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Reupholstering Dining Chairs

Dining room chairs can often get a facelift with a good cleaning and some new upholstery. This is a guide about reupholstering dining chairs.

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June 2, 2009 Flag
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Refurbishing Antique Dining ChairsI have redone my antique dining chairs from caned seats to padded fabric seats without altering the cane part by cutting plywood seats that are slightly larger than the open area of the seats and adding thick blocks of wood with window hardware that turn to give a positive leverage under the wooden frame. I then cut foam padding and canvas and upholstered the plywood. I painted the canvas first. You could use any fabric of your choice. I varnish the canvas for wipe-ups.

By Donna from Newell, IA

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November 26, 2006 Flag
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Broken cane back chair.I have some dining room chairs that are probably over 40 years old.. The backing on the chairs is mostly caning with a wooden frame. It needs replacing in almost every chair. I am thinking it would be smarter to just buy new dining room chairs. Two of them have already separated within their wooden frames.

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The dining room table is still very sturdy. Although, the wood in the chairs and the table match in color, the style isn't an exact duplicate. It simply 'goes together' and was purchased as a set years ago. Suggestions? Comments?

Are you going to tell me that the quality available now is not comparable to this set and that the chairs should repaired at any price? Right now, they are probably not safe to sit in and will require re-caning and re-gluing. Maybe even some dowel repairing. I'll have the repair person take apart the two that are still holding up, because they are now unsafe. I am thinking this is going to run hundreds of dollars no matter what I do.

Holly from Richardson, TX

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November 27, 20060 found this helpful
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Hi Holly,

I can understand your dilemma about your dining chairs. I had a set that my grandmother had given me that was about 40 years old. I stripped and refinished the table and the hutch but I didn't bother with the chairs. They were very wobbly and I sat on one, it broke, and I ended up on the floor! I think that the cost of professional repair would be too high, and you could buy new chairs for the price of the repairs. I do think, though, if you were going to do the repairs yourself it would be worth keeping the old set. Instead of re-caning the backs of the chairs maybe you could cut wood to fit and upholster over it and re-upholster the seats to match? I certainly think that you should get a quote from a professional refinisher about your chairs and then with that price in mind go to the furniture store to see what new chairs would cost you.

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November 28, 20060 found this helpful
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We used some old oak chairs of my grandparents for many years. They were part of a kitchen set from the late 30's. I also had the table but one day it just split in two. My grandmother had kept laundry detergent and other "junk" on it in her basement for too many years. Well anyway, my husband refinished the chairs and I recovered the seats and those chairs were put with a unfinished round pedastal table my husband finished off. We used those same chairs for roughly 25 years. My hubby had done repairs to them over the years, tightened them up and such till they could be tightened no more. I recovered the seats more than once too. I then bought a new kitchen table and chairs and donated the old ones to charity.

My advice would be to go buy a new set if you can afford it or look in the paper or thrift shops for a new set. If you can't repair the chairs yourself, it will be very costly to hire it done. If the chairs do not have sentimental value to you, you may as well replace them. I'd replace the table too. Get a whole set that matches...you only live once.

I used those old chairs of my grandparents so many years when I'd probably rather have had something nicer....we could have afforded it but just didn't get around to it and kept using what we had.

Life's too short not to have something nicer, something safe to sit on and eat at....something you can be proud of when you have company.

Just my humble opinion :-)

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January 12, 20090 found this helpful
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Holly,

You can find directions on the internet for repairing caning yourself there are kits etc out there that can help you. If your chairs are from the 20s they may be worth more than you think they are. Where yours is in the shape that it is in though I would probably go with cutting a piece of thin plywood to fit the wood and upholstering it. As to replacement cost versus repair cost you need to realize somethings and decide what is important to you. Finding good furniture that is actually solid wood and well made these days is very difficult to do if you are buying new. There is no longer really a good quality economy version it's either expensive solid wood or cheap particle board covered with veneer. Repairing chairs really isn't that hard you don't have to hire someone to do it unless you have an ornate and extremely valuable antique. Anybody can take a chair apart sand all the joints and put it back together with dowels etc. and glue and clamp it its not as difficult as it seems. There is also a glue that you used to only be able to get in Canada that you put in the joints that actually causes them to swell and fit again I don't remember exactly what its called something like Yancy's. Learning simple furniture repair is really just a matter of a little internet and Library research. If you really don't like the chairs though why not just give them to charity and seek out a good used set, or check the Penny's catalogue they often have good sales on medium quality furniture but for a decent set for six you going to pay at least 900 dollars also check eBay sometimes even with shipping it can be worth it if the quality is really good. However in the spirit of thriftiness and self sufficiency I would see about learning how to repair chairs myself. As it sounds to me like all they need is to be taken apart the joints sanded and a swelling wood glue used along with dowels to make the joints tight. Good luck!

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November 28, 2011 Flag
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How much fabric will I need for eight kitchen chairs?

By Marga

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November 30, 20110 found this helpful
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How much fabric you'll need depends on the kind of chair. Is there fabric on seat and back, or just back, or just seat? Look here for measuring and reupholstering advice:

http://furniture.about.com/od/furniturecareandrepair/ht/Chairseat.htm

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November 30, 20110 found this helpful
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If you can, take the original fabric off one chair, then you know for sure. If not, measure the dimensions, allow for about 4" all around for undertacking/stapling, then you will have a good idea. If you want to have matching table runner or table clothes, add another 2 yards. I hope this helps. PBP

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November 6, 2010 Flag
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How much fabric do I need for reupholstering six dining room chairs?

By Cathy from Townsend, GA

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November 6, 20100 found this helpful
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You have to measure the width and length of the seats and then add about 4 inches to each measurement for folding under the seat. If the back is covered you do the same for that. Then figure the total number of inches and convert that into feet, then into yards, that will tell you how many yards of fabric you need. The amount will also depend on the width of the fabric.

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February 8, 20110 found this helpful
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You may find it easier to take one of the seats off the chair and take that current seat cover with you to a fabric store. The drapery fabrics are quite wide, sturdy and very often on sale. So, you can place your fabric on top of what's there, flip it over the number of seats you need. Get about 18" x 40" extra to make a table runner and voila! Easy peasy. Nicely coordinated chair seat covers and table decor to boot.

I hate that saying. LOL.

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July 18, 2008 Flag
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When reupholstering a chair, how do you remove the old seat back? There are wooden dowels hiding the screws. Do I drill them out or just use a chisel and hammer?

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July 18, 20080 found this helpful
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Depends. In any case the doweling is not likely too long. I'd first try drilling a small hole with a tiny bit into the doweling, then use the drill bit while in the hole to see if it is loose. If not, and if it appears to be glued, you may have to use a large bit to drill it on out.

Problem is that you need to determine how long the doweling is and how deep the screw it so you won't damage the screw head or you will have to drill it out too and then replace the deeper hole with new glued dowling and have a MUCH bigger job than you intended.

I'd just be VERY careful using the tiny bit, not drilling too deep, then perhaps on one of the holes put your drill in reverse, WITHOUT pulling out on the drill, to see if it will back out of the hole in this manner. SOMETIMES, if you're lucky, if doweling is glued, the glue is brittle and will just crack loose.

Another option is to use an eye dropper or spoon a few drops of water on the doweling, IF you determine it IS glued, so that the glue, which is likely waterbased Elmer's type wood glue, will soften and come on out after letting it sit for about an hour.

Don't over water it or it might swell the hole tighter.

If you do over-water, let it set in a dry place for a week to dry out and start over withOUT water.

Good luck and God bless and help you. : )

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July 18, 20080 found this helpful

Are you sure there are dowel rods covering the screws? The screws may be covered by wooden buttons. This is usually what is done. Use a thin sharp object, like a paring knife or ice pick, to get under the button. It should then pop off.

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July 18, 20080 found this helpful

Is the chair fully upholstered or just the back? If it is fully upholstered you do not remove the back.

asellars AT roadrunner.com

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April 15, 2012 Flag
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Round dining table and four chairs.I bought some dining chairs and I want to recover them. The seat part is straight forward, but they have a back cushion too. It's surrounded by wood around the top and sides and open at the bottom where I can see staples. I can't find screws on the side to open the sides to get it out, any ideas how I recover it?

By Kylie

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April 16, 20120 found this helpful

I wonder, could the backs be held on with glue? See if you can put a flat head screwdriver between the seat back and the frame, and pry a bit to see if there is glue residue (jeez, I hope that made sense, lol!) Don't apply too much pressure. You don't want to splinter the wood backing, or gouge the frame. Choose a test area that is inconspicuous, too, just in case.

If the seat back is merely glued to the frame, you can use a thin paint brush to apply a nice coating of Gunk or a similar glue eater along the seam where the backing meets the frame. As the glue eater takes hold, slowly peel the backing away from the frame.

**Note: some of the glue eaters on the market nowadays also eat varnish, you may have to refinish the wood when you are finished recovering the chairs.

Once you have the backing off, recovering the back rest should be fairly straight forward. Look in a D-I-Y centre for a high quality glue to refasten the decorative back and use C clamps to hold the back in place while the glue sets (usually 24-48 hours). Protect the wood where the clamps touch it with padding like scrap towelling. You could use a teeny-tiny drill bit and create holes to drive screws in, but I don't think you'd be happy with the look.

I've seen this kind of construction before, usually in mid-high end ranges of furniture. The decorative backing isn't under the same sort of stress as the frame and seat areas, so using a strong glue makes for a safe fastener.

From the picture it looks as though you have got yourself a real bargain! Classic lines on the chairs, very nice.

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August 14, 2008 Flag
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Recover chair seats (such as dining chairs) on the cheap by using alternative fabric sources such as curtains found at second hand/thrift stores or clearance fabric table covers or sheets found just about anywhere.

By Freds Tips from Marysville, WA

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November 29, 2006 Flag
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I unscrewed the backs of my metal kitchen chairs and recovered them. Now I cannot get the screw to fit back into the chair back.

Cat from Boston, MA

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November 30, 20060 found this helpful

I suspect the material you covered the chairs with is preventing the screws from being screwed into the screw holes. I would enlarge the hole in the material you covered the chair backs with and I think the screws would be able to be reattached.

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November 6, 2010 Flag
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Any help on reupholstering dinning chairs, would be appreciated.

By Don from Glendale, CA

Answers:

Reupholstering Dining Room Chairs

I've recovered my chairs several times. The seat bottoms come off (unscrew them). You need a heavy duty staple gun to staple on the new fabric, then re-attach the seat bottom. (10/29/2009)

By OliveOyl

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October 29, 2009 Flag
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How do I reupholster my dining room chairs?

By DEEHONI from MD

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Reupholstering Dining Room Chairs

Could you describe them a little more?

If it's just the seat, remove it, and either remove the cloth by prying out staples underneath, or if it's thick just put new fabric over it, wrap around to underside and staple that.

Obviously you cut your replacement material several inches wider than your chair top, 'all the way around".

The best way is just take one chair seat apart and look how it was done, and copy it. The old fabric can make pattern for new fabric if you take it off. (08/15/2009)

By PIKKA

Reupholstering Dining Room Chairs

I just finished doing my dining room chairs. My chairs are quite old so I had to replace the jute webbing on the bottom as well as the padding. I found a place in Philly to purchase new high density foam for the seats, covered that with batting and then the fabric on top. You can either use tacks or a staple gun. It takes a little practice to pull the fabric snug, but you'll get the hang of it. The corners are the trickiest part. Good luck, I hope they turn out nice. (08/15/2009)

By RealtorRose

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August 14, 2009 Flag
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I am presently re-upholstering my daughter's dining room chairs. They have the seat cover and the edge with piping. I removed the old cover and picked the stitching apart and used the old piece to make a new pattern.

However, when I try and sew them together I end up with 2 in. in excess. I cut the pattern as is and measured a 5/8 in. seam. Not sure what I am doing wrong. I have even basted the corners and done small gathers to no avail. So I added 2 in. to the skirting and still end up with 2 in. of the seat cover to incorporate. I am rusty at sewing as I have not done it in a long time. But this should be 1-2-3 simple. Help please.

Jennifer from Ontario, Canada

Answers:

Reupholstering Dining Room Chairs

I've done the foam, wrap and staple thing on my own chairs, and it's by far the easiest way to do it, and makes the fit very nice. (02/21/2009)

By Mary T

Reupholstering Dining Room Chairs

If you took apart the old cushion then you should only add 1/4 inch. It sounds like you measured your cloth for the new chair not on the grain and it will stretch. Try loosening up your top pressure (usually located as a nob on the top of your machine, even the old ones). Don't stretch your material, remember that cross grain is from selvage edge to selvage edge and lengthwise if top to bottom on the finished edge.

If this doesn't help then decide if the material is stretchy or the same as the old kind. Don't stretch the old cloth to measure the new one or just measure the bare bottom of the chair seat and add your seam to it and sew it up without the old one. Good luck and let me know if it worked. gbk (02/24/2009)

By fuzzytufts

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February 20, 2009 Flag
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Turn your old chairs, or even thrift store finds, into custom dining room furniture. With some unique fabric, any chair that has a removable seat can become new again. The best part of knowing how to reupholster dining chairs is that you can change out the fabric whenever you change your décor. You can also use the same upholstery fabric for cornice boards or curtains, wall covering, throw pillows for an adjacent room, or to cover accessories like lamps and storage bins.

What you'll need:

  • dining room chairs with removable seats (see photo below)
  • thick, durable fabric
  • heavy-duty staple gun
  • may need to cut new seats from plywood
  • may need to replace batting or foam
  • may need to add new screws and hardware
  • may need to paint or varnish chair

Depending on the state your dining chairs are in when you start your project, they may need to be glued for stabilizing, sanded and painted, and they could also need end caps on the legs to keep them from damaging hardwood or tile flooring. Reupholstering is the last step of refurbishing dining chairs.

Remove the seat by taking out screws from the hardware beneath the seat (see photo). If the wood of the seat is in bad repair, use the old wood as a template to cut a new seat from plywood. With a screwdriver, remove any staples, nails, or tacks that hold the upholstery in place. Discard the old fabric and staples. If the batting or foam cushion is decaying, be prepared to replace it at this time. Batting or foam can be purchased at large fabric stores or craft stores.

Using the seat bottom as a template by laying it on the wrong side of the upholstery fabric, cut around the seat, leaving about 4" all the way around. The extra fabric will be wrapped beneath the seat. Now you're ready to reupholster.

Layer the wooden seat, the batting or foam, then the fabric (right side up). Turn this layered pile over so that the board is up. You may want to place the pile on the floor and press on the center of the board with one knee. Stretch the fabric around to the back of the board, and then staple it. Staple the four corners first. Then pull with even pressure and staple the remaining fabric to the board. For rounded corners, do not cut the fabric. Fold it under itself, like a dart, and double staple it. Once the fabric is secure and stretched to a tension that you like, trim excess fabric. Replace the seat bottom onto the chair with the original or replacement hardware.

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