Amateur Reupholstery: Couch

Amateur Reupholstery: Couch

Earlier this year, I moved across the country, taking with me only what I could fit in my car. I lived a week without an apartment and another week without any furniture.  Then, I bought a bed.  Well, a mattress and box spring.  I wasn't in any rush to buy furniture, especially not furniture that I couldn't fit into my car.  This made me the office charity case.  A coworker gave me a kitchen table and chairs. Then, another coworker found a couch on the side of the road in a nice neighbourhood.  He smelled it and checked for stains, then picked it up and put it in his pickup truck.  That night, he and I carried the couch up the stairs to my apartment.   


created at: 03/28/2013
 It was a solidly constructed couch.  There were a few cat scratch marks on the sides of the upholstery, but otherwise, it was in decent condition.  I just couldn't shake the idea that bugs or animals had crawled all over the couch while it sat out on the road.  So, I undertook a plan to reupholster it.

I had no experience with reupholstery and very few tools.  I read a few articles online, but they weren't very helpful.  All of the upholstery books at the library were out.  However, I have a bit of a "just do it" attitude when it comes to crafty things, so I jumped right in.  These are the basic steps.  Warning: This was a lot of work, and physically tiring at times.  It took me almost two months to finish, but mostly because I was busy working and doing other things. 

1. I started pulling parts of the upholstery off the couch, wherever I could grab on.  I pulled off the dust ruffle at the bottom.  I started pulling out staples on the bottom of the couch using a kitchen knife and scissors.  A standard staple remover proved pretty useless.  I eventually bought some needle-nosed pliers, which helped a bit.  I bought a heavy-duty staple gun and staples while I was at it.  I took digital photos of the couch as I progressed, so I could remember how everything was attached.

created at: 03/28/2013
2. I went to the discount fabric store.  Home decor fabrics were pretty pricey, especially the ultra-suede and velvety ones that I wanted.  I wandered the other aisles and found a thick, wide-striped corduroy in black.  I came home with an amount that I had estimated before taking the fabric off the couch.  

3. I finished removing all the old fabric from the couch and put the cushions aside.  I left the foam padding and paper in place.  I had some trouble removing the fabric from the inside corners, so I ripped it out.  Actually reupholstering this couch professionally seems like it would require taking apart the wood pieces.

4. I laid the corduroy out on the floor and pinned the old couch fabric to it.  I cut out the new fabric.

5. I stapled the new fabric onto the couch in the reverse order that I took the old fabric off, using my digital photos as a guide.

6. I took the covers off the cushions, which had zippers on them.  I used these as a pattern for new cushions.  This step requires actual sewing, unlike the rest of the couch.  Fortunately, I'm fairly competent with a sewing machine.  Some of the fabric is a little loose on the cushions, which I intend to fix later, but they look pretty good.  I broke a couple of zippers in the process of taking apart the old covers, so I ended up closing the new cushion covers with hook and eye closures. 

7. I didn't like the shape of the original back cushions, so I sewed some simple square pillows using two cotton fabrics and some of the couch fabric.  I took the stuffing out of the old back cushions, which was in good shape (i.e. still white), and used it to fill the new cushions (pictured below).

8. The front of the arms had wooden pieces nailed on with four large nails each.  The wood was in pretty bad shape, splintering in some places.  If I had more patience, or talent with woodworking, I would have made new pieces for the arms. I had to improvise something, seeing as I was expecting company the next day.  So, I covered the wood panels with a layer of black duct tape.  Then, I mixed up some acrylic paints to match the colours in the pillows and painted a similar pattern onto the duct tape base (pictured below).  I glazed the whole thing over with glossy mod podge.  I put the panels back on by pushing the nails into their existing holes on the couch arms, hammering them lightly.  I may redo these with actual new wood at some point, but it looks pretty cute for now.

created at: 03/28/2013

That's it.  I hope this explanation, and photos, helps to make reupholstery seem not so scary.  It's not professional, or probably even close to correct, but it looks really nice and people can't tell that it's not store-bought.  Plus, it's unique and makes me happy to look at it and know that I did it myself.

Interested in seeing more upholstery makeovers? Check this one out...

created at: 03/28/2013

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Evelyn on Aug 04, 2013:

Thank you for sharing your experience and giving us a step-by-step guide to diy couch reupholstery.  Recently became the owner of a very old, but very well-built sofabed.  A friend has offered to help me with the reholstery project.  I'll share my before and after results!

Dom on Apr 06, 2013:

Great inspiration for my ongoing project of my chez! So creative, thanks for posting!

Marti in San Diego on Jan 08, 2013:

Yes...exactly!  There is practically NOTHING out there on DIY recovering a couch...thanks so much for posting!  I am much like you and just figure out things as I go.  I'm about to recover a very large couch that belongs to my parents and your post was very helpful.  Great work!!

Paige on Jul 10, 2012:

Oh My GOD!  You did beautiful work.  I can't believe the flower part was duct tape.

Carlos on May 23, 2012:

Hi Anya! If the sofa bed is upholstery is leather you have to remove the old fabric before you can put on a new one. but if the upholstered fabric is a cloth you can sew over it.

Anya on May 23, 2012:


You did an amazing job!

I am trying to find as many articles about reupholstry as I can, it's very hard to find a step by step for couches! I have a pull out bed sofa that is nasty green... like vomit and I want to change it to a dark beige. Do you think there is a way to turn it beige without tearing the couch apart? Like, would there be a way to sew over or on top of the already existing fabric?

Thank you! Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Carlos on May 11, 2012:

It's amazing how you did the reupholstery yourself without prior knowledge. It only proves that  good research coupled with determination can bring positive results. I know a bit about upholstery and I would say you've done a  decent work.

Anonymous on Feb 08, 2012:

i have been planning to reupholster our amazingly comfortable, amazinginly hideous couch for some time now (6 years!!!!) and have been terrified at the idea.  Thanks, so much for the info.  Am tackling this project asap! 

Kim on Feb 08, 2012:

That looks great! I want to re-do my sofa!  You say 20 yds was too much...How long is your sofa?  I'm quessing you did not line the cushions or frame before stapling the final fabric.  Has the corderoy started to sag?

Leilani on Feb 06, 2012:

This is your first attempt?! WOW! Thanks so much for posting!

Joan on Feb 04, 2012:

i bought way too much fabric. i think 20 yards @ $5 per yard downtown garmet district, LA = i still have a ton left, under my bed.  i don't think you need that much.

kate on Feb 04, 2012:

I have a new (old lol) couch, that has very straight lines that I'm planning on recovering. THIS gave me a little more confidence and I am totally going to use your tutorial to get me through! lol I had a question for you though...how much fabric did you buy?? And was it upholestry fabric you actually used or was it just a cord fabric?? I'm trying to figure out how much I will probably need! thanks SO much!! 

Mom of Many on Jan 20, 2012:

I am not intimidated by DIY projects, but the recovering has always gotten me nervous. I have an awesome (and ultimately comfy) couch that needs to be recovered. I read all of your article and am very encouraged by your bravery and especially by your results. Good job and thank you for your information. I am going to attempt to do the same. Blessings- Mom of Many :-)

Kate on Jan 08, 2012:

OMG this is so pretty and I love how this couch turned out! You make it seem so simple and you did it how I thought I would re-upholster my couch. I am the same like you. I don't do a whole lot of research I just visualize and and dig in. I learn it while I work as a I go. My couch upholstery is old and wearing a part. The wood frame however, is in pretty good shape. If I find it to not be the case when I take off its original fabric, I may do something like your wooden panel pieces which I have to add are very nicely done with the paint design. I was searching the net to find out how to D.I.Y without it being too costly and I do not want to buy a whole new couch either. This is just what I needed to land upon. Thank you so much for sharing this. And by the way, your work does look like a professional did it there! Again thank you for this. I get to avoid the slip cover thought now too =) 


Cat Owner on Aug 16, 2011:

I *love* how this turned out, and personally think that the crafty touch on the duct tape, with the painting, looks great, at least in the photos. My only "negative" comment is that with the classy black look, I'm guessing you won't be getting a cat or a dog that sheds--the pets my kids own have made my furniture age SO much faster, thus my search that led to your page! Thanks for sharing, you are an inspiration!

Joan on Aug 02, 2011:

OMG> i just started this project and i agree, the websites i have found were not that helpful. it is a bear of a project and i am almost 51 now and i was ROFL when i read some of what you wrote, esp. in part #1 "I started pulling parts of the upholstery off the couch, wherever I could grab on. I pulled off the dust ruffle at the bottom. I started pulling out staples on the bottom of the couch using a kitchen knife and scissors. ...I eventually bought some needle-nosed pliers, which helped a bit." THAT IS EXATLY WHAT I DID. i am about 3/4 of the way done getting the material off. that is the hardest part. i also sewed one cushion so far, but unlike you, i am not that savvy and haven't sewn since 7th grade. it turned out a little lopsided. thanks for your article and made me laugh.

Waytogo on May 31, 2011:

I think you did a great job!! I just fininshed doing my dining room chairs I used some beautiful material I got from a closing down upholstery shop ( for 5 bucks) and reused the covered cording that went around all the chairs as it looked great as an accent they look great. Now I want to do my wing back chairs but we'll see. I have to get the nerve up.


jen on Sep 02, 2010:

thanks for your guide. it was helpful in my own amateur reupholstery project!

Rebekah on May 27, 2010:

Nice Job!!! Im really nervous and am thinking really hard about paying someone, just so I dont mess it up. lol. I am on a tight tight budget. This loveseat I have is hard, ugly and old. And very very small. It cant fit me and my two lil girls...lol. Plus it has this pool out foam bed that is even more uncomfortable. Like those foam chairs for kids that lay out on the floor as a lounger..its like that but a loveseat...I wanna change the color, the fabric( it stains very easy) and add alot of cushion. However, if I mess this up..Oh Id be so mad and disappointed. You made it seem easy and other ppl left good tips. I may work up the nerve to do it. Time will tell. Just wanted to say good job, I couldnt tell u or anyone that wasnt pro did it...

Barbara Watts on Mar 04, 2010:

Whoops!  Just remembered...You mention your sewn cushions were too loose?  Always cut your foam one inch bigger all around and use the shaped foam as a pattern for the cushion using a 1/2 seam allowance when sewing.    For example, your foam is 24 x 24.  Cut your pattern 24 x 24, sew it with a 1/2" seam allowance.  Your sewn cover will end up  measuring 23 x 23 which will with a little elbow grease slide tightly over your 24 x 24 cushion.  You can spray the foam with silicone (it won't stain fabric!) so the cover will slip on easily or cover the foam with batting and a product called "cushion-eze" or even a dry cleaning bag will allow it to slip on easily.   P.S.   Remove the dry cleaning bag so you won't have a constant crunching noise.



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