How to Reupholster a Sofa – Part 1

by | Jul 14, 2022 | DIY, Farmhouse Furniture, Refurbishing Furniture | 10 comments

This post provides information on how to reupholster a sofa and focuses on how to put new upholstery on the deck (seat) of the sofa. In a separate post, I will show you how to reupholster the top and back of a sofa.

A quick note that this post includes affiliate links and I will receive a commission but at no additional cost to you. I am presenting you with my own opinion and honest review of the information provided. If you want to read the entire disclosure statement, please click HERE.

This is the first post in a series about how to reupholster a sofa.

You can read part 2 HERE – how to upholster the top front and sides

You can read part 3 HERE – how to upholster the back and add trim

Let me be the first to admit, I am not a professional upholsterer. I am self taught, by reading books, and by reupholstering a wide variety of furniture. Some questions I get asked the most include: How do I reupholster _____? What are the steps I follow? Do I follow a specific order? Where do I get my supplies? What scissors work best? Is an air compressor expensive? Is it absolutely necessary?

While I can’t answer all of your questions – I wanted to at least address some of them. Reupholstering a sofa is one of the more more difficult pieces of furniture to work on. Having said that – it CAN be done – even if you are a novice. It simply requires time and persistence. (And the right tools)

So rather than writing an overwhelmingly long post about reupholstering a sofa, I am sharing how to reupholster the deck of an antique sofa. This is a small, bite size post. We are taking the first official “let’s attach the fabric” step of upholstery.

There are some links to upholstery supplies at the end of this post. I also wrote an entire post on my favorite tools I use to refurbish/reupholster furniture. This post also includes links to the tools on Amazon. Most items can be purchased for less than $80. The most expensive item is an air compressor which is less than $130.

How to Reupholster a Sofa – Part 1

In case you are new to this project, here is a little back story. In October of 2021, I found a very old sofa with a beautiful wooden frame at a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. I resisted buying it because: 1. reupholstering sofas is a labor of love that requires a significant investment of time and materials and 2. I wasn’t sure if I could get the sofa downstairs to the basement where I typically work on furniture. (We have a 90 degree turn halfway down our staircase)

antique sofa makeover

Sure enough, the sofa would NOT fit down the stairwell so it did not go in the basement. Then November rolled around and the temperatures dropped. So the sofa sat in our garage until May of the next year when the temperatures warmed up again. The photo above is the sofa “before”.

I wrote a post about how I painted the sofa frame and it gives you more information about the steps I took to get to that point.

Antique Sofa Frame Painted White

This is how the sofa looked as of the most recent post. This past weekend, I decided it was time to upholster the deck – or the area of the sofa where the seat cushions are located.

When I am reupholstering a sofa – I divide the process into distinct steps.

  1. Remove the old upholstery, staples and tacks
  2. Clean the frame and sand/paint it as needed
  3. Order all the necessary materials for the project – NOTE sometimes the delivery of fabric ordered online can take a few weeks.
  4. Then I start to reupholster the piece
    • First I reupholster the deck/seating area
    • Then I reupholster the top front and interior sides
    • Then I reupholster the backside and exterior sides of the sofa
    • Lastly, I attach the dustcover (thin black fabric underneath most chairs and sofas)

It is important to follow the steps in this order so all the new fabric pieces fit together properly and so that the new fabric is attached appropriately. For example, if you were to reupholster the back of the sofa first – you would be hard pressed to re-upholster the deck and attach the fabric correctly.

For this tutorial, I am assuming that you have already completed steps 1-3.

Supplies

The first thing we need to do is gather our supplies. Prior to purchasing any supplies, make sure you measure the length and width of the area you are upholstering then add 6-8 inches on all sides. Don’t forget to include the edges in your measurement. (For example the upholstered deck of this sofa rolls down to the front.). Here are the supplies needed:

Other Resources

If you are looking for other resources about how to reupholster furniture, I highly encourage you to visit my friend Emily’s blog at Penny&Ivy. She has upholstered numerous pieces and has some fabulous tips.

If you need additional information on what types of fabrics to purchase or if you need help with the more precise activity of sewing cushion covers, I highly recommend my friend Karen’s blog at The Slipcover Maker.

Both of these women are immensely talented and offer you tutorials for FREE.

Alright, let’s jump into the steps for reupholstering the deck of an antique sofa.

Step 1 – Attach the Foam and Batting

Upholstery foam

Once completed, there will be cushions resting on top of the sofa’s deck. However, I still wanted the deck to be soft and have some padding. So, I used 1 inch cushion foam and cut it wide and long enough so that it could be tucked through to the back and outer sides of the sofa frame. TIP start off with a piece larger than the minimum size you will need because you can always trim off excess.

Then I secure the foam to the sofa frame using a my pneumatic stapler. I generally use the staple gun when the compressor reaches about 100 lbs psi of regulated air pressure. When the pressure drops to about 80 psi, then I turn the air compressor on again.

Once the foam is secured, I cover it with batting which helps to smooth out any lumps or irregularities in the foam. As with the foam, I pushed the batting through to the backside and outer sides of the sofa frame. Then using my pneumatic stapler, I secure the batting to the sofa frame.

Reupholstering a sofa new foam

In the photo above, you can see the blue foam as I was pushing it through to the back side of the sofa.

The trick with reupholstering furniture is making sure you have enough foam/batting/fabric so that you can push it through to the back and outer sides of the sofa to staple to the wooden frame BUT you don’t want to have so much material that it causes bunching.

Upholstery Tools

After securing materials to the frame of the sofa using my pneumatic staple gun, I use the scissors to trim fabric very close to the wooden frame of sofa. This helps prevent bunching and unnecessary bulkiness of fabric.

Step 2 – Attach the Fabric

Once your foam and batting have been secured to the frame of the sofa, you can now attach your fabric. Be sure that you are using upholstery weight fabric and also that it is long and wide enough to cover the sofa’s deck. Don’t forget to add additional yardage to allow the fabric to be pulled through the back of the sofa so you can attach it to the frame. With this particular sofa, I added an additional 7 inches of fabric on the back and sides.

Also another TIP, if this is your first upholstery project, I recommend using a fabric that does not have a pattern since lining up the repeat of the pattern can be challenging.

Trimming excess fabric from sofa

As with the foam and batting, you want to push the fabric through to the backside and outer sides of the sofa. I found it was easier to tilt the sofa on its front so that I could pull the fabric through the backside.

New fabric on the sofa

Once the fabric has been pulled through, secure it to the frame using your staple gun.

How to reupholster a sofa

Make sure, as you work you way around the sofa, that the fabric is pulled taught.  I worked in a clockwise direction and then occasionally went back to remove staples so I could pull portions of the fabric tighter.  Then I would re-staple the area once the fabric was taught. To achieve a uniformly firm and taught fabric for the deck, I simultaneously pulled the fabric into place with one hand and stapled the fabric with the other hand.

Step 3- Trim Excess

Once the foam, batting and fabric have been secured to the backside and outer side sofa frame, use your scissors to trim off any extra materials.  Generally you want the fabric to be trimmed as close to the wooden frame as possible.  Eventually, decorative trim or piping will cover the staples and fabric edges.

How to reupholster a sofa

Final Result

Congratulations! You just reupholstered the deck of a sofa! Pin the image below to your Pinterest board and that way in the future you can simply click on the image and it will bring you back to this post.

How to reupholster a sofa

This is how the sofa looked after reupholstering the deck. Next, I will show you how to reupholster the top front and sides.

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Summary

Thank you for stopping by the blog today.  I hope you feel inspired and encouraged to tackle your own reupholstery project.  If you have any questions or need more information on resources, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.  

10 Comments

  1. Rachel

    It looks beautiful, Anna! You are doing such an amazing job reviving this sofa!!

    Reply
    • Sky Lark House

      Thank you Rachel!! I appreciate your support and positive feedback!

      Reply
  2. Kristin

    What an amazing find, it is gorgeous! All of your hard work paid off, it looks amazing!!!

    Reply
    • Sky Lark House

      Thank you Kristin. I appreciate your feedback!

      Reply
  3. CoCo

    I love how you’re taking us on a step-by-step journey with this project, Anna. It’s been so much fun to see the progress you’ve been making. I LOVE how it’s coming together and have appreciated all your tips as well. They’ve been super helpful! Hugs, CoCo

    Reply
    • Sky Lark House

      Thank you CoCo! I hope the instructions are helpful and empower people to re-upholster their own pieces.

      Reply
  4. Susan

    Thanks for sharing upholstery instructions! So empowering to be able to transform quality furniture into aesthetically pleasing quality pieces. Opens up a world of options. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Sky Lark House

      Thank you Susan! I think it really comes down to a willingness to just dive in and try it.

      Reply
  5. Stacey

    This is SUCH a cool project and I cannot wait to see the final results. It looks like you are off to a great start and this couch is beautiful!

    Reply
    • Sky Lark House

      Thank you Stacey! It’s slowly coming along! Thank you for commenting.

      Reply

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