What to know before getting reupholstery.


Pets, parties, coffee stains. Whatever’s worn out your couch, you can’t replace the fabric yourself. Here are your options, care of experts at Thumbtack

Step 1: Is reupholstery the answer?

If your furniture is saggy, worn or torn, reupholstering it with new fabric could give it a second life. But you can’t reupholster everything.

The best candidates for reupholstery are any pieces with sentimental value, timeless design or good long-term resale prospects. You may be more likely to reupholster furniture that has absorbed secondhand smoke or moisture (from being stored in a basement). That said, reupholstery can’t solve every problem, and it can get expensive. Sometimes it makes more sense to just buy a new piece.

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Step 2: See if deep cleaning is an option.

Some pieces may just need a good once-over with a professional steam cleaner. Having lightly soiled furniture cleaned may get it looking almost new. Upholstery cleaners often have expertise specific to cleaning upholstered furniture, so it’s a good idea to hire these specialists to clean antique or otherwise valuable pieces, like your dining room chairs or the armchair you perched on in your graduation photos.

Otherwise, you can put off reupholstery by fluffing and flipping your cushions regularly, and keeping your furniture out of direct sunlight. Try not to eat or drink on your couch. 

Step 3: Double check your furniture’s history.

An upholsterer will want to know where your furniture was stored for the past five to 10 years and where it came from in the first place. For armchair or sofa reupholstery, you have to know the weight of the piece. A heavier piece usually means a denser, higher-quality wood, so it should last longer. If a piece is already more than 10 years old and has held up well, it’s probably a good candidate for reupholstery.

Step 4: Get a reupholstery estimate and hire an upholsterer.  

Ask your reupholsterer if the project quote includes removing existing fabric — you generally don’t want to reupholster over existing fabric, because the top fabric can bunch up. Plus, if odors are part of the reason you need reupholstery, you won’t solve the problem you had in the first place.

Brace yourself for the price tag on upholstery fabric. It costs more than standard garment fabric because it’s made to hold up longer. Choose natural fibers if you can. Upholstery from cotton, linen or wool may be less likely to pill, which is when small balls form on the top of the fabric.

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Step 5: What if you like the shape of your piece, but not the color?

Reupholstery is an expensive fix if your piece is in good condition and you like the shape, but not the color. Before you replace the fabric, try buying new throw pillows or having custom pillow covers made. Adding decorative tacks (also called nailheads) to a piece can also update the look. An interior designer can give you some tips.

Step 6: If you can’t save it, let it go.

Sometimes re-covering your furniture won’t save it — like when your sofa has broken or bent springs. Other times, the cost of reupholstery could be as much as buying a new piece.

For furniture that isn’t well-made or doesn’t have sentimental value, it may be a better choice to say goodbye. If you can’t donate it, you can have a junk removal service haul it away for you.

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