Do you want to upholster something and just don’t know where to start? Here’s the first tutorial in a step-by-step series on upholstering wooden dining chairs.
Today I’m finally going to tackle phase 1 of my dining chairs upholstery project! Yippie!!
I’ve got a long way to go before I can check the finished chairs off my to-do list, but at least I can say that every chair has been stripped to it’s birthday suit and is ready for a makeover.
Removing the old upholstery on these chairs was quite the project. In fact, it was such an ordeal that I wished on multiple occasions that I had never bought the table and chairs in the first place. But I know it was such a great deal, and it’s going to look so freaking fab once I’m finally done with all of it. I’ve already finished the table, and now the chairs are almost half-finished.
Shall we get down to it then?
Disclaimer: Upholstering is very specific to each individual project, so just because I did it this way does not mean it’s the only right way or that you have to follow these exact steps when tackling your own chairs. Also, I have never done this before, so I may not have even done it the right way. Just sayin’. I’m just here to share my experience, not to claim I’m an expert or anything.
Note: These dining chairs have springs in the seat instead of a wooden seat that can easily be removed. Here’s how to remove the upholstery and all the springs as well.
To begin the process of removing the upholstery from a dining chair, let’s start on the easiest part; the back of the chair. First you have to get rid of the welt cord. It’s usually just glued on, so get a screwdriver or something to pry under it and rip that crap off.
Next you are going to need to take the fabric or leather off. I tackled TEN chairs, so trust me when I say cutting the leather off first is the easiest way to go. Just cut around the inside edge of the leather, then peel the leather off. This will leave a strip of nails that will need to be removed in a minute.
Okay so now remove the last little strip of leather that is held on with nails. Don’t underestimate these little things though. They are mean and deadly! You will probably get huge blisters on your hands from all the prying you will do to get these buggers out.
See! Blisters!! I removed the upholstery over several weeks. When the blister finally healed, I ended up getting a 2nd, then a 3rd one.
Once you get all the nails out, you need to take the rest of the batting and innards stuff off the back of the chair.
More nail prying time! Yay! At least these nails are half the size of those big honkin’ ones that wanted to kill me. Just get your screwdriver up under there and pry the back piece of leather off the chair.
You should be sweating now. And to think, you aren’t even half finished yet. Seriously. This is loads of fun. Trust me. I did TEN chairs.
Okay, so now remove that welt cord again from the seat of the chair. Just pull it off and throw it right in the trash.
And now, again, like you did above, cut the leather around the entire perimeter and remove it. You are welcome to try to remove the leather without cutting it first. No seriously. Try. I dare you. You have been forewarned though.
Now the real fun begins. Start peeling back all the layers off stuff inside your chair. There should be a few layers, and the deeper you dig, the more disgusting it gets. Good times.
That black stuffing part is the best. It gets everywhere and is just so completely loaded with dust. I probably got lung cancer from taking these chairs apart. While you are removing the black stuffing part that feels like horse hair (it may be, who knows!), it is sewn into the next layer under it, so you will need to locate the jute holding it down and snip it as you go.
If you are going to remove your edge roll (like I did), now is as good a time as any to take it off. I was going to keep it, but it was so gross that I decided to just remove it as well.
More layers. They never end, people. Never.
Cut the jute holding the next layer and start peeling all the burlap off.
Springs! We are finally to the springs. It’s only been more than an hour by this point. But wait. Check out the layer of grime and dirt on these things.
Barf. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth after looking at that.
Go get yourself a good pair of scissors and cut all the jute holding all the springs together. And once you cut all the jute (twine?!), remove the springs. Grab a screwdriver or something and pry out all those huge staples that were holding the jute.
Now it’s time to flip the chair over and give it a good beating. Rip that black fabric stuff off the bottom and start prying out even more huge nails to free up the jute webbing.
The nails really are as huge and scary as they look.
Now spend another 45 minutes of your life that you will never get back removing the remainder of nails and staples covering the chair from head-to-toe. There are most definitely real-for-real upholstery tools you can buy to do a better job, but I’m cheap so I just toughed it out with a flat-head screwdriver and a good pair of needle-nose pliers.
After TWO FREAKING HOURS you will finish ONE chair, & you will have a pile of trash that looks about like this:
Now times that by ten and that is what I had to endure. Did you get that?! I spent about 20 hours total taking apart the 10 chairs. It was painful. It was brutal. And I’m so happy I’m done.
Fortunately I do have this adorable boy that was more than willing to help out; but only if he was allowed to use a screwdriver and the knife cutter thing-a-ma-jig. Boys. He was a great helper too!
Here’s what our piano room looked like mid-chaos. I am totally finished with the upholstery removal now though. This was a few months ago.
Unfortunately the chairs now look like they were in the middle of a battle field. I’m not worried though. The new upholstery should cover all the previous nail damage just fine.
Here are six of the 10 chairs, ready and waiting for phase 2: paint! And then phase 3: new upholstery!! The other 4 chairs I drug out of the room for the photo, but trust me, all 10 are finished.
I haven’t even started phase 2 or 3 yet, so it may be awhile before I make another chair update. Let’s hope not though. I want these things done!
And for those that missed it, here’s the finished table and the how-to tutorial for stripping and staining:
Have a great day!! Come back tonight because I’ve got an exciting giveaway! I’ll give you a hint: It’s the brand new model, cuts vinyl and everything else under the sun, and rhymes with Pillowette Famio.