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Whether you want to give your vintage sofa a makeover or update an old sofa in your living room that’s now threadbare, reupholstering a couch is an exciting and challenging project that can help you give an old couch a new look. Reupholstering can also save you money while cementing your status as a do-it-yourself upholsterer.

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What Do You Need to Reupholster a Couch?

Reupholstery refers to the process of removing old fabric from a piece of furniture and replacing it with new fabric. Here is a list of the essential tools and materials you’ll need for your reupholstery project:

  • Staple remover
  • Staple gun and staples
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Strong scissors
  • New fabric
  • Notebook and pen
  • Sewing machine (optional)
  • Trim or cord (optional)
  • Fabric glue (optional)

How to Reupholster a Couch

Reupholstering a couch or loveseat isn’t an easy DIY project—it is time-consuming and requires research and note-taking. Once you’re ready to start your new upholstery project, check out our step-by-step guide:

  1. Study your couch. The first step in any reupholstery project is to get to know the piece of furniture you’ll be working with so that you can easily reconstruct it at the end of this process. Where are the staples? Is there a slipcover? Are there tufted buttons? Is there visible cording along the seams? Is there a skirt? Taking notes and photos for future reference can you save a lot of time down the line.
  2. Remove the bottom cover. Most couches will have a lightweight layer of fabric stapled to the underside of the couch known as the dust cover. Usually, this is the last piece of fabric attached to the couch, which means that it should be the first to come off when reupholstering. Using your staple remover, remove the staples around the dust cover and set them aside. (If you don’t have a staple remover, you can use needle-nose pliers or a flathead screwdriver.)
  3. Remove the pieces of upholstery fabric. After you remove the dust cover, you will be able to see how the other upholstery pieces on the couch were stretched and stapled to the frame. Take a look at the layering, and remove the top layer of upholstery fabric first (often the piece on the back of the couch). Next, use your staple remover to lift the staples gently, then discard them. It’s essential to take notes and photos as you remove each piece of upholstery so that you can easily place the pieces back together later. You’ll need to know the order in which you removed the pieces, where the pieces fit, how they were oriented on the couch, how and where the fabric was stretched and attached, and whether there were any special considerations when removing it (such as cardboard pieces below it, or tack strips alongside the staples). You’ll need to replicate those details when attaching your new fabric.
  4. Buy and cut the new fabric. You can use the measurements from the couch’s old fabric to buy yards of fabric in the correct shape and size at the fabric store. You can choose whichever upholstery fabric you want, but keep in mind the thinner the fabric, the more quickly it will show signs of wear. However, stapling heavy-duty fabric to your couch frame can be more difficult than stapling lighter fabric.
  5. Attach your new fabric to the couch. Using your notes as a guide, attach your new upholstery fabric in the reverse order in which you removed the old fabric—the piece you removed last must be the piece you attach first. Use a staple gun to staple the fabric back to the frame. When in doubt, refer to your notes and photos. Pull the fabric taut as you upholster—you don’t want your couch to drape awkwardly or appear too wrinkly because the fabric is loose.
  6. Reattach the dust cover. The final step is to restaple the dust cover back to the bottom of the couch. The dust cover will camouflage all of the staple work underneath and leave the couch looking tidy.
  7. Add trim as needed. If your couch featured corded trim to cover up staples, you should buy a matching cord (or buy a plain cord and sew a fabric cover for it). Use fabric glue to attach it to give your couch a finished look.
  8. Sew pillow covers. If your couch has back or seat cushions, you’ll also need to sew new cushion covers for them. Follow the same steps you used when deconstructing the upholstery—cut (or unzip) the covers and use them as a pattern to cut the new fabric. (If your couch cushions had zippers, you can reuse those zippers to avoid buying new ones.) This step will require a sewing machine—follow the stitching of the old cushions to make similar ones.
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