To many people, reupholstering a piece of furniture can sound like the sort of activity they’d never succeed at in a million years.

But they’d be wrong – start with the basics, and anyone can have a go at this surprisingly accessible craft.

You probably won’t want to tackle something as complex as a full armchair on your first attempt; stick to pieces such as footstools, ottomans and dining chairs – or any chair with a hard frame and a seat pad.

You’ll need some tools to do this, so it’ll cost a little bit of money if you haven’t already got them – although you can buy many of them from eBay and it’ll still be cheaper than buying a new piece of furniture.

What you’ll need:


This is the fun bit, as you can choose your colours and patterns. Opt for a heavy fabric that can take a fair bit of wear and tear, especially if the piece of furniture is regularly used.
Non-stretchy fabrics are best, as you’ll be able to pull them taut around the piece – ensuring a smooth finish.

Staple gun

An essential piece of kit for budding upholsterers – a strong staple gun that’s easy to use will help you affix the fabric to the frame quickly and with minimal fuss. Don’t forget the staples, though!

Upholstery nails

Not essential, but helpful in covering up any staples that may be on show when you’ve finished. They also work well for decoration and are relatively inexpensive. Also, remember that if you opt to use nails, you’ll need a small hammer too!

Fabric scissors

You’ll want to buy some sharp, good-quality fabric scissors. Don’t use them for anything else, though, as you may make them blunt.


If you need to measure and cut the fabric, you’ll need something to mark your guidelines that won’t stain or show through the material. Tailors chalk or water-soluble pencils are ideal, as they can be sponged off or washed out.

Webbing (for a dining chair)

Many old dining chairs can start to sag as the webbing has been overused and become old. New webbing doesn’t cost much and will give your chair a new lease of life. You’ll need a hammer and small nails to tack it around the edge.

Seat pad/foam (depending on the condition of furniture)

Depending on the age and condition of the piece, you’ll probably want to change the seat pad. Large pieces of foam can be bought from hobby shops and easily cut to size. You’ll also want some spray adhesive (make sure it works on foam) to attach it to the seat and some batting or wadding to create a smoother effect. Alternatively, you can spray the existing seat pad with disinfectant spray, but let it dry completely before adding the fabric.


You’ll probably want to buy a small and a large flat head screwdriver. These are useful for removing hinges or screws and can even be used to remove staples too.

Box cutter/Stanley knife

You may need a sharp knife if you’re removing leather or other hard-to-unpick fabrics. As always, be careful when using these knives and try to get hold of some protective gloves if you’re worried about slipping and hurting yourself.

Staple remover

Most pieces will have the fabric stapled to the frame somewhere, and these heavy-duty staples can be challenging to remove. A specialist staple remover will do the trick quickly, easily and safely.

Our top five upholstery tips

1. Take the existing fabric off carefully. You’ll then be able to use it as a template for the new covering, making your job much easier.

2. Take photos as you take off the fabric. This will help you remember how parts were attached or folded, saving you hours of deliberation.

3. Start simple – trying to upholster an armchair on your first go will likely end in disaster. Start with a small stool or chair and work your way up.

4. Don’t forget the finishing touches! New knobs, handles, or paintwork will make your finished piece look more professional and totally unique.

5. Don’t rush. If you try and get the whole thing done in a day, you’ll end up cutting corners and making the result a little more ‘rustic’ than you’d like. A project like this should be fun, so take your time and enjoy yourself!

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