How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

There’s tons of money to be saved when you learn how to reupholster a dining chair! And dining chairs are a perfect place to start when it comes to reupholstery. Anyone can tackle a dining chair with success; it’s as simple as stapling fabric around a piece of wood.

Do It Over Designers

Today we’re taking part in the Do It Over Designers blog Hop hosted by Ann at The Apple Street Cottage.

We’re a group of bloggers who take something old and/or unused and ‘do it over’ into something new. These items can be found in closets, barns, garages, yard sales, thrift stores, you name it! Check out the other projects at the bottom of this post. And be sure to drop back in throughout the week to visit them all!

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Backstory: How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

If the chairs we’re upholstering today were in a game of musical chairs, my mom, sister and me would be the contestants. When I was the last woman standing, I not only got the chairs, but the dining table, and buffet. They weren’t exactly a prize after my sister’s kids and pets had their way with them first. By the way, the chairs below aren’t the dining chairs that go with this set; this project will be an easy one, I promise.

I have to admit that the table and buffet cleaned up beautifully after Hub’s worked his refinishing magic on them! But the chairs? We only got as far as painting the them and upholstering two of them. At the time, all I had was a manual staple gun – ouch! It’s no wonder I didn’t get them finished!

Then our basement flooded, not once but twice. To keep them safe, back they went to my Mom’s house to be stored in her basement. And here they sat. Skeletal reminders of our incomplete project:

Frames for How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

As regular readers will know, Mom passed away last year and we’re having to clear out her house to get it on the market soon. Since, we no longer have a need for the chairs, after reupholstering them, we’re going to try consignment for the very first time! Hopefully they’ll find new owners who will love them again (more about that later).

Supplies for How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

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How to Reupholster a Dining Chair Video

Watch the video to see how to reupholster a dining chair.

Tips for Reupholstering

There are a few things to keep in mind when reupholstering dining chairs if you want to get top dollar – or a quality result for you to enjoy in your own home!

Personally, I feel it’s best to use brand new materials and discard all the old. Only the best for the nest!

  1. Buy quality fabric. If you want it to last, purchase a blend with at least 50% polyester for durability. Also, an upholstery weight fabric will stand up much longer than a regular fabric.
  2. Keep the screw holes free of fabric as you go. Finding a covered screw hole can be a time consuming chore. So to avoid that, notch around them as you staple on the fabric.
  3. Number each chair with it’s matching seat. The screw holes may be slightly different from chair to chair. So if you don’t want to re-drill holes, don’t forget this step.
  4. Use high density foam. Nothing’s worse than foam that doesn’t bounce back and eventually sags permanently. For better wear, they’ll stay looking their best with high density foam.
  5. Add batting. Batting softens the sharp corners of the high density foam and gives a professional looking result.
  6. Invest in an pneumatic air gun and compressor. Without an air gun, my hands hurt so much I just gave up. After buying an air gun, my poor cramped hands have never looked back!
  7. Use a dust cover. You probably never look underneath your chair, but even the underside needs to look professional. It will not only protect, but extend the life of your reupholstery job – and help keep the interior free from dust and insects.

Have a chair that needs fixing first? You might need to do some wooden chair repair before you start.

How to Replace Upholstery on a Dining Chair

Don’t forget to wear protective goggles when working with a staple gun! Even though mine kept steaming up, it’s important to keep them on to protect your eyes just in case!

For this project I used 1/4″ staples for my initial pass. That’s because they are easier to remove if necessary. Then I come back and use 3/8″ to finish. For the dust cover, I switch back again to 1/4″.

I personally think an air compressor with a pneumatic stapler is a must if you have a lot of chairs to do or want to upholster more furniture.

1. Remove Fabric / gather materials

Flip the chair upside down and unscrew the seat. Put all the screws in a bag and mark them to keep them all together.

In almost all cases I remove the fabric first (one exception is this office chair diy). Use a staple remover to get all the old staples out. Remove the old fabric but keep it to use as a pattern to cut the new fabric.

If you’re lucky enough to have someone that supplies foam in your area, take the wooden seats with you and have them cut the foam for you. Now’s your chance to upgrade the quality and comfort of your chairs. I find many mid century chairs are skimpy when it comes to the foam.  So buy high density foam, if it’s available, and you might also increase the thickness.

if you’ve ever wondered about the different types of upholstery foam, this video from across the pond is excellent:

2. Cut new fabric, batting and dust cover

We always number each chair with a matching number on the seat so we can pair them back up again when reassembling. If you don’t do this, you may find that they don’t fit back with the original screw holes so this step makes your reupholstering experience easier.

Use the old fabric and dust cover to make a template to cut new. Leave enough around the edge of the dust cover to turn it under at least 1/2″. But if your foam is thicker, cut the fabric bigger ensuring you have extra fabric to wrap (in my case, that’s about 4 – 4 1/2″). Better to have too much than not enough.

As for the batting, I cut it to drape evenly around the sides of the foam, then cut the excess at the corners to remove the bulk.

Fabric, batting foam and wood seat for How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

3. staple the seat

If you can make a sandwich, you’re good to go with this step! Stack your layers. First, place the fabric wrong side up on a table. Then lay the batting, foam and wooden seat on top.

Fold the fabric onto the wood enclosing all the layers.

folding in first side of chair cushion for How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

Be sure the air stapler is firmly pressed against the surface before pressing the trigger to disengage the safety. Place a staple in the middle of all 4 sides, pulling the fabric taught but not too tight.

Stapling in the middle of chair seat for How to Reupholster a Dining Chair Staple out to the corners. But leave several inches of gap so there’s room to fold.

Staple all four sides of seat but leave space at corners for How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

At this point, notch around the screw holes with scissors while you can still see them (you may need to cut more as you go).

4. wrap the corners

Watch the video to see how I wrap the front and back corners.

First, trim off some of the excess fabric on the back corners to remove some of the bulk.

Since the back isn’t seen like the front, it’s not as important. For the back, I fold the fabric as if I’m doing hospital corners.

In the front, I ‘pleat’ the fabric around the curves. For these chairs, I fold each pleat outward toward the back (3 of them) so they lie flat.

Alternately, you could place a staple in the middle, then fold the outer pleats toward the middle.  Sometimes, depending on the thickness of your foam, you get away with two pleats – or even no pleats at all if the foam is thin enough and the fabric can be stretched. Do whatever looks best; it’s all up to you!

But whatever you do one one side, mirror image the exact same thing on the opposite side. Being consistent is the key to a great looking reupholstery result!

If you find you have unwanted puckering, just remove a staple or two and smooth it out. That’s why I use 1/4″ staples on my first pass; they’re much easier to remove!

Dust Cover

When consigning, the best stores will only take high quality pieces. They have a right of refusal if they don’t like what they see. So don’t give them a reason to pass up your chairs. Use a dust cover for a professional finish!

Dust cover fabric is non woven so it doesn’t fray. It also finger presses extremely well so do that first before putting it on.

Follow the same process as the fabric, placing a staple in the middle of each side. Then work out from the middle to the corners. Unlike the fabric, there’s no need to pull the dust cover tight – just smooth it out so it lies flat against the wood.

Before stapling the corners, locate the screw holes. Fold in the corners of the dust cover if necessary.

Locating the screw holes when learning how to reupholster a dining chair

Then use a sharp awl to punch into the hole through all layers of the dust cloth to make a clear path for the screws.

As you’ll see on the video. I mark the chair number on the dust cover with a piece of green tape so I can match each seat back up again with its respective chair.

Flip the seat right side up. If your seats are anything like ours, the plywood tends to splinter and shed. Use a lint roller, or if you don’t have one, some painters tape to pick up the debris on the fabric.

A lint roller or painters tape can remove debris from reupholstered seat cushions for How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

Alternately, an upholstery attachment for your vacuum system like this has a nubby strip that catches all the dust and lint so it’s a worthwhile investment to keep your upholstery looking great.

Household_Ikea couch cover 017_bof.jpg

Nothing more satisfying than being done with the upholstery after all these years!

Consigning Your Chairs

Now that the kids are grown, it’s too bad my sister doesn’t want these back because they look great now!

When consigning dining chairs, take pictures of them around a dining room table to give them context.

6 reupholstered dining chairs for How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

The results are in on how to reupholster a dining chair!

If any of the chairs are different, like this one with arms at the head of the table, be sure to take individual pictures too.

Dining chair with arms at head of table for How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

Many consignment stores will give a pre-approval when they receive pictures so put your best foot forward and don’t leave anything to guess work. Have clear pictures of the fabric.

chair showing seat fabric for How to Reupholster a Dining Chair


There are no consignment stores in our area that will pick up so transporting is all on us. You just never know what the weather is going to be like on the day of your appointment. So it’s a good idea to cover your chairs with plastic to keep them clean and dry. Especially when they’re white (what were we thinking?)!

I took the added measure of adding easily removable foam booties around the legs too so they wouldn’t accidentally get dinged on the way.

Once there, they’ll inspect and give you a yay or nay (they were accepted). Then they’ll take pictures; the pictures are photographic proof of the condition on the day received.  That’s because after day 151, if your items aren’t sold, they’re yours again.

6 chairs covered in plastic at the consignment store

On the day of our appointment, our van broke down in the driveway so we had to cancel! I hope that’s not an indication of how our first consignment is going to go. Hopefully there’s smoother sailing ahead. Keep your fingers crossed for us that they sell and we don’t have to schlep them all back again.

Things to Keep in Mind with consigning

Once your items are accepted and you agree to pricing, you typically have to leave your items for a minimum time period (5 months) to a maximum of 6 months.

Each month your chairs are on the showroom floor, they’ll be reduced in price until sold (10% each month in our case). So be sure to monitor the status. After a certain period, if they don’t sell and you don’t pick them up your forfeit them!

Learn More about Upholstering

Ready for a bigger challenge? Our post on how to reupholster an office chair is the next step in your upholstery journey. But if reupholstery still isn’t your thing, check out teak chairs: the make under. You might be able to rejuvenate the fabric you already have.

Pin How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

Hope you enjoyed this dining chair makeover. Pinning is always welcome and appreciated so pin it for later!

Pinnable image for How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

Do It Over Designers

Our talented blogger friends have some amazing and inspiring DIYs in the new year. Don’t forget to visit these posts for more upcycled do-it-over transformations!

FAQs on How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

Do you have to remove old fabric when reupholstering?

Not necessarily. If you know for a fact that the old materials are not harbouring mold and  there’s only one layer of fabric on a chair, you can get away with covering it. However, if you’re going to invest in quality materials like new fabric, foam and batting, it’s much better to start fresh! In addition, it’s helpful to pull off the fabric so you have a pattern for the new seat covers. So take the time to pull that old dusty fabric off first!

What materials do I need to reupholster a chair?

You’ll need new fabric, of course, plus foam, batting and dust cover fabric. A staple gun (a pneumatic stapler with an air compressor is much easier on the hands). A staple puller is essential to remove the old fabric and if you have to reposition the new fabric. Sharp scissors are a must to cut the fabric. Finally a sharp awl to ensure the old screw holes are free and clear of fabric.

What is the easiest way to reupholster a chair?

Ensure you have plenty of fabric to wrap around the edges. Place a staple in the middle of each side, stapling on the opposite side to keep the tension even. Work out to the edges, stoping a few inches short of the corners to allow room for folding. Pull the fabric taught as you go, but not so tight that you create puckers. Fold a hospital corner in the back of the chair. For the front corners, a staple in the middle then folding in toward the centre is easiest.

17 thoughts on “How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

  1. Beautiful Sara and a great tutorial, too. I’ve done this more times than I can count over the years with my own chairs. I find it’s an inexpensive and easy way to change the entire look of a room in minutes.

    • Thanks Kim! Wish I could keep them but there’s only space for one set of chairs in this house!

  2. I’d be shocked if your chairs didn’t sell quickly, Sara. You did a beautiful job reupholstering the seats. Good advice on adding the dust cover too, it really gives them a professional look.

  3. Your reupholstered chairs look beautiful Sara and I’m sure they will sell quickly! I took an upholstery class many years ago and I think your tutorial is more in-depth than that class was! You covered just about everything there is to know about reupholstering! Great job!

    • Thanks for that lovely compliment Gail! I’m totally ‘untrained’ so I’m happy to hear that!

  4. Beautiful Sara. I have done this so many times. Actually I am ready to do over dining chairs.

    Great tutorial!

    • Thanks Cindy; have fun making over your own dining chairs 🙂

  5. They look so good, you’ve given so many great upholstery tips too, thank you. I’ve got everything crossed for a quick sale.

    • Thanks Julie; I hope they sell too! There’s just no room for them here.

    • Thanks Patti! I’ve never done anything more complicated than dining chairs but hope to challenge myself on something more challenging one day 🙂

  6. You write the best tutorials, Sara! I’ve upholstered many dining chairs over the years and your instructions are spot on. Love the fabric you chose for the chairs! I’m sure they will sell in a heartbeat.

  7. Great tutorial. I always struggle with getting the corners tight so next time I am going to try your folding method and see if that works better for me. Thanks for sharing your tips.

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