If you've invested in a good set of dining room chairs, you probably expect them to last a lifetime. The reality is with daily use and changing styles, the fabric can end up stained, the padding squashed down, or the style just gets a bit dated.

But should you throw your dining chairs out and replace them? In most cases, simply reupholstering your chairs is going to give them a new lease of life that means you'll use them for years and years longer.

Not only will you be saving yourself some money by not buying a new set of chairs, but you'll also avoid contributing to the 22 million pieces of furniture that are sent to landfill each year. 

In this article, we cover everything you need to know about how to reupholster a dining chair.

What do you need to reupholster a chair?

There are a few key things you need to successfully reupholster your dining chairs:

  • A tool for removing staples
  • A screwdriver
  • Heavy-duty staple gun and staples
  • Replacement fabric suitable for upholstery
  • New fabric for underneath (non-woven and synthetic)
  • Seat foam (if you're replacing it)
  • Scissors
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Adhesive spray

How to reupholster a dining chair

Reupholstered dining chairs around a dining table.
Image: Pexels

Each chair is going to be slightly different but these are the key steps for upholstering a dining chair.

Step 1: Remove the seat

Start by turning your dining chair upside down and use a screwdriver to remove the screws that keep the seat attached to the chair. There are usually four screws, one in each corner that you need to take out. But make sure to keep hold of the screws as you'll need them when you reassemble the chair.

Step 2: Remove the fabric from the seat

Turn the seat pad over and you'll see a sheet of cloth that's stapled on the bottom. Carefully remove all the staples to get the fabric off the seat pad. You don't want to leave any staples behind as they might affect how the pad fits back into the chair once they're covered.

Once you've removed the fabric covering the bottom, you'll find more staples holding down the fabric that covers the top of the seat pad. Now you need to take all of these out as well. It will take some time and effort, but it's worthwhile if you do it properly.

Step 3: Remove the foam pads

Once the fabric is off the seat pads you need to remove the foam (but only if you're planning on replacing it). If it's not glued down then you can flip over the board before putting them back together so you don't have to staple into the same side.

Step 4: Prepare your fabric

The first thing to do with your new fabric is to wash it. This will allow it to shrink if it's going to and ensure that the colours won't run when you clean the fabric off in the future.

You can then use the old seat fabric as a template to cut out the pieces for reupholstering the dining chairs.

Step 5: Attach the fabric

Lay the fabric out and then place the board of the seat with the foam pad face down onto your fabric. Make sure it's squarely in the middle so that the fabric is even on all sides.

Along the straightest edge of the seat, start folding it over the board and use the staple gun to secure it. Once you've finished the first side, then do the side that's opposite to it next and keep the fabric stretched and straight. Pull the fabric as taut as you can so that it will push down the edges of the foam and give it a rounded corner.

Work on the final two sides simultaneously, working your way down the sides and keeping the fabric tight. Then fold over the corners neatly and secure with the nail gun.

Step 6: Cover the bottom of the seat 

Next, you need to attach the fabric over the bottom of the seat using the staple gun so that it hides all the edges of the upholstery fabric. 

Step 7: Put the seat back together

Once all the fabric is in place, put the seat pad back in the chair and screw it in place again. Then you just need to repeat the process to reupholster all of your dining chairs.

How much does it cost to reupholster a dining chair?

White dining chairs around a white dining table

The main costs involved in reupholstering a dining chair are the tools, like a screwdriver and staple gun and the fabric. By shopping around you can find affordable options for your fabric, or you can even reuse things like curtains or offcuts. 

Can you reupholster any dining chairs? 

Most dining chairs can be reupholstered, but some are more difficult than others. Any chair that has a wooden frame with a seat pad is straightforward to reupholster. However, if you have a velvet dining chair or a faux leather dining chair that is fabric all over then you may need a professional to reupholster them. 

Best fabric for reupholstering dining chairs

It's a good idea to try and use fabric that's the same weight as the fabric that you're replacing on your dining chairs. There are lots of different upholstery fabrics out there that will be suitable. 

Darker fabrics are also better if you're going to be using your dining chairs a lot or you have children that are going to spill food. 

If you want to use a patterned fabric, be aware that any lines can end up looking wonky if you don't reupholster carefully. If it's your first time reupholstering a dining chair it's a good idea to use a fabric that doesn't have a pattern with straight lines in it.

Should you replace the seat foam?

Even if the foam in your dining chair hasn't been flattened down, it might still be worthwhile replacing it. Some older foam can be very flammable and won’t comply with current fire safety regulations.

Can you just cover over the current fabric?

If you're looking for a quick and easy way to reupholster a dining chair then it is possible to just put an extra layer of fabric over the top of what's already there. However, it will make your chairs bulkier and the fabric might not fold around the corners very well. It'll also look messy underneath and will be harder to staple down the fabric.

When you've got the time, it is usually worthwhile removing the previous fabric and properly reupholstering your chair.
If your dining chair is beyond repair then it might be time to think about investing in some new ones. Furniturebox offers a wide range of dining chairs in different styles and colours, and they're all well designed and made to last for years.