Take the guesswork out of reupholstering with this easy tutorial for how to recover chair cushions without sewing.
Recovering dining room chair cushions is one of the easiest ways to update a room. After I came across a set of MCM-style (Mid Century Modern) chairs on FB marketplace, I knew they would look fabulous with boho fabric I had left over from upholstering a storage cube.
I’m all about shortcuts so after taking the chairs apart, I decided the foam was in good enough shape to keep which made my job even quicker. Although for the sake of thoroughness, I include how to replace the foam in the how-to recover chair cushions DIY below.
How to Reupholster a Dining Chair without Sewing
You can do this even if it’s your first time reupholstering! In fact, it is a fantastic beginner reupholstery type of job. The easier type of dining chairs to recover are ones with an upholstered cushion on the bottom that can easily be removed.
Just check underneath the chair for screws to see if your chairs are ready to go.
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What you need for Recovering Chair Cushions
- A screwdriver or drill for removing the screws that secure the chair seat
- Fabric scissors
- Measuring tape
- Upholstery fabric
- Staple remover or pliers
- Staple Gun and staples (I have Arrow’s electric staple gun which is the one I listed above and worth the investment if you use a staple gun often.)
Additional optional items:
- 11/2-2 inch foam
- Spray adhesive
- Dacron padding
- Cambric (batting) fabric
No Sew Dining Chair Upholstery Tutorial
- Staple gun and staples
- Serated Knife
- Turn the chair upside down and remove the dust cover if there is one. Unscrew the seat from the chair.
- Remove all of the remaining staples and tacks to get the old fabric off.
- Remove old foam if replacing and scrape the surface where the remaining foam and adhesive are.
- Trace foam on the plywood/wood seat and cute with a serrated knife.
- Cut a piece of batting and fabric a few inches larger than the chair seat.
- Lay down the batting, place the foam on top and line up the wood seat.
- Wrap the batting and staple it to the bottom of the chair.
- Lay out the piece of fabric, wrong side up, and then the foam cushion side down on top.
- Sstaple the sides of the fabric to the back, pulling and smoothing as you go.
- Do the corners last by stapling the fabric straight on each side of a corner leaving a flap. Pull the flap diagonal and staple it in place.
- Cut any excess fabric.
- Screw or secure the chair seat back to the chair frame.
Protect your new seat cover with Scotchgard or use microfiber or faux leather fabrics.
Remove the chair seat and old fabric
- Prepare the chair by wiping it down with a clean cloth if needed. Especially if you just purchased a second-hand chair(s)!
- Turn the chair upside down and look for the screws that hold the seat cushion on. Remove them with a hand screwdriver or electric drill.
- Turn the seat cover upside down and remove the dust cover if there is one. It is the lightweight mesh-type fabric called Cambric that is on most chairs. Then carefully remove all the staples and tacks left that held the dust cover and/or the fabric. Try to keep the old fabric in one piece if you want to use it for a template.
- Inspect the foam to see if it needs to be replaced.
Replace the foam if needed
- Remove any foam that has mold or deterioration and scrape chunks of foam/adhesive off the seat if needed.
- Cut a new piece of foam by placing the chair seat on top and tracing it with a marker if replacing it. Foam is easiest to cut with a pair of heavy-duty scissors or a serrated knife.
- Optional: You can use spray adhesive to keep the foam in place on a plywood/wood seat bottom.
- Professional upholsters use Dacron/batting a couple of inches wider than the foam to create softer and rounder sides to the cushion. Place the batting over the foam, turn the seat over, and secure the batting with a couple of staples on each side if you chose to do this step.
- Attach the batting to the chair seat corners by stapling on each side so all the loose batting is right in the middle of the corner and then one staple for the middle. Trim any excess.
Recover with new fabric
- Use the old piece of fabric or measure your chair seat and add a few inches to cut a new piece of fabric. Pay attention to any patterns/prints on the fabric and make sure you cut straight. If you cover multiple chairs, make sure any noticeable repeats in the pattern are cut the same way so each chair cushion looks the same. Don’t worry about this if using a solid, ditsy, or other small printed fabric.
- Place the fabric over the padding/batting taking care that the correct side of the fabric is facing out, turn the chair over and place a staple at the center of each side to secure to the bottom of the chair seat tugging the fabric a little as you go for a smooth fit and to avoid wrinkles. The trick here is to be consistent with how much you tug.
- Secure the rest of the fabric the same way checking the upholstered side of the chair to make sure it looks smooth and straight! And don’t worry or stress about the process. You can always easily remove a staple or two to fix a wrinkle or placement. You’ve got this.
- Staplyin around the corners usually requires trimming some of the excess fabric after you wrap them. Use the same method as the batting by keeping the fabric straight and taught with a staple on each side of the corner, then pull the remaining flap over the center of the corner and secure it with a staple (or two!).
- Reattach the seat cushion back to the chair frame.
- Secure a new dust cover with staples, tacks, or glue if desired.
- Scotchgard your chairs for extra protection. Make sure to read the instructions on the bottle before using it.
And you are finished! You’ll find that after the first chair is complete, the next chair covers go much faster. And if you decided to just replace the fabric, the job goes very quickly.
How to Reupholster a Chair Cushion without Sewing Examples
Here are some of the process pictures for the chairs I mentioned above. They had a plywood seat and had been reupholstered before so the foam and batting were in an okay state.
I probably could have added a thicker foam but I was trying to keep costs down on this project. I folded my fabric edge under and stapled it down close to the edge for a neat finish since I didn’t use a dust cover.
The next few pictures show how I added foam and cotton batting and stapled down the fabric on corners. If the size looks odd for a seat cushion that is because it was actually a headboard I was making for our bedroom makeover. The upholstery steps are the same.
For the sake of this story, let’s say this is the plywood seat base, a 2-inch piece of foam cut the same size, and a slightly bigger piece of batting. Layer the foam and then the batting.
I could have secured the foam with spray adhesive and the batting with staples but as I said, I usually go the quickest/simplest route! So here is my fabric placed upside down, the batting, the foam, and then the plywood.
Next, I stapled the batting and fabric to the back. Here’s a close look at the corner.
I used the same process as above in the complete tutorial. Attach one staple on each side of the corner and then you are left with a flap in the center of the corner.
Here is where I trimmed off some batting so the corner flap would lay flat. Next, I pulled the flap at a diagonal and stapled it in place!
To clear any confusion about the photo above, yes, the two corners were done differently. I was using 4-inch foam and lots of heavy velvet fabric since this was really a headboard.
Try folding your fabric like wrapping a present as the bottom corner is in the picture above. See if you prefer how that looks on your chair corner or follow the detailed instructions previously given as it is the most common method.
What’s the best kind of fabric for recovering cushions?
Upholstery weight cotton or cotton blend offers a beautiful variety of prints and patterns while synthetic microfiber and leather are the most durable choices. This is why I recommend using Scotchgard or other protective sprays after upholstery.
How much fabric do you need to reupholster a chair cushion?
Plan on 1 yard of fabric for every square foot of cushion surface as a general rule of thumb.
How do you cover a chair cushion with fabric?
Measure the fabric a few inches larger than your chair seat. Remove the old fabric. Attach the new fabric with staples or tacks underneath the chair.
How do you reupholster a chair without removing old fabric?
You may want to add new fabric to an existing cushion if there is only one existing fabric layer and it is in good condition and still secured tightly without any wrinkles. Make sure the new fabric is upholstery weight or thick enough that the old fabric does not show through. Simply cut a piece a few inches larger than the seat cushion and secure it with staples or tacks underneath the chair seat and/or dust cover.
Check out this informative post on how to reuphoster an armchair and this story for tips on when you should DIY a reuphostery job or take it to the professionals. Looking for more interior decorating ideas? Sign up for my free email course below!
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