Sitting Pretty- How to Reupholster Dining Room Chairs

This weekend is the time change, where we “fall back” and supposedly gain an hour. (Or maybe some of us have just been running an hour short since spring, and this will finally put us right.)  If you are wondering how to spend your extra hour, might I suggest a little one-hour project to reupholster your dining room chair seat covers? Now, that might sound a bit fancy, so how about we just say we are going to recover dining chairs? Sounds less intimidating, right?

How to Reuphoster Dining Room Chair Seat Covers

My chairs were last recovered about 15 years ago, well before kids, so it’s definitely past time. Honestly, they are just gross. We eat in our dining room for every meal, so the chairs certainly get used, by all members of the family, even the furry ones.

stains on chair covers

I’ve had the fabric for quite a while now, but I wasn’t sure if it might be a bit too modern against a traditional oak table. But it’s gotten to the point where anything would look better than the stains that are there now! Spoiler alert: I ended up loving the recovered dining chairs.

stains on dining chairs

If you’ve never recovered dining chairs before, this is definitely a beginner project that you can take on with confidence! All you need are a few simple tools:

  • pliers
  • flathead screwdriver (for prying staples)
  • Drill, or you can make do with a screwdriver
  • Heavy duty stapler and staples
  • Scissors

tools needed to reupholster dining chairs

How to Reupholster Dining Chair Seat Covers

Step 1 Turn chair over

Turn your chair over to get to the screws holding the seat cushion to the frame. Unscrew the old seat cushion.

unscrew dining room chair cushion to reupholster


Step 2 Inspect the seat cushion

How are they put together. My cushions have already been recovered twice over the original gold velour cover, and all three layers are still  there. dining room chair cover previously reupholstered

Step 3 Remove at least the top fabric layer of the upholstered chair

I decided to leave the gold and blue layers attached, and remove the top white layer. This makes it easy because I can use that layer as a pattern, and I didn’t have to mess with the foam. You can see how I handled a chair seat recovering project where I did have to replace the foam. Removing the layer is where you need the pliers.

use pliers to remove and reupholster chair cover


Step 4- Cut Replacement Fabric for Upholstered Chair

I cut one pattern, then double checked that there is enough fabric to attach it with about two inches of fabric on each side pulled all around the underside of the cushion.

This is a really, really good time to flip your cushion over, lay the cut fabric on it, and double check that the pattern is placed where you want it. Look for straight lines and any designs that you want centered. And make sure you are using the “right” side of the fabric. Sometimes it’s surprisingly hard to tell.

use the right side to reupholster chair covers

Then I cut the other 5 patterns. Hint: many seat cushions are going to be a trapezoid shape, not a square.


Step 5 Apply Protector Before Attaching Fabric to Dinging Room Chair

Then I took the patterns outside and sprayed an entire can of Scotchgard fabric protector (affiliate link) on them. You can get this at Target and just about any grocery store in the cleaning aisle, and the Amazon link above. Keep spraying light coats on each chair seat cover, and then let them dry. This will make the fabric resistant to spills. There is no better place in my house for this kind of protection. By the way, be sure to do this outside, because the overspray will get on everything nearby. It dries almost immediately. I used the entire can to cover 6 chair seats.

Scotchgard dining chir covers when recovering

Step 6- Position the Fabric on Dining Room Chair Seats

Start by making sure you have the right side of the fabric facing outward. Staple the back of the cushion first, where the chair back will meet the cushion. You don’t have to worry about tightening the fabric here. Just make sure it is straight. And don’t staple all the way to the corners. Leave about 2-3 inches unstapled on each corner. Bonus points if you can get the little people in the action. She’s too young to use the staple gun, but she was willing to use the lint brush to clean off the cushion.

starting point for recovering dining chair cushion


Step 7- Staple fabric to dining room chair seats

Just a word about the staple gun. These heavy duty staplers take some muscle to use. I’m kind of a little person, and so I have to use my other hand and all my body weight to push down on the head of the stapler in order to get a well-seated staple. If your staples don’t go all the way in, pull them out with pliers, and try again. The one on the left looks good. The one on the right got pulled and redone.

staples hold the new dining chair covers

It’s lovely feeling to see a neat row of staples.

staples when reupholstering dining chair seats

Then staple one of the sides, starting from the back of the cushion. Here again, make sure it is straight, and there’s still enough fabric on the two unfinished sides. No need to worry about tightening it just yet.

second side of reupholstered seat cushion

Then move to the opposite side. (You’ll leave the front of the cushion for last.) Here is where you’ll want to start compressing the cushion as you work, pulling the fabric as tight as you can get it. Start from the edge that is already stapled, and work towards the front. This eliminates wrinkles, and makes your job look professional.

Finally, work on the front. Pull the fabric as tight as possible, leaving on the cushion to compress the foam, and place one staple in the middle. Then work outward on each side from there.

front side of reupholstered seat cushion


Step 8- Secure the Corners to the Reupholstered Dining Room Chair

Now it’s time to work on the corners.

corner of reupholstered dining chair seat cushion

Use one hand to form the fabric into a little “goblet,” and neatly trim the pointy part off. You don’t want this fabric covering where you’ll be screwing the chair back into the frame.

fold dining chair seat cushion corner

trim dining chair seat cushion corner

Once trimmed, you should be able to flatten the goblet symmetrically, so there are only two extra layers of fabric to staple down. Lean into it, and make sure your staples are all the way in.

finished recovered dining chair seat cover corner

Step 9- Reattach the Re-covered Seat to the Dining Room Chair

Wonderful! Almost done. Take your recovered seat cushion back to the dining chair frame and carefully screw it back in, trying to hit the same holes that the screw fit in before you removed it.

reassemble reupholstered seat chair cushion

Work on one chair at a time. Take the cushion off, recover the cushion, and then reattach it. That way each cushion will definitely fit the frame.

Admire your clean, refreshed dining room!

reupholstered dining chair seat cushions

reupholstered dining chair seat cushions

And then explain to the kiddos how they should do their part, use their napkin, and clean up spills as soon as they happen.

finished reupholstered dining chair seat cushion

Everyone is enjoying the new look. I even got a “whoa” from the kiddos when they came in the room. They liked the new look, which is good, because I did, too!

enjoying reupholstered dining chair seat cushion

So, not a ton of work or expense, and something that you can definitely do with your #ExtraHour this weekend. Have fun with it, and send me a picture if you do!

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Karen

    Have you tried using a “forward action” stapler instead? The lever faces the front of the stapler so when you put your weight on it you’re right over the staple instead of at the back end of the stapler. It makes it a lot easier to staple thru fabric, into hard wood, etc.

    1. Darla

      Haven’t heard of this. Good to know! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Margaret Hadfield

    Really good detailed instructions, thank you! Good job.🤗

    1. Darla

      Hope they give you a leg up on your project. Enjoy!

  3. Barb

    I love the fabric you chose! Thanks so much for the detailed instructions. I have two chairs to reupholster and I think will be super easy. I have a little bistro set and I’m so excited to get started. I’m also going to paint the metal back and legs.

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