Old Recliner DIY Repair And Reupholster

Probably everyone has old furniture pieces somewhere in their basements (bedside tables, chairs, couches, and armchairs) which after a while have become useless.

“It’s a pity to throw it away, and you don’t always have enough money to buy a new one”,¬† many people are upset about it, even without knowing that the old furniture can be restored and brought back to life. I will tell you how to make an old chair young again, using your hands.

Necessary tools

From something in mind to something in kind. In order to do the restoration of an old recliner chair, you will need the following:

  • Hammer, pliers, a flat screwdriver;
  • Hand stapler with 4 to 6 mm staples, scissors;
  • Wide sling (textile);
  • Foam, padding polyester;
  • Fabric (appr. 1.5-2 m);
  • PVA glue, gauze.


According to this source, before we get started, we need to take the old recliner apart and see look inside of it.

Usually, it’s a wooden frame, foam on the backrest and seat held by a rubber or textile slings.

You can also see legs, armrests (polished or covered with fabric) in the components. The backrest of the chair is fixed with plywood. That’s probably all.

After the analysis:

We determine what should be replaced. All studded parts are carefully knocked out with a rubber hammer to avoid damaging the edges and preserving the polish.

Use a scalpel or a knife with a thin peak to clean the grooves so that there is no glue inside.

Lubricate the studded parts with PVA and wrap the bandage directly onto the stud.

Gently hammer everything back in place and wait 24 hours for it to dry completely.

Tightening a chair with your own hands.

Let’s take a step-by-step look at the chair reupholstery process

Padding replacement

The next step in the chair restoration is the padding (foam) replacement. Here’s the list of foam types used in the furniture industry:

  • ST for the standard type
  • EL for medium stiffness
  • HS for a soft type
  • HL for super-rigid
  • HR – low stiffness, most often used for upholstered furniture

In our case, HR is the thing.

The best way to cut the foam is with a long blade knife sharpened with a floatstone. Cut in a few steps.

Sling replacement

After we’ve dealt with the foam, check the slings. They can be made of rubber or dense tarpaulin. The slings are typically fastened to a wooden frame with nails, in rare cases, pierced with brackets.

Remove the old slings, measure their length and, with a little tension, change them to new ones. The edges of the slings must be wrapped (double-folded at least), this way they will live long and will not stretch due to heavyweight.

The slings are tightened, now we have to secure the foam rubber. Smear the slings with foam glue and carefully set the seat and then the backrest.

After the frame is ready, proceed to the fabric selection.

Fabric upholstery

Today, the textile industry offers a wide range of fabrics for repairs and recliner upholstery.

Upholstery fabric types:

  1. Velour
  2. Tapestry
  3. Faux leather
  4. Suede
  5. Microfiber


There is one simple truth to remember: if the fabric has a pattern or an abstraction, you should make sure that the image does not shift during the cutting process.

  • The front and back of the backrest are cut from the first meter of fabric, and the seat from the rest.
  • After cutting, you need to check the correct dimensions by covering the seat with the cut piece of fabric. Having set the right angles, begin to adjust the cover to the frame of the chair.
  • The rest of the fabric is attached with brackets, we make a mandatory tightening towards yourself.
  • Corners can be stitched (small stitching) on a sewing machine or, if not fundamentally, by hand.
  • At the moment of attaching the cover to the frame, staple through with 3-4 cm intervals. If you use nails with a wide hat instead of a stapler, the distance (between the nails) should be slightly less.
  • Once you have changed the seat trim, do the same with the backrest.
  • Remember that chair restoration always requires consistency in work, as well as attention.
  • When removing any detail, you should keep in mind where it was. Some people use a phone for such purposes. Got the hint?

Frame parts restoration

The term “restoration” includes not only reupholstery but also restoration of wooden parts of the chair. Over time, decorative details (armrests, sharpened elements, shaped chair legs or base) become worn out, i.e. dull, the lacquer surface is erased, and small cracks appear on the frame.

What can be done in this case?

To solve this problem you will need:



Stationery knife’s blade;

Varnish, wood stain.

  • Every detail must be sanded. Start with coarse grain, gradually moving to a fine one.
  • Sand only in the direction of the fibers. If you make reverse movements against the fibers, the lacquer will definitely reveal transverse lines.
  • Many craftsmen-restorers use a drill (more here)with special sanding drums to remove the old varnish. They come in different widths and lengths and are very convenient for grinding in hard-to-reach places.
  • After the parts have been sanded, remove the dust with a gentle damp cloth or foam sponge.
  • Apply nitrocellulose varnish with a soft brush until completely dry.
  • After the varnish has dried out, you can rub the surface with your hand and feel the pile rise. Use the finest sandpaper to carefully level out the raised fibers, i.e. make the surface smooth.
  • Then apply wood stain (alcohol, water, or (white) spirit-based) and after that, cover with any varnish available in production.

That’s it. Now you know how easy it is to do the restoration of the chair at home.

Good luck with your chair!