How to Reupholster the back of a Sofa -Part 3


This post provides information on how to reupholster the back of a sofa and focuses on how to finish the project by adding trim. In previous posts, I showed you how to reupholster the deck as well as the top front and sides of a sofa.

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Back Story

This project has taken a considerable amount of time. Rather than overwhelming you with a ridiculously long post on how to reupholster a sofa, I have written 2 separate posts. I walk you through the distinct steps that I took.

You can read:

Paint Sofa Frame 1

It started with a post describing how I painted the sofa frame.

Then I jumped into reupholstery of the sofa.

How to reupholster a sofa

PART 1 – How to reupholster the deck (seating area)

Reupholster a sofa

PART 2 – How to reupholster the top front and sides

Reading those posts first will help you understand how we arrived at this current point in the project.

Anna’s Reupholstery Process

I am not a professional upholsterer. I am self taught by reading books, watching videos and by learning on the job. If I can reupholster a sofa, you can too. When I am reupholstering a sofa – I follow a distinct process.

  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)

This post focuses on the steps associated with the third bullet under # 4.

How to Reupholster a Sofa – Part 3

If you have been working on a sofa and are reading this post now, you likely already have most of these supplies. However, it’s worth repeating, these are the supplies you will need for this part of the reupholstery process. Where possible, I included links to places you could purchase items online. I noted those items that are new and were not used in the previous two posts.

I wrote a post on my 8 favorite tools I use for refurbishing furniture. These are my go-to tools that I use day in and day out. This post also has links to these tools.

Step 1 – Attach Foam

Our first order of business is to attach foam to the frame of the back of the sofa. I used 1/2 inch foam since I only wanted a thin amount of padding on the exterior of the sofa.

I have not found foam strips long enough to cover the entire length of the back of a sofa, so I had to cut the foam at strategic locations and match up a new piece immediately adjacent to the former piece. The foam covers the left and right sides of the sofa as well as the back.

To make the process a little easier, I flipped the sofa on its front side so I that the back was facing up. This makes it easier to work on the back. Once the foam is rolled out and placed where I want it, I use my pneumatic staple gun to attach it to the the frame of the sofa. Pull the foam taught as you attach it to the sofa frame to prevent any bubbles or wrinkles from forming.

Trimming foam

After the foam is attached, trim off the excess foam using fabric scissors so that there was a nice clean seam on the sofa frame.

Step 2 – Attach Batting

After the foam has been attached, it is time to attach the batting. Similar to the foam, you want to roll out your batting and ensure you have adequate coverage for the length of the sofa. It is quite easy to find batting that is long enough to cover the entire length of the sofa.

Adding batting

For example, with this sofa, I needed about 10 feet of batting.

As we did previously, use the pneumatic staple gun to attach the batting to the sofa frame. Then using your fabric scissors, trim as close to the seam as possible. The key to a nice upholstery job is keeping the seams as clean as possible. It prevents any unsightly bulkiness after the fabric is attached.

Step 3- Attach the Fabric

After your batting has been attached, you are ready to now attach your fabric! This is the exciting part because your sofa will start to look more like its future self.

If possible, find upholstery weight fabric that is long enough to cover the entire length, sides and back, of the sofa. As previously noted, I needed about 10 yards of fabric. Lay out your fabric on the back of your sofa.

New upholstery on back of sofa

Once your fabric is laid out, you want to trim it to better fit the shape of your sofa. NOTE – it’s important to trim the fabric with an added two inches beyond the staple seam. You are going to fold the fabric under as you attach it to the sofa frame. So, you want to ensure you have enough fabric to fold under.

folding seam for upholstery

The photo above shows you how to fold the fabric before attaching it to the frame. Folding the fabric creates a nice clean seam.

Work you way in an orderly fashion left to right and fold, tuck and pull the fabric taught as you attach it. The goal is to have a smooth uniform finish with out any wrinkles or bubbles in the fabric. It may require some time and patience as you near the ends of the sofa – but just keep pulling, folding and if necessary, trimming the fabric. Again, this is much easier to do if you don’t have to worry about matching a seam or matching up a pattern for your fabric.

Also, it helps to remember that if your fabric isn’t attaching well and there are wrinkles or bubbles, you can always pull out staples and reattach it. The process of attaching fabric is more art than science. It involves trial and error. So, keep your staple remover and needle nose pliers in close proximity.

New upholstery on sofa

The photo above show how one of the corners looked after I attached the fabric. Note, there will be some batting/ foam peeking out in various places. This is not a problem because we are going to cover the the staple seam with some trim.

Step 4 – Attach Braided Jute Trim

Once your fabric is attached to the back of your sofa, it will start to look like a newly upholstered sofa. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back. The most difficult part of the project is now behind you. The next step is to attach the trim which will cover the staple seam. There are several options available – you can use welting/piping or you can use pre-made trim. There is a wide assortment of trims you can use – so you have to decide what works best for you. For this project, I used braided jute twine.

Adding trim to cover the staple seam
One of the final steps in reupholstering a piece of furniture is adding the trim to cover the staple seam.

I used Gorilla Glue brand glue sticks in my hot glue gun to initially attach the trim. It does require a bit of adjustment with ensuring the trim adequately covers the staple seam. In some cases, I have to go back and pull off the trim and re-attach it to ensure there is good coverage.

Attaching trim to reupholstered sofa

Once the trim is in place, I decided to use some cut tacks to further attach the trim to the sofa frame. I like the look of the nail head trim – so using the tacks serves a dual purpose. It looks nice aesthetically and further secures the trim to the sofa frame.

The bad news is that you have to nail in each tack by hand. It takes some time to add the tacks and evenly space them on the trim. The good news is that its definitely worth the investment of time for the end result.

You can also use copper or brass upholstery thumb tacks as an alternative.

Step 5 – Enjoy your Sofa

Oh my goodness. Reupholstering a sofa is a labor of love. No wonder hiring someone to reupholster a piece of furniture costs so much money! Having said that, if you CAN do your own upholstery, you can save a lot of money and have a beautiful, high quality, piece of furniture. Another added benefit of doing your own upholstery is that you can customize the piece to your tastes and preferences.

With that, let’s look at the completed reupholstered sofa. You can pin the images below to your Pinterest account. Once you pin an image, in the future if you click on it, you should return to this post with all the information and step-by-step instructions.

Reupholstered sofa

You can see the nail head trim in this photo.

Reupholstered sofa 2

I decided not to add cut tacks to the back of the sofa.

Reupholster sofa

Here is close up image of the trim, painted frame and new fabric. Note, I still haven’t added the dust cover on the bottom of the sofa. I will do that before I take it to Stone Soup Antiques Gallery. Adding the dust cover is fairly easy, you attach it using your staple gun and it takes about 15 minutes.

Also, there will be 3 seat cushions added to the sofa. My friend Karen at the Slipcover Maker is sewing these cushion covers. She is amazingly talented. Equally important, she is a much better seamstress than I am.

Other Furniture Tutorials

Before I finish this post, I also want to share some other blogs that have fabulous tutorials for furniture makeovers.

Cindy from Reinvented Delaware. She also has many tutorials on You Tube. Check out her post summarizing some of her furniture transformations.

Emily from Penny and Ivy. She is known for her fabulous pillows. (I own have several) Check out her post on this vintage sofa redo. (You won’t believe the “Before”)

Also, some of you requested a tutorial for an easier upholstery project.

Reupholster Old Stool

So, last week I put together a post on How to Reupholster an Old Stool.

Thank you for stopping by the blog today! I hope you feel inspired to tackle your own upholstery project. Remember, I believe in you.

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