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How to Reupholster a Dining Chair Seat

A high-impact way to improve or change the look of any chair with a removable seat is to recover the seat fabric. Whether you have pets and children, or just love to recycle old furniture, you'll appreciate this quick refurbishing technique.


  1. Image titled Reupholster a Dining Chair Seat Step 1
    Unscrew the seat from the bottom of the chair.
  2. Image titled Reupholster a Dining Chair Seat Step 2
    Remove the existing upholstery. This is optional. Removing the existing fabric can be time-consuming, using a screwdriver and pliers to pull up each staple. Unless there is an odor or padding has escaped the cushion, it is not recommended that you remove the base layer of fabric on your seat. Recovering a bare seat pad is trickier and may require additional steps. If the batting or foam cushion is decaying, for example, you may need to replace it.
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    Measure the width, length, and depth of the seat. If the seat is rounded or curved, measure the longest length and the widest width. Add three times the depth to the length and the width, and that is the size of fabric you will need for a single seat. For example, if the seat is 10" x 12" x 2" (25cm x 30.5cm x 5cm) then you will need a piece of fabric that is 16" x 18" (40.5cm x 46cm).
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    Purchase the fabric. Look for upholstery fabric that will hold up to daily use. You can also use fabric from an old jacket, skirt, or tablecloth, as long as it's durable. If you use the chairs only occasionally, or if you like to recover to meet different needs year to year, a lighter, stretchy fabric can make your job easier.
  5. Image titled Reupholster a Dining Chair Seat Step 5
    Place the fabric wrong-side up on a flat surface. Place the seat on it, with the side you sit on against the wrong side of the fabric. Align the seat with the pattern on the fabric if necessary, especially if there are stripes.
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    Trim the fabric so that there is enough all the way around to fold over the edge. Usually, between two to three times the thickness of the seat will do. Save any leftover fabric for other projects (see Tips below).
  7. Image titled Reupholster a Dining Chair Seat Step 7
    Fold a flap of fabric along the straightest side and staple from the center working toward the corners. Make sure the fabric is smooth and tight, without bunches between your staples. See the Tips below for an alternative stapling technique.
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    Repeat with the opposite side of the seat. Pull firmly against the first row of staples to be sure you've gotten rid of any wrinkles or bunches. Again, start stapling at the center and spread outwards. When you encounter curves, fold the fabric, making sure all the bunching occurs under the seat and is not visible from the top. Secure the folds with staples. If you make a mistake, pull out the staples and start over.
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    Continue along the sides, still tugging firmly to make sure the fabric is tight over the top of the seat.
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    Pleat the corners.
    • Point the corner towards the center of the seat (along the diagonal).
    • Fold one side down so that the folded edge runs along the diagonal.
    • Fold the other side down in the same manner so that you now have a pleat along the diagonal. Staple.
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    Trim any excess cloth. Hammer down any staples that aren't flush.
  12. Image titled Reupholster a Dining Chair Seat Step 12
    Stain protect the seats. Set up some milk crates or other support structure outside and spray the seats according to package directions. Let them dry overnight in a protected but well-ventilated area. If you can put them in a porch or garage this will protect you from the vapors while also protecting your shiny new seats from dangerously well-fed birds.
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    Return seat to the chair and screw the base back in.
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  • As you're stapling, take care not to block the screw holes with lots of fabric or staples. You can go through one layer of fabric easily, but staples are a problem.
  • Old blankets that are no longer used can make a good batting for chair seats.
  • You may wish to line tape the edges to prevent fraying of the cloth.
  • A power stapler or staple gun is best for this task. A desk stapler won't be strong enough to penetrate the wood.
  • Alternative stapling approach: Start with a single staple in the middle of each left side (doing opposite sides first) and then add two staples (moving outward) on each side, rotating each time. This may help keep the stretch consistent across the edges of the chair, as inconsistent stretch is more likely to be a problem when stapling a whole side at once.
  • Buy extra fabric so you'll have some left over to make matching place mats, runners, or cushions to coordinate.
  • To really tidy the underside up cut a piece of calico or lining material the same size as the underside of the seat make a 1 inch hem all around and staple this over base of the chair, so no fraying or unsightly wood can be seen.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Fabric
  • Staple gun and staples
  • Fabric protector
  • Staple remover

Sources and Citations

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