you intend to stain or paint the woodwork? Do it before attaching any new fabric. For example, you can spray paint the wood in any color you like. In the case of staining, sand down the wood before staining it. Most products for staining come with instructions on the kind of grain you need to use. Once you have painted or stained the wood, you can use a clear polyurethane finish to protect it from spills. If you notice any untucked fabric, be sure to tuck it in. Use staples where necessary while ensuring that no pins get exposed after finishing.

Step 9: Prepare the Cushion Cover

Use a sewing machine to prepare the cushion fabric. Remember, chair reupholster has everything to do with preparing the cushion cover. Instead of struggling with measurements, sew a cover for the old seat cushion. While additional batting could be necessary, changing the pillow cover size may require adjusting. After evaluating the chair for any issues, you can start using it again.

Can You Reupholster a Chair Without Removing Old Fabric?

Yes, you can reupholster a chair without removing old fabric. However, you must check that you do not need to replace the old fabric panel on the seat and batting. Of course, it’s best to remove the old upholstery in its entirety to maintain the chair’s pristine condition. If you’re not ready for an elaborate reupholstering, make or buy a removable and washable slipcover.

Professional Tips for Furniture Upholstery

  • Pick a fabric that can stretch without breaking
  • Transfer the pattern from the old fabric
  • Align the center of the chair to that of the fabric
  • Attach fabric from the middle before moving to the sides
  • A pneumatic stapler is always the best
  • Take note of the order in which you remove items
  • When evaluating the chair pinch to check for wrinkles
  • Get upholstery buttons from a professional
  • Use tack strips as needed


Now that you know how to reupholster a chair, it is time to take the plunge. Don’t be afraid to turn an old worn chair into something new and fresh. Replenish the batting, install new fabric, and change the cushions where necessary. In the end, you’ll have a better-looking and more comfortable chair. No one would know that it was once derelict.

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