My dining room chairs got a long overdue foam and fabric update. They are hand me downs from my parents…that I got 13 years ago. They were mismatched from various periods of my parents recovering them. They are over 30 years old. One still had the original fabric (a 70s flashback vinyl) and all probably had the original foam. You all probably have chair like this. Ones that you love, but are uncomfy because the foam is worn out. They are ugly because your cats use them as a scratching post. You know the chairs I’m talking about. I was overjoyed to get the chance to give these chairs a much needed update, using Cushion Foam, Project Foam and Quilt Batting from Fairfield World. Unlike a normal reupholstering tutorial, I’m going to show you how to replace that worn out foam too!
SKILL LEVEL: Intermediate – You need to be confident with your staple gun skills
TIME: 2-3 hours per chair depending on how fast you work. It’s a great weekend project!
- Cushion Foam – There are a lot of sizes and depths to chose from. Pick one that fits your chair and desired thickness. I used one for each chair, for a total of 4.
- Project Foam – I found that one roll covered 1.5 chairs, based on my chair size. This will vary for you.
- Quilt batting
- Upholstery fabric – You need enough to cover and overlap the edges of your chair. Always buy more than you need, just in case you make a major mistake. Be aware of any naps, directions, and patterns of fabric. If you have cats or kids, choose a durable fabric that will hold up to regular use. I used a low pile micro wale corduroy in a black tweed coloration.
- Spray Adhesive – I like Alene’s Fast Grab Tacky Spray
- A staple gun – I like my Craftsman Easyfire Staple Gun
- 1/2″ staples – The Easyfire takes narrow crown staples
- Hammer – Helpful for any staples that don’t lay flat
- A flat and phillips head screwdriver – I have a reversible screwdriver, so I have both kinds in one tool
- Pliers – To pull any stubborn staples out
- A ruler – I like using my Dritz clear quilting ruler
- Chalk, a marker, or a pencil – To mark measurements onto the foam, batting, and fabric
- A plastic table cloth – This is a messy project, so to protect your floor from spray adhesive and your foam from any stray hair or dirt, you need a barrier. I bought mine at Dollar Tree
1) Using my reversible screwdriver, I unscrewed the chair bottom and back from the chair frame. Put those screws in a safe place, as you will need them again to put the chair back together later.
2) Using the flat screwdriver side, I pried all the staples from the chair. Since it’s upholstered in layers, there were layers of staples. Take your time and make sure to remove all of them that are holding the fabric, batting, and foam on. If there are any stubborn staples, use the pliers to yank those staples out. Dispose of all the old staples.
3) Peel the old fabric off the bottom and back. If your chair is like mine, the foam isn’t glued on and will easily peel off. You should be left with the basic structural pieces of the chair. For me that was a piece of MDF for the seat and a curved frame with matboard for the back…not sure if that was original or something my dad DIYed years ago. Anyway, obviously that was holding up well enough for a few decades.
4) Spread your table cloth on the floor.
5) Time to add new foam! For the bottom, I discovered that I’d ordered square and not rectangle foam, though in the end this worked out ok, as the exact size wasn’t available. On the MDF top (staple mark free), I sprayed a thick layer of Alene’s Fast Grab Tacky Spray. I centered a cushion foam square onto the seat, and pressed hard to adhere it. Set the seat aside while we move onto the chair back.
6) For the chair backing, lay it onto the Project Foam. Flip it forward, so you know how much foam you need to cover the front, top, and back. Use a ruler and marker to draw the rectangle sized to your chair back. Using the scissors, cut out the rectangle. This should be easy to do, as the Project Foam isn’t super thick like the Cushion Foam. It’s ok if the cuts are a little wonky and the foam is a little bigger than the chair back, as this will be hidden when it’s wrapped with batting and fabric later.
7) Spray adhesive on the back, top, and front of the chair back. Quickly wrap the foam rectangle around the chair back, and press firmly. You can shift the foam a bit if needed. The foam will stick best while the adhesive is freshly applied, and will stay stuck in place.
8) Just like with measuring the foam for the backing, lay the chair back onto a double layer of batting. However for this rectangle, you want the sides and bottom to overlap a little. Use the ruler and marker to measure out the rectangle if needed. Use the scissors to cut it out. It will be stretched later, so don’t fret too much about the size. A little small can be stretched to fit snuggly, and too big can be stretched with excess cut off. You can save the scraps for small projects.
9) Overlap the batting onto the bottom of the chair backing. Staple it into place, with the staples about 2 inches apart. Start in the center, and work your way out, adjusting the batting as needed. If you get any wonky staple, you can pull them out with the pliers. If any go straight, but not flush (flat to the chair), you can use the hammer to flat them.
10) Wrap the batting tight over the back, top, and front, overlapping the bottom again. Pull the batting tightly, so it molds to the shape of the chair backing. Mine is curved. Work from the center out. Make sure to avoid stapling into the staples from the previous layer. Cut away any excess batting along the bottom, with the scissors.
11) Do the same thing for the sides. Folding the ends over flat and cutting away any extra batting or excess bulk. Where the screw holes are, cut the batting away with scissors. This will make screwing the back onto the frame much easier later. Set the chair back aside.
12) I found that for my chair seat, that the thickness of the project foam perfectly filled the gaps from the cushion foam’s size. Similar to the chair back, I measured out a piece of Project Foam that fit across the Cushion foam, and down the sides to sit flush with the wood. I used scissors to cut the project foam to the needed size. Be careful not to cut into the cushion foam.
13) I laid my chair seat onto a double layer of batting. To measure the needed size, I pulled the batting up on each side until it overlapped the back about 2 inches. Remember, any excess can be easily cut away later. If needed, use a ruler and marker to draw the rectangle of batting. Use scissors to cut it out.
14) Starting with one side, attach the batting to the back with staples, about 2 inches apart, working from the center out. Leave the corners alone for now. Stretch the batting over the opposite side. Staple the batting smoothly into place along that side, to the back. Repeat the same thing with the remaining two sides, making sure the batting it tight and smooth. Cut away any excess batting, especially where the screw holes are.
15) There are various ways to wrap corners, but this is the way I chose. Complete one corner at a time. Stretch the corner of the batting up and over the backing, making sure it’s smooth. Add one staple to secure it.
16) Pleat one side of the corner, folding in and smoothing the excess fabric. Use one or two staples to secure it. Repeat for the other side of the corner. Cut away any excess batting.
Repeat Steps 15 & 16 for the other 3 corners.
17) My corduroy fabric has a directional nap and wail to it, so I had to keep that in mind when choosing how it will go onto the seat and back. Like you did to measure the batting, lay the seat onto the wrong side of the fabric and mark a measurement where the fabric will overlap the seat back by a few inches. Since my fabric is dark, I used white chalk to mark the fabric measurements. Again any excess can be cut off later.
18) Pull the fabric up along the back of one side. Secure the fabric with staples about 1 inch apart, working from the center out. If your fabric has a visible direction, keep this in mind while stapling the fabric. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to pull the fabric tight and smooth. Repeat on the other two sides. Leave all of the corners free.
19) Work one corner at a time. Pull the corner of the fabric up and over the backing, smooth and tightly. Secure with a couple staples. Pleat one corner side, cutting way excess fabric if needed. Secure with several closely places staples. Repeat with the other corner side. Remember, no one is going to look at the bottom of the chair. While the stapling doesn’t need to be super neat, it does need to be very secure. Repeat for the other 3 corners.
20) Cut away any excess fabric, making sure the screw holes don’t have any fabric overlapping them. Sit the set on the chair frame. We’ll get back to it in a few steps.
21) For the chair back, cut a piece of fabric just like you did for the backing, plus a little extra fabric to fold in the raw edges. Use the chalk and ruler to help mark this rectangle.
22) Staple one long side of fabric to the bottom of the chair back, working from the center out.
23) Wrap the fabric tightly around the back, smoothing it out. Fold in the edge of the fabric. Staple it securely, working from the center out, adjusting the fabric as needed. Leave the corners free.
24) Wrap the sides the same way, making sure to cut away the fabric where it would overlap the screw holes and the 2nd edge is folded over the 1st one. Don’t worry about this fraying, as the chair frame will cover it later. Repeat for the other side.
25) For the top corners, I folded them into triangles, stapling them down along the sides. Cut away excess fabric bulk if needed, before stapling.
26) For the bottom corners, I folded those into triangles and stapled them to the bottom. You can see that in the photo for step 23.
27) Line the seat bottom up with the chair frame and screw holes. Carefully sit on the chair, to squish it down into place. Using the screwdriver and screws, secure the chair seat back onto the frame.
28) My chair back is angled, so it was a bit tricky to line back up to the screw holes, but I managed with a little wiggling to precisely line up the holes. Using the screwdriver and screws, secure the chair back onto the chair frame.
The foam should hold up to regular use for about 5-8 years, but maybe longer. I’m hoping this fabric holds up to my cat’s scratching abuse. You want to choose a fabric made for upholstery, for the most durability. These will be thicker than your normal craft and clothing fabrics. They are available in many prices, colors, textures, and patterns. Choose ones that fit your style, aren’t trendy, and will coordinate with your decor. If your chair frame needs a little love, like cleaning, paint or restaining, tackle that while the seat and backing are off. As you can see, the chairs match my wood floors. They do need some cleaning though, which can be easily done with some wood cleaner and a rag or paper towel. Whatever you choose to makeover, have fun with it! – Crafty Lady Abby
One thought on “DIY Chair Foam and Fabric Update”
Thanks for a great tutorial!