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What Is Furniture Reupholstery?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Furniture reupholstery is the refinishing of old or damaged chairs, sofas and chaises. Depending on the condition of the furniture pieces, just the outer fabric may need replacing, or the structure itself may require repairs, regluing, rewebbing and/or repadding. Furniture reupholstery is not the same as simply slipcovering sofas or chairs by adding a new cover over top of the original upholstery. Rather, a knowledge of sewing techniques such as to create even edging around cushions is necessary as new materials are typically added to replace rather than cover old ones. Professional furniture reupholsterers make their living restoring, repairing, refinishing and renovating old and damaged seating pieces.

If an antique furniture piece is to be restored, a reupholsterer will look for fabric in a design and color to suit the time period of the seating. He or she will replace worn out springs or webbing to make the piece feel new again. Webbing is the interwoven pattern of thin bands of strong material placed at equal intervals across a couch or chair frame. Webbed lawn chairs are a good example of this, although the type of material used for couches is usually stronger. Springs are commonly used to replace the original ones if the piece is old, as they eventually wear out, much like boxsprings in mattresses.

Another common material used during furniture reupholstery is padding. Either foam or loose padding is added to make upholstered furniture more comfortable. Especially if the furniture became wet, the padding may have been ruined and would need replacing during the furniture reupholstering process. If parts of the wood frame of a chair or sofa have become unglued over time, furniture reupholsterers will repair these by regluing them.

In some cases, such as on damaged cane back dining chairs, padding and fabric may be added to cover the damage if a repair isn't possible or necessary for the strength of the furniture piece. In this way, reupholstering isn't always simply restoring, but may be more like re-creating a piece of furniture. Sometimes, the fabric used in furniture reupholstery is similar in color or pattern to the original, while other times it can be radically different. Many upholsterers will add items for clients such as throw pillows in a matching or coordinating fabric when they reupholster a sofa.

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