An Easy Furniture Guide: Is it cheaper to reupholster or buy new?

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Get the facts for purchasing new or reupholstering old furniture, when to hire a professional and when to DIY, and other tips!

We used to have a seamstress that could recover cushions and chairs just like that and didn’t charge very much. As I grew into adulthood and started furnishing my homes I assumed reupholstering furniture was a cost-effective method for “new” room furnishings. But that is not necessarily the case anymore with inflation and other factors. (And the seamstress has long since retired/passed away?)

Is it cheaper to reupholster or buy new furniture?

I hope this guide helps you decide when it’s better to buy new furniture or reupholster old furniture, how to save money, and when to DIY or hire the pros for upholstery.

Welcome back to the annual New Year New Room Refresh Challenge hosted by Casa Watkins Living. Seventeen bloggers are selecting a room to give a little or significant makeover sharing the progress every Tuesday of January with the reveal at the end of the month.

Update: You can now find all progress posts and the final reveal below.

  1. Modern Living Room Mood Board 
  2. Is it cheaper to reupholster old furniture or buy new? (you are here)
  3. Easy Floating Mantel Facelift
  4. DIY Textured Paint Vase and Planter Makeover
  5. Organic Modern Living Room Reveal!

Last week I shared my plans and mood board for a modern living room refresh, including reupholstering a pair of barrel chairs we have. That catches us up to this week’s home improvement guide!

Cost Comparison of New Furniture and Reupholstery

First, a little research will give you an idea of what kind of money you can spend on both options.

  1. Do a quick search online for upholstery costs average in your city. Narrow down to your furniture type, i.e. ” how much does it cost to reupholster a chair in DFW?” (Dallas Fort Worth) A quick scroll through the results shows sites like HomeAdvisor, angi.com, and various upholstery sites that gave me a general idea without even having to click through the links.
  2. Price a new piece of furniture in-store or online. Pay attention to the details and reviews to get an idea of the quality. Since we had a pair of barrel chairs, I looked for similar-sized new ones from various stores and styles.

My results were that I could find new chairs for the price to reupholster our barrel chairs at $600-$1200 a chair. I also looked at second-hand options on Facebook marketplace with similar prices!!

How to find a reupholster

  1. Search for “furniture upholstery near me” on your favorite web browser.
  2. Filter the results by reviews and ratings.
  3. Further filter by looking at each business portfolio. Make sure they have experience with furniture and you like what you see. (I found a lot of places that appeared to mainly work on auto upholstery.
  4. Take a picture of your furniture and get a quote from top-rated/reviewed places. Sometimes it is as easy as a quick text and picture.

I narrowed my search to one option and got a quick quote that was on the lower side of the average price and they offered a small military discount.

Why do you want to reupholster your furniture?

List the pros and cons of reupholstering and purchasing new by asking yourself some questions.

  1. Do you have an antique, vintage, or unique piece of furniture that can’t be found in stores?
  2. Are you trying to be eco-friendly by keeping old furniture out of a landfill?
  3. Is the old furniture better made than the new version?
  4. Do you want to customize a piece with new fabric and/or finish? (Which is $$$$ on new pieces!!)

Since my cost comparison of reupholstering and buying new was similar, I was considering buying new! We found our barrel chairs in a second-hand shop (called a Recycle store!) in Okinawa, Japan while we were stationed there and paid about $120 for the pair.

A pair of wood and tan barrel chairs in a Japanese rental with windows and grey rug.
Second Hand Chairs in Japan

It came down to the fact that we still loved them eight years later. They are solid wood and actually comfortable to lounge and sit in for both me and my 6’1″ Marine husband.

He didn’t want to part with them. There was just no way I was confident in finding a new version that would save me enough money to be worth it.

How to save money getting your furniture reupholstered

So you’re set on keeping your furniture and having it recovered but it’s still at an uncomfortable cost. Check out these tips below for additional ways to save.

  • Ask for multiple quotes from different upholstery places. See if you qualify for any sort of discount ie. military, student, senior
  • Purchase the fabric yourself with a sale/coupon. Your reupholster will tell you how much you need.
  • Can you cut down on labor costs by removing the old fabric and cushion materials yourself? Make sure you work out a deal with your upholsterer first for this!
  • Ask your neighborhood social media page (next-door app, Facebook page) for recommendations. You may find someone that works out their garage or does reupholstery as a side job or hobby. Ask to see previous work and beware that the time frame can be much longer. Of course, references go a long way!

My mother had kept a pair of Ethan Allen wingback recliners that were my grandparents for me. A friend referred me to a friend of hers that does reupholstery as a side job.

I found and purchased the fabric I wanted and hired him. He did a beautiful job for a little less than a professional business but it took 6-8 months. It was still worth it.

When to Hire a Pro and When to DIY

Okay, now that we’ve covered whether to upholster or purchase new, we should have a quick mention for the DIYer. Here are some things to consider.

  • A small piece of furniture like a seat cover or cushion is very doable even for a first-timer/beginner.
  • More elaborate jobs can be searched online with numerous DIY videos and in-depth tutorials. Check them out and see if you feel comfortable following one.
  • Add up the cost of fabric, foam cushion, tools, and other materials you’ll need for a good DIY job, and see if it’s worth the savings for DIY instead of hiring a pro.

I tried reupholstering the barrel chairs myself, four years ago with some inexpensive fabric, a staple gun, cording, and a hot glue gun. It was going to be my first “professional upholstery” after doing many chair cushions, covers, and an upholstered piano bench.

Eclectic Glam Open Concept Living Dining Rooms One Room Challenge Reveal 39

I was never able to take the original upholstery completely off and ended up just covering the old fabric on the seat and using spray adhesive to keep things in place. They looked cute with a throw pillow to hide a few of my mistakes and sat like that for four years in our living room.

Now that we are long-term homeowners, it was time to take our furniture up a notch. Take my money, please! We dropped off our chairs within 24 hours of receiving a quote and I selected the fabric from the showroom in 10 minutes. Our chairs were ready 2 weeks later. It was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done!

Check out Angel’s Upholstery in Fort Worth if you are local. I highly recommend them!

Modern Living Room To-Do List

Next week I plan on sharing a fireplace mantel makeover on a budget!

  • Fireplace mantel makeover with corbels and ornamental molding painted
  • Reupholster a pair of barrel chairs found in Japan with neutral fabric by a professional $$$$
  • Purchase burled wood console table from CB2 $$$
  • Add second-hand modern accent tables $$
  • Add mcm style with salvaged brass gear and a thrifted perpetual face vase $$$
  • Simplify tabletop styling
  • Repurpose a large gold planter with DIY clay treatment
  • Refigure layout

New Year New Room Refresh Participants

Make sure to visit everyone and see their progress. It was so much fun to check out the rooms and plans from last week. Hop on Instagram to participate!

kathy
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