A Simple DIY Guide on How to Reupholster a Couch

A Simple DIY Guide on How to Reupholster a Couch

How To
By Alex Mikayelyan March 03, 2022

The upholstery of your furniture goes through tons of wear and tear over the years. What starts as a fine leather couch with its smooth, organic surface soon turns into a flaky, chipped, and cracked shadow of what it used to be. Gorgeous fabric furniture upholstery loses its tightness and the strings get pulled out one by one until you have big gaps in the surface. Then there are spills, some of which don’t wash off regardless of how many specialized cleaning products you make use of.

Your next solution is to replace the upholstery altogether and start fresh. Upholstery is meant to last 7 to 15 years depending on its quality, so replacing it is not a regular task for furniture maintenance. However, it is still important to know your way around upholstery and how to remove it or put it back. Refurbishing the couch on your own is going to be somewhat time-consuming, especially if you’re doing it for the entire furniture set. However, once you get a feel for it, you should have no trouble doing it again when the time comes for another upholstery replacement. 

Cost and Time Management of Couch Upholstery Recover

The cost of reupholstering a couch depends on what kind of material you’re working with, as well as the type of couch it is, and its size. Among these, the material is the biggest determining factor of the price to reupholster a couch. For example, the average cost to reupholster a leather couch can be anywhere between $4 to $5 per yard. Silk and velvet are significantly pricier, with the price per foot starting at $5 and going up to $500 if you’re using very high-quality material. The average cost to reupholster a couch with linen and cotton is $15 to $35. So as you can see, each material vastly differs in cost, so your first task should be to know your upholstery.

Replacing your couch’s upholstery is by no means a single weekend DIY project. It will take some time to properly recover each and every piece of your sofa, especially if this is the first time you undertake such a project. Altogether, it will take you up to a full day of work to reupholster a couch, so if you’re working on the weekdays, consider doing this project over the weekend. In fact, it may take you two weekends to reupholster the entire thing, so don’t plan on finishing this DIY project overnight. 

Step 1 - Measurements

Why Measurements Are Important When Recovering A Couch

Why Measurements Are Important When Recovering A Couch

A proper upholstery replacement should start with measurements. This is the key to successful reupholstery, as having the new upholstery measured too big or too small will make your task a lot harder. We will use a couch as an example of how to measure out the fabric. You will need to measure each part of the couch and mark it down separately.

For example, you can measure the outside and inside of the armrest, both sides of the backrest, the foot of the couch, as well as each cushion. Have all the dimensions separately marked and neatly divided into sections. Once you have all the numbers, add an extra 3 or 4 inches as this will be the part of the fabric that’s going to wrap around. Also, the extra inches give you more room to work with when you’re installing the new upholstery. Better have the cut size be a little too long than having it short and unwieldy. 

Step 2 - Choose the New Upholstery

How Would You Choose the Best Material for Your Couch Upholstery?

How Would You Choose the Best Material for Your Couch Upholstery?

Once you have all the measurements of your couch, it’s now time to choose what you want the new upholstery to look like. As far as material is concerned, you have a wide range of options, from leather, wool, and cotton, to more regal and luxury materials, such as velvet or silk. Choosing new upholstery is perfect during room renovations as you want the furniture to complement the colors and design features of your new interior. 

Step 3 - Pull Out the Old Upholstery

How to Pull Off Upholstery Without Damaging It?

How to Pull Off Upholstery Without Damaging It?

Before pulling out the old upholstery, it’s important to understand the bits and pieces of your couch. Turn it over on its back to look at the underside as well, since this will give you a much better idea of what you’ll be working with. Also, pay attention to how the upholstery adheres to the couch itself. Look where all the staples are. This should give you a general sense of where you’ll need to staple when reupholstering the furniture.

Start by flipping the couch on its back and removing the cambric, which is the little fabric underneath used for collecting all the dust which falls out of your couch cushions, keeping them from falling onto the floor. Use pliers to pull out the staples and remove the cambric as well as the upholstery that is stapled to the underside of the couch footing.

Slowly work your way up as you remove each piece of upholstery. Remove one piece of upholstery at a time as removing two or more could risk damaging them. As you take out the staples use a marker or pencil to mark where the lines of staples were. This way when you replace the upholstery, you won’t have to second guess where the staples need to go. As you are doing this, you should also remove the couch batting, which is the cushion that is under the upholstery which gives the couch its softness. Once you remove the batting all you should be left with is the wooden couch frame underneath. 

Step 4 - A Little Cleanup

After years and years of use, your couch is going to have a ton of dust flying through it. Whether it’s the dust from the air, the cushions, or the batting, a ton of little particles are going to be set free once you remove the upholstery. This is why it is highly recommended to replace upholstery outside or in your garage where the dust can be easily aired out. Once you have removed all the old upholstery and are left with the wooden frame of the couch, use a vacuum to blow away as much of the dust as possible.

Turn on the reverse flow setting on the vacuum cleaner. This way you’re not collecting the dust but rather blowing it away. Give the couch frame a thorough dusting, especially in areas close to the cushions or cambric. This is where a lot of dust settles so you’re bound to find a lot of it there. Having the couch frame bare also gives you the perfect opportunity to check how sturdy it is. If a few joints in the frame are loose, then grab a rubber mallet and give them a few whacks to get them back into place. This way not only are you replacing the upholstery but also giving your couch some extra maintenance. 

Step 5 - Attaching New Upholstery

How to Attach New Upholstery to Make It Smooth and Even

How to Attach New Upholstery to Make It Smooth and Even

Re-cover the couch starting with the armrests. Staple the new upholstery to one side of the armrests with the batting under it, then pull tightly as you staple the other sides. This way the fabric is smoothly attached to the couch frame without any of those annoying bumps and ridges. With each couple of staples let go of the upholstery to see how tight it is on its own. If you notice a little bump, remove one of the staples, pull it tightly, and staple it one more to see if the bump disappears. Do this with the armrests, then move on to the backrest, footing, and finish off by reupholstering the couch cushions

Step 6 - Staple the Cambric

The final piece you should attach to your newly-upholstered couch is the cambric dust collector to the bottom of your couch. The same steps should be used as with the upholstery: staple one side of the fabric to the couch and pull it down so it’s tight. Once it is smooth, staple the other sides, making sure there are no bumps along the way. 

Step 7 - Check for Any Bumps

What Would You Do After Upholstering Couch?

What Would You Do After Upholstering Couch?

With the upholstery now stapled onto the frame, check for any bumps in the fabric. If you find one that is out of the line of sight, be it between the armrest and the seat cushions, you don’t have to fix it. However, it is still advised to make the upholstery as tight as possible to keep it from being too loose. Once you’ve checked that the upholstery is tightly stuck to the couch frame, the batting, and the cushions, all that’s left is to take your first seat on the newly recovered couch.


Written by
Alex Mikayelyan

Written by Alex Mikayelyan