How to Upholster a Bench

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Are you interested in learning how to upholster a bench? I will walk you through the steps for this easy upholstery project.

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When the weather outside is cold and snowy, it’s the perfect time to work on upholstery projects INSIDE the home.  I usually work on the majority of my upholstery projects during the winter months.  

Last year, I shared the process for reupholstering an antique sofa. 

Finished antique sofa reupholstery

It was an involved project that took a long time to finish.  You can read about the upholstery process in these links below:

Reupholstering a Vintage Sofa

How to Paint a Sofa Frame

How to Reupholster a Sofa Part 1

How to Reupholster a Sofa Part 2

How to Reupholster a Sofa Part 3

After sharing this project, a number of you asked if I could create a tutorial for an easier project.  So, I did.  I showed you How to Reupholster an Old Stool.

Reupholster Old Stool

More recently, someone asked me if I could share how to reupholster a bench.  A simple bench that you put at the end of your bed.  

Reupholstering a bench is one of the best beginner projects and is one of the easiest ways to learn about upholstery!  I am happy to show you how to reupholster a bench.

So let’s jump in and learn how.

How to Upholster a Bench

Why I Reupholster Furniture

First, let me share why I reupholster furniture.  When I was just out of college, I could not afford upholstered furniture.  I definitely could not afford furniture that I liked.  However, I knew that I wanted certain styles and colors in my home decor.  I decided that the best thing to do was to create my own furniture.  So, I started by buying second hand furniture and upholstering it using drop cloths.  

My first attempts at upholstery were pretty terrible.  I had a hand held staple gun and I didn’t know enough about fabrics to choose ones that were durable enough for the heavy use a piece of furniture gets.  The end result was furniture that looked a little wonky and that didn’t hold up well to the wear and tear of continual use. 

Nonetheless, I persisted because I liked the idea of creating my own furniture in my own style.  Not to mention creating my own furniture was much more affordable than buying it from a store. Further, even if I had the money, I couldn’t even find the type of furniture that I liked in a new store.   (This was before the days of Restoration Hardware, Arhaus, and West Elm.)

So over the last 25 or so years, I just kept teaching myself how to upholster – well- everything.  Chairs, sofas, settees, stools, benches, ottomans and more.  I read books and blog posts, watched videos and more.  I deconstructed furniture to better understand how it was made.  I learned what makes a piece of furniture good quality vs. average or poor quality.  

I learned about different fabrics and their weights.  I learned about upholstery grade fabric and how to determine if it will hold up well. I learned about fabric manufacturers and about vintage fabrics like grain sacks from Europe.

This is by no means to say that I am a professional upholsterer.  I am not.  I have simply found tips, tricks and techniques that work for me.   Also, I still have limitations with my skills and abilities.  For example, although I can sew a straight line and am familiar with sewing machines – I am by no means a seamstress.  If you know a seamstress – then you are a very lucky person- because they are trained and skilled in knowing how to use a sewing machine.  I can sew a curtain panel but sewing new cushion covers for a sofa is out of the question. Sewing a dress is also beyond my abilities.

I am sharing this with you so you know that YOU can upholster furniture. If I can do this, then you can definitely upholster your own furniture and upholstering a bench is a great place to start!

Find a Bench

The good news is that benches are readily available.  My only advice is to ensure that it is structurally sound.  You don’t want to buy a bench that is loose at the joints or wobbly.  You can buy benches just about anywhere – you could try Facebook Market Place, thrift store, Habitat for Humanity Re-store, yard sales or flea markets.  If memory serves me correctly, I paid $10 for this bench.

The existing bench frame was in great shape and very solid.  The fabric top was worn thin and had some paint stains on it.  So, this was a perfect candidate for reupholstering.  

The best thing about benches is their versatility. They can be used at the foot of a bed, in a dining room, or in an entryway.

Tools and Supplies

Before I start any upholstery project, I like to have all my tools and supplies laid out.  This prevents the aggravation of being ⅓ of the way through your project and realizing you don’t have the XXXX out.  Then you have to spend the next 20 minutes trying to find it. 

Here are the tools and supplies I used for this project. I have linked products where possible. However, you can generally find most of these items at your local hardware store and fabric store.

A quick note about using an air compressor and a pneumatic staple gun. This is a game changer when you are upholstering anything. Any other type of stapler, even an electric staple gun, won’t have the power needed to fully push a staple into the wood. A pneumatic stapler is the easiest way to upholster anything with a wood frame.

Remove Top of the Bench

Flip your bench upside down and using a screwdriver remove the wood screws that secure the top of the bench to the frame.  Make sure you save the wood screws!  I put mine in a zip lock bag. Once the top has been removed, wipe down the bench frame to ensure it is free of dirt, grease or dust.

Remove top of bench

Remove Old Fabric

Using your staple remover and pliers, remove the existing staples or tacks that are holding the fabric in place.  When that has been done, remove the fabric as well as any foam or batting underneath.  When you are done, you should have a flat board, which is often times nothing more than a plywood base.

Removing the old fabric from the bench seat

Cut Foam and Batting

Using your measuring tape and scissors, cut the foam so that it is ½ an inch wider and longer than the size of the board.  Using a marker and a straight edge, draw lines that you can use as guides when cutting. For this project, I used 1 inch high-density foam.  High-density foam is specifically designed for people to sit on it repeatedly. It holds up to long term use much better than other types of foam.

Keep in mind, when you cover the foam with batting and fabric, it will be compressed. So it’s better to err on the side of selecting foam that is on the thicker side.  If your foam is too thick to cut with scissors, you can use a large sharp kitchen knife or an electric knife (also known as an electric carving knife) to make the cuts. Make sure you cut with the top of the foam facing up and avoid slanting the knife or cutting at any angles.

Next place the cut out foam on top of some batting.  Cut your batting so that it is 1 inch wider and longer than the size of the foam. 

Attach new Foam and Batting

The next step is to attach the foam and batting to the bench top.   If you have a large bench, you will want to use spray adhesive so that your foam will be securely attached to the board. This bench was small enough so I didn’t need to secure the foam.

Using your pneumatic staple gun and air compressor, pull the batting taut over the foam and staple it to the underside of the bench cushion. I generally run the air compressor so it has a PSI that’s between 85-100 and then use the pneumatic stapler. When the pressure falls below 85 PSI, I simply turn the air compressor on again.

It’s a good idea to put a few staples in at each of the four edges just to ensure the batting is taut and evenly covering the foam.  Then go back and add more staples, as needed. 

Cut and Attach the Fabric

Once the board is covered with new foam and batting, you can cut the new fabric for the top. Note, it is best to cut the fabric using pinking shears. These shears will prevent the fabric from coming unraveled.

For this project, I decided to use some remnant fabric I had in my stash. Vintage French mattress ticking that has a weight similar to denim.  

Vintage French Mattress Ticking

My advice for this step is to ensure you are using upholstery fabric.  You want your newly upholstered bench to last so you will need fabric that can hold up well to a lot of use.  If cost is a concern, your local fabric store, such as Joann Fabrics, may have close out deals on remnant fabrics or you can always use drop cloth from a hardware store, such as Home Depot.  One of the benefits of reupholstering a bench is that you don’t need much fabric! Having said that, make sure you buy some extra fabric. In the event you make a wrong measurement and cut, you don’t want to have to run out to the store again!

Measuring the fabric for the bench seat

I cut the fabric about 2 inches wider and longer than the board covered with the new foam and batting. 

On the corners, where there was excess fabric, I used my scissors to trim off a small corner. Then using a pneumatic staple gun, I stapled it to the underside of the board. As with the batting, I pulled the material taut and used a few staples to secure each side of the fabric under the board.  Then I cut trimmed off any excess fabric as shown in the middle photo. Finally, I went back with the pneumatic stapler and finished securing the fabric on all four sides. 

 Reattach Top of Bench

For the last step, all you need to do is reattach your newly upholstered bench seat! Using your screwdriver and the screws you set aside simply re-attach the seat cushion to the frame.  Depending upon the style of your bench, this is also when you add decorative elements such as upholstery tacks or decorative trim on the perimeter of the upholstered top.

In the photos below you can see the newly upholstered bench as well as the top of the fabric.

How to upholster a bench 2

How to upholster a bench 4

Enjoy Your New Bench

Congratulations!  You just completed reupholstering a bench!  Enjoy the fruits of your labor.  

Below are some links to some similar upholstery projects.

Also, I am sharing a link to Reinvented Delaware’s You Tube Channel because she has a whole series on how to upholster a chair. It is an excellent series and she has some great tips.

If you like these types of ideas that I share with you, please subscribe to my mailing list. I will share these types of posts with you via email. You can also follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest for more inspiration.

Thank you for stopping by the blog today. I wish you good luck on your next re-upholstery adventure!

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13 Comments

    1. Thank you so much Rachel! I bought the fabric from Wendy at the Textile Trunk. She specializes in old French fabrics.

  1. Looks amazing! One day I want to upholster a bench with my sentimental horse blankets. I need to keep my eye open for a bench. Thank you for the instructions!

    1. Oh, how special that would be with one of your horse blanket, Susan. Maybe you can find a bench at the library yard sale.

  2. I am fortunate enough to have a bench that Anna reupholstered for me. It belonged to my mother’s set of bedroom furniture, so is very special to me. How I appreciate all that went into its makeover, especially the perfect choice of fabric for the remake.

  3. This bench is so pretty!! I love the shape of the legs and the fabric you chose to recover the seat! Great step-by-step tutorial! Thanks, Donna

  4. This bench is amazing, Anna! I love the shape of it and the fabric you chose too. They’re both beautiful and classic. I still can’t get over the couch you upholstered too – that is so brave – it’s gorgeous! Hugs, CoCo

  5. Excellent tutorial Anna 🙂 I’ve tried my hand at some reupholstery in the past and it can be really tough! I think it’s great you taught yourself and kept working at it. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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