DIY: Reupholster a Chair

As hinted in a previous post, I got this chair for free from a woman on Facebook Marketplace who was clearing out her office space. It had a loose arm that needed mending, squeaky springs that needed oiled, and small casters on all the feet that had to be removed before I could begin the process of reupholstering the chair. Since doing another chair last weekend and working out the process, I felt confident that I could take this project on and potentially flip it for sale – but now that it’s finished I don’t know if I’ll be willing to part with it.

Here’s a more detailed How-To Guide, complete with pictures that I took throughout the process. Giving some TLC to an antique chair can be time consuming, but overall the finished product gives new life to something that otherwise might have been tossed to the curb.


Step 1: Remove the fabric
To do this, you’ll need a box cutter to make the incision that starts it all off, a flat-head screwdriver, and a pair of pliers to remove staples, or small nails that held it in place under the original trim.

Step 2: Remove the Casters
Removing antique casters can be intimidating, as you don’t want to do more damage to the legs by applying too much force. After doing some research, I came across this article on how to remove antique furniture casters. I used a pair of channel lock pliers and genty gripped them, before wiggling until they pulled out. One of the wheels had nails driven in from the bottom to hold it to the leg, which took more time to remove, but by lightly tapping a hammer against a screwdriver wedged inside, we were able to slide it directly off.

Step 3: Fix those squeaky springs!
There are more blogs like this one from The Hunker on how to fix squeaky springs in reupholstered chairs, which I used for general ideas. I bought a can of WD40 from Home Depot and (wearing protective eye gear and a mask because THOSE FUMES) I turned the chair upside down and sprayed the springs through the support bands. This isn’t an exact science, and if I had continued having severe squeaking, I would have removed the bands altogether and gone through the springs in more detail. However, after spraying around and testing the chair some more, I heard less and less of the metallic squeak. The only creaking I hear now is from the wooden frame, which I’m willing to live with because, hey, this chair is probably at least 50 years old.


Step 4: Fix the Loose Arm or any other loose parts
I don’t have a picture for this section, but I took some wood glue and applied it in the gap on the arm where the old glue had worn off where the dowel pin was still intact. Once I felt I had a sufficient amount (it doesn’t take much, as it will squeeze out of the gap when you clamp it) I tightened a clamp and let it dry for several hours, since I wanted to be sure it had set.

When I removed one of the casters I also had a corner of a leg come loose, so I used the same method to mend that before moving on.

Step 5: Painting (and distressing) the wood
I decided to use vaseline to distress the wood this time, as the detail on the frame was too fine for my sander. First, I painted everything in a very light and imperfect coat of white primer. The reason to let it be imperfect is that little sections of it will be visible when you’re done, and it adds to the ambiance for it to not look “too perfect.”
Then I took vaseline and applied it sporadically around the frame, paying special attention the the detail in the wood. Don’t be afraid to use thick globs. Vaseline repels paint, so you want to be sure that enough will be on to look how you want it to.

Once the vaseline is applied, paint a coat of the color you choose. I chose a dark grey to complement the fabric. You’ll notice how it doesn’t stick to areas where you’ve applied vaseline. Simply take an old (clean) rag to help wipe off some of the excess and touch up as you see fit.

Step 6: Add new foam to the back.
The original chair used a thick batting fabric and a horse hair pad in the back, but I decided to replace both of these as it was pretty old. I used this upholstery foam from amazon for the back, and then topped it off with a thin layer of batting and my fabric. Taking a stapler, I pinned this all in as close to the edge of the trim section as possible, stapling close together so that there wouldn’t be any gaps.

Once you travel all the way around with your stapler, it will look a ‘lil something like this:

I repeated the process on the back (without the foam but with more batting as there was a wooden support through the middle) and then used my spring form precision scissors from Michaels to trim off the excess.

Step 7: Repeat this process on the bottom!

I used a double layer of batting and the fabric for the bottom section, cutting small slits next to each arm support so that it could be tucked in without wrinkling the fabric, and stapling all around. Then you trim off, just like the above step.


Step 8: Trim!

I use a classic hot glue gun to apply the trim, tracing over the staples so that it covers all the sharp bits. Do this in short sections, as the glue dries quickly and you want to make sure you’re not rushing to get the trim on.

I did a little detailing around the arms with the trim to hide some imperfections, and I love the detail:

Overall I’m in love with the finished product! Who needs new furniture when you can give a facelift to the furniture that you already own or have readily available!

Feel inspired to try your own upholstery project? Let me know how you like it in the comments below!

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