Reupholstering Dining Room Chairs

How much fabric do I need to reupholster a chair

A chair as they looked before we started the project

Before we moved to our new house, we decided to replace most of our old furniture. As a result, the dining room set was one of those things we were missing.

After browsing a little (online and in the stores), we decided we didn’t want to pay full price for one, so we started our hunt for a used one. A while later, we found one that was in perfect condition, for a third of what it would cost to buy it new in the store. It was not necessarily our favorite, but we saw the potential of improving it with a little bit of love.

We brought it home, put it in its place and… yes, it needed the love. Our flooring is a dark brown hardwood, the dining room set has a very similar warm dark tobacco finish and leather looking brown seat coverings. We ended up with what I called “The Brown Corner”. This said, something had to be done to bring life to it… and the first thing we thought of was reupholstering the seat coverings.

Reupholstering dining room set chairs

“The Brown Corner”



We had never upholstered anything before, so when we got an invitation to volunteer for a reupholstering project (no previous experience was required), we got not only an opportunity to help but also the perfect opportunity to learn how to reupholster chairs.


The task ended up being surprisingly easy, and best of all, you won’t have to get a whole bunch of tools or materials to do it. All you need is:


Before going out and doing some shopping, we did some researching. We didn’t want to end up with a fabric that looked great but that would stain or get all damaged in a short period of time.

After reading and reading, we ended up deciding we would get outdoor fabric. This kind of fabric is more durable and undergoes a chemical treatment process during manufacturing that ensures resistance to stains and mildew. This is extremely convenient, considering these chairs could be exposed to food and beverage spills.

Another thing was finding out how much fabric we needed… Lots of websites have fabric estimators. We used the one at, which is under Ideas, Tips & Guides when you expand the Shop link and set your mouse in the Home Decor Fabric Section.

Then, we went to our local Joann store (which I learned about in the volunteering project), armed with lots of discount coupons. After debating, comparing, going aisle to aisle several times (indecision is one of my weaknesses, thank God for my patient husband), we finally made our decision and thanks to the coupons, we ended up paying 9 dollars per yard! Woohoo!

How much does it cost to reupholster a chair

The fabric we used for the chairs and the bench


There is one thing that is very important to keep in mind… Since the original leather looking covering in our chairs was in perfect condition, we decided we wouldn’t remove it, but instead reupholster on top of it. If you decide to do the same, determine whether the fabric you are going to use is thick or dark enough to completely hide the one underneath it. This was very important to us because the fabric we chose was considerably lighter than the one on the seats. We tested it in the store placing it on top of different dark fabrics to prevent a big disappointment.

Now we were ready to have some fun at home!


This step is really easy, depending on the type of chairs you may have. In our case, the chairs only had upholstered seats (the backrests are made of wood as you can see in the picture) and a few screws holding them in place.

We proceeded to grab the screwdriver to unscrew the seats. Once this was done, we lifted the staples that were holding the upholstery underlining in the back of the seat (not all chairs have it) by inserting a flat-blade screwdriver underneath them. Then, held them with the pliers and rolled them in order to take them out. Pulling them could be a little too dangerous.

DIY dining chair upholstery

Removing the screws that hold the seat to the chair



How to reupholster a chair

Using a screwdriver to lift the upholstery staples



Dining chair upholstery DIY

Twisting out the staples with the needle nose pliers


The seat also had a couple of staples in the center holding the underlining fabric. However, we did not remove these because we were planning on reusing it and it was not in the way of the new fabric’s coverage area.


This step is also a piece of cake. Just put the seat on top of the fabric (you can use a ruler and a sewing marking pencil to make it more precise), and cut it leaving approximately 6 inches of excess all around the seat (as you can see in the picture). This will actually depend on how thick your seats are, but that was enough for us.

How to reupholster a chair seat

One of the seats and the fabric ready for the staples


If your fabric has a pattern, pay attention to how you place it, making sure the pattern looks the way you want it (if it has stripes, and you want them to be in one direction or another, or if you care about symmetry make sure it looks symmetrical before stapling it). If, on the other hand, you are going for what I would call a “casual spontaneous” look, then ignore this suggestion. 🙂

It is not a huge deal if you put a few staples and then realize the fabric is not in the direction you want it. Just repeat step 2, rearrange the fabric and start stapling again.

Pay special attention to where the screw holes are located in the chair and keep those clear. If you put staples on top of them, then you won’t be able to screw the seat back to the chair.

Staple one side first, then pull the opposite side firmly. You want to avoid having wrinkles in the fabric. If it is not tight enough, then once people start sitting on the chairs, wrinkles will appear, which we think accelerates the “used and old” look.

How to reupholster a dining room chair

Stapling the new fabric


We also had to reupholster a bench, and it’s pretty much the same procedure. We just stapled the wider sides first and did the narrower sides last.

The corners are a little tricky. You need to find a way to fold the fabric in the back of the seats, without the folds showing on top. What worked for us was pulling the center and stapling it, and then pulling the left side to the right and vice versa, and stapling them. We recommend pulling the sides and taking a peek at the top of the seat before stapling them to make sure it looks smooth. Sometimes you have to pull it a little more or a little less in order to get it right.

After the fabric has been stapled all the way around the seat, cut the fabric excess and re-staple the upholstery underlining (if your chairs have it). Almost done!!!

Finally, screw the seats back to the chairs and you are all set! New looking chairs plus the satisfaction of having learned to do something you would have normally paid for.

DIY upholstering dining chair

Our “new” dining room set!


To accentuate even more the dining room set, a few days later, we added an area rug as well.

Reupholstered dining room set chairs

Then we added an area rug


We hope you enjoy your “new” chairs as much as we are enjoying ours!!!


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