Do you have an ugly wood dining room table? One that was a bargain at a garage sale or a family hand me down? Do you dream of having upholstered wood dining chairs?
Do you spend countless hours scrolling through Pinterest to find the perfect dining room table and chairs? And then, you see it, you stop scrolling and you daydream of how that table would look in your dining room.
I envisioned my table having a few upholstery chairs like this inspirational photo above from Pottery Barn. My dining room was too dark with all the wood that was in the small dining room area.
I kept telling myself that I could upholster 2 of the existing wood chairs and paint the rest. Painting the dining table was the easy part, the upholstery, not so much. I went back and forth on my decision to DIY upholstered wood dining chairs, because what if I failed, and reunion 2 of my chairs.
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I decided I would forget the whole DIY upholstery and bought some chairs similar to these from Wayfair. After I purchased them, brought them home, put them together and they sat looking so pretty in my dining room.
Now, I had the dilemma of having 10 dining room chairs because my table had 8 and now I just added 2 more and had no room for 10 chairs. What was I thinking?
Guess what happened, I changed my mind and decided I did not need the extra chairs and I would use what I have. Look at it, I did it, they turned out pretty good for my first attempt! Now let’s show you how I did it!
Here is a DIY card to make it easy for the steps to be in one place and you can print the card to have with you as you take on your upholstery project.
- Staple Gun
- Measuring Tape
- Make a cardboard template for the chair back. Place that template on 1/8 inch hardboard and use a jigsaw to cut out the shape. My chair backs had a curve to them so I needed the thinner hardboard so it would curve with the chair. If you have a straight back chair, use a thicker hardwood for the back. If you are lucky enough to have a solid back chair, omit this step.
- Cut out the foam. Place the hardboard back and chair seat on foam and trace. Cut the foam shapes using an electric knife or scissors.
- Attach the hardboard to the back of the chair using the appropriately sized screws for the thickness of your wood and chair.
- Using spray adhesive, attach the foam to the hardboard on the chair back.
- Layout the marks for tufting. If you have a flat back chair you can omit the tufting.
- Begin the tufting process.
- Staple front upholstery to the back of the chair. Carefully adjust the tufting on the front before securing the back. This is an important step.
- Place back fabric on top of the chair and place a thin cardboard strip on top of the fabric. Staple the cardboard and fabric in place. The cardboard creates a clean edge when flipping over.
- Staple flex-gripon to sides of chairs. The direction of the flex-grip is important, it needs to be placed on the open side facing out to the edges.
- Place batting on the back, pull down fabric and begin to secure the back fabric in flex grip.
- Trim off excess fabric and tuck into the flex-grip.
- Gently close the flex-grip with a hammer.
- Finish bottom edge by folding the fabric under itself to make a clean edge around the chair back.
- Using a button cover kit, make buttons and glue over the washers using E6000
- Upholster the seat cushion.
See blog post for details on tufting with power tools.
How to calculate fabric
I found this great post from the online fabric store, Calculating Fabric Yardage for your Project. They also share some upholstery charts with images of furniture with the yards needed for that type of furniture. It is a great resource that will help you to determine how much fabric you will need for your upholstery project.
My chair took slightly over 1 yard of fabric. This will vary based on the width of the fabric you choose.
How to Upholster Wood Chairs
Make a cardboard template for the chair back. Place that template on a 1/8 inch hardboard and use a jigsaw to cut out the shape. My chair backs had a curve to them so I needed the thinner hardboard so it would curve with the chair. If you have a straight-back chair, use thicker hardwood for the back. If you are lucky enough to have a solid back chair, omit this step.
Now cut out the foam and fabric. Cut the foam to the exact size of your template. Place the hardboard back and chair seat on foam and trace. Cut the foam shapes using an electric knife. I find using an electric knife is much easier than using hand scissors. This is the 2-inch foam that I prefer to use for the seat cushions. When cutting out the fabric, measure the width, and add the depth of the foam cushion. Also, add an extra 2 to 3 inches extra for wrap-around and tufting.
Example: My chair back measures 20w x 24h. I added 4 extra inches for foam and 3 extra for wrap and tufting. I cut a 27w x 31h piece of fabric for the front.
Attach the hardboard to the back of the chair using the appropriately sized screws for the thickness of your wood and chair.
Using spray adhesive, attached foam to hardboard on the chair back.
Layout the marks for tufting. Remember I said my chair back was curved, so I needed to tuft the chair in order to keep the fabric flat against the chair back. If you have a flat back chair you can omit the tufting.
The easiest way to lay out the tufting marks was to find the center horizontally and vertically. I measured and marked the tufting spots from the center lines(5 inches). I thought my chairs would look best with 5 rows. Your chair may be a different size so you will need to determine your measurements on your chair. Using scissors, cut an “X” over each tufting mark. The x is done so you can feel where to place your screw when tufting since you place batting and fabric over your marks. Place batting over the foam.
UPDATE: I recommend that you treat your fabric before adding it to your chairs. I used a fabric repellant on my chairs after they were done and I have a small rust spot on the back where the fabric tact must have been wet from the fabric spray. So AVOID the whole thing by treating your fabric before you upholster. I am just trying to save you the work of replacing the fabric later like I need to do. UGH!
Begin the tufting process. I use these 3/4 inch washers and 1-inch wood screws to do my tufting. Yes, you heard that right, washers and screws to do tufting! If you would like more detailed instructions on this tufting process, stop over to read my DIY tufted coffee table bench. I have the complete instructions for that post.
Since I did not have a solid back, I had to add a few wood pieces to the middle tufting row so those screws were secure. All but 3 screws went directly into the chair wood, so there is no going back now!
Staple front upholstery to the back of the chair. Please refer to this Tufted Coffee Table Bench, on how to carefully adjust the tufting on the front before securing the back. This is an important step.
Place back fabric on top of the chair and place a thin cardboard strip on top of the fabric. Staple the cardboard and fabric in place. The cardboard creates a clean edge when flipping over.
I made my own cardboard strip or you can purchase an upholstery tack strip.
Staple flex-grip on to sides of chairs. The direction of the flex-grip is important, it needs to be placed on the open side facing out to the edges. See the picture above, because I placed it incorrectly the first time and had to remove it and do it again. Learn from my mistakes.
Place batting on the back, pull down fabric, and begin to secure the back fabric in flex grip.
Before closing the flex grip, trim off excess fabric and tuck into the flex-grip.
Tip: I used an envelope opener to tuck the fabric into the flex grip before and after trimming the extra fabric.
Gently tap the flex-grip closed.
Finish bottom edge. I folded the fabric under itself to make a clean edge around the chair’s back.
Staple the fabric to the underside chairback.
Using a button cover kit, make buttons and glue over the washers using E6000. Again, click here for detailed tufting instructions. The benefit to gluing on the buttons covers, if one pops off, you just glue it back in place. With traditional tufting, if a button comes off, the tufting thread broke and that is not as easy as gluing on a button cover.
Would I do it again? Yes, if I already had the chairs. It was a difficult process so I would recommend tufting something else first like this DIY~ Tufted Coffee Table Bench(Opens in a new browser tab) first.
I am so pleased with how these tufted dining chairs turned out, they are not perfect as this was my first attempt with upholstering wood dining chairs.
Have you taken on a DIY project like this?
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