Should I reupholster my couch and loveseat?

mpp798April 25, 2008

Sixteen years ago I bought a very top end large couch and loveseat. They have been in my formal living room and are in excellent condition. However, the fabric is totally dated. I moved them from California to Texas because I paid so much for the pieces, I hated to sell them for practically nothing. I am thinking of getting them reupholstered. I have heard that it is quite expensive. What do you think? Would I be better off just buying new furniture? Afterall, I did get a lot of use out of them (except we never used the formal living room) Thank you for your advice.

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Tough call. A lot depends on how much fabric they will take to recover as well. Without knowing the brand and style its impossible to say.

For example, a traditional Camelback sofa might take 10 yards to recover while a Lawson Arm will require 21 yards of the same exact fabric.

Then you fabric repeats and costs come into play as well.

Generally speaking (Very generally!) Reupholstery will cost about 80 % the price of new in like quality

Duane Collie

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 12:23PM
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Also wondering....
I have a Hickory Chair sofa that cost about $1300 20 years ago...standard camel back, down filled cushion. Am I right in thinking I would not come close to finding anything of that quality for what I can re do it?
Then that presents the question do I really need anything of that quality...
Linda C

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 6:07PM
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The better "bones" a piece has, the more sense it makes to re-upholster. Note, too, there is a difference between "re-covering" and "re-upholstering" If the padding and springs are in good condition, you will get buy with a lot less labor and material.

Probably the final answer is to get a quote or two from a reliable upholsterer. Just don't compare that cost with a stapled together foam and particle board sofa.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 7:13PM
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I had a 25 year old Flexsteel sofa and love seat done a few years ago and am glad I did. I feel like I have 2 handmade pieces of furniture. The trick is to find a good upholsterer. The guy I use does it himself and his wife does some of the work also.I reccomeded him to a friend who is quite picky and her husband more so than she. He did a camelback sofa for them(among other things). He told her the rolled arms were out of proportion and made them bigger.It looks so much better. So if you like the pieces it might be worth getting it done. You also have more choice of fabrics.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 1:35PM
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I agree with the idea of getting estimates and be sure you get them for the same thing. As bobsmyuncle said if you did not use it much and it is in great condition except for the fabric being dated then get estimates for RECOVERING not full reupholster job. the other choice depending on the sytle and the look you want is custom slipcovers.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 10:15AM
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I have to say... you might think your sofas are in good condition by try sitting on something new. We had two top of the line Ethnan Allen sofas - 13 years old. We decided not to reupholster and instead bought new -- what a huge difference when you sit on them! I had no idea how bad my old ones were until I got new.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2008 at 1:50PM
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'Way back in 1965, I bought a Knoll-like sofa at Bloomingdales. It was perfect. It had a tuxedo back & arms, down cushions & down seats wrapped in polyester. After 2 children & many years later, I was confronted with the same decision you are. I opted to buy a new one and have regretted that decision to this day. That discarded sofa would now cost about 7 times what I paid for it, assuming I could even find one with the same workmanship & and "great bones." I say if you love the sofa, reupholster it. You won't likely find the same quality in something new.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 3:43PM
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I don't think the "sit test" works. A good upholsterer will restuff the cushions or make new ones which will feel every bit as good as anything new. I think most new furniture, unless you're working with a decorator and paying a very high price, is junk. Older is almost always better quality, and since you'll be picking the fabric (ebay has great deals, as do other online fabric sources) your furniture will be unique, and not look like the stuff found on every catalogue page.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 12:07PM
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Sorry, I disagree. New furniture is not "junk" by any means, if you shop the right product lines. Decorator not required.

They were making bad pieces thirty years ago when I got into this business and there are bad pieces made today. Cheap is cheap, regardless of the decade they were made.

Except at the very highest levels of reupholster (such as doing restorations of period pieces) there is no way that a new cover and cushions can perform like a new piece. Your average reupholster job is new fabric, restain the exposed wood (if any) and possibly re-wrap or replace cushions. Sometimes the fabric match is down the front only, other times its a full pattern match (you need to ask what they are quoting).

What about the wood frame? And the Springs? And the Foam frame coverings? 20 + years of being used wears all those pieces, but they are rarely - if ever - replaced or reworked.

I buy top quality for myself and never reupholster. When the piece is done I donate it to charity, take the tax write-off and buy new, because new performs better. However if I had a Chippendale Wing Chair built in the late 1700s', that is something I would have restored - but not much else.

-Duane Collie

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 2:17PM
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We've upholstered two couches and felt it was well worth the expense and effort. We did them ourselves but would've been willing to pay someone if we could not. These couches are both 20+ years old and of good quality. Reupholstering them extended the life of a good couch - a very green thing to do - and we were able to have it exactly the color and style we wanted (much of a couch's style is determined by foam and cushioning).

As for the upholstering quality - that depends on what you want to put into it. Upholsterers will redo foams, replace cushions, springs, whatever you're willing to pay for.

I too agree that furniture today is junk. Even so called quality furniture is often "disposable furniture" and we need to get away from that if we're going to be a sustainable society.

Here is a link that might be useful: Heirloom Craftsmanship

    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 9:47PM
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I agree with dcollie, but I differ on one point. I've had pieces upholstered in the past because I wanted those same pieces, and could not find them, so even if it cost the same as new, the ease of not shopping for new made it worth my while.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 8:34AM
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There is another option and that is custom made slipcovers. I have 12 year old flexsteel sofa and love seat and I'm thrilled with the slipcovers I had made for them. I purchased Waverly fabric at 50% off and I needed 33 yards which came to 700.00 and 800.00 for the labor. I had them done in a solid linen look fabric and now I have a clean canvas to work with the room. I have serious back issues and these sofas have made it comfortable for me to sit. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 9:10AM
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Maybe! Depends on the quality of the initial pieces not how much they cost. There is so much junk out there whether shopping retail or with a designer or an architect through 'to the trade' showrooms. Cost does not guarantee good furniture regardless where you buy it . Knowing how well furniture is made is and this is hard for the public to find out 'cause the furniture stores and unscrupulous designers or decorators want you to keep buying. I disagree completely with dcollie on what to reupholster. What you don't see in a piece of furniture are the most important things. A good hardwood frame, glued, tacks, never staples, with 8-way tied coil springs (sinuous or zig-zag only in very flat modernist styles and in dining chair seats) is lifetime furniture and a good upholsterer does lots more than just "new fabric, restain the exposed wood (if any) and possibly re-wrap or replace cushions. " A good upholsterer will check the frame for soundness and repair it if necessary (all that movement and heating and air conditioning over the years can make the best joints loosen. They will replace all worn springs and re-tie them (8-way ties preferred both in new and reworked furniture- my upholsterers do 16-way). Reshaping arms if desired, changing the cant (slope) on the back, replacing, raising or lowering legs as necessary or desired, and replacement of worn layers of battings and cushion stuffings are usual. Whether you buy new furniture or have old recovered, look inside the cushion covers, there should be a cotton muslin cover between the stuffings and the upholstery fabric -- adds years to the life and keeps the look clean, sort of like a lady wearing a slip. The finish upholstery should be like good tailoring: seams even and clean, matched pattens and cleanly even cording (if applicable), small stitches on anything exposed, NO staples ( only tacks = 1 hole in frame instead of 2 which makes it possible to re-upholster and reupholster a piece). Fabric should be appropriate for the use of the piece, i/e. no silk sofa fabric unless you live as if you have Marie Antoinette's living room. Look for ratings and other information on the fabric manufacturer's label. it used to be that only contract (commercial) fabrics had these but more and more residential fabrics show them and you can always call the manufacturer. You are looking for cleanability and durability. Durability will say upholstery and sometimes the use - heavy duty or some such. What you really wan to know is the number of double-rubs (noted usually with the Wyzenbeek method used to test wear capacity in fabrics). 25000 is usually for residential fabrics, higher is better and look at the fabric composition- does it snag when you pull your ring over it, is it chenille (it must be backed or it will wearout) Sounds expensive but, unless you go for really expensive fabric, it shouldn't cost as much as a midrange sofa from one of those lifestyle home stores that send out catalogues (you know the ones). example, I just had a client's 25 year old dining chairs rebuilt with seat springs redone and reupholstered in excellent fabric (residential grade damask for the backs at 36000 double rubs, ultrasuede for the seats at 200000 double rubs!) for less per each than new, moderately well made Queen Anne chairs with only a scrap of fabric on foam covered plywood seat (uncomfortable) from one of those very trendy lifestyle stores.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 7:45PM
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I agree with everyting above, with the exception of the comment about staples. They are much maligned and misunderstood and several friends of mine who reupholster swear by them. In our marine climate stainless staples outlast even the best quality tacks and there is no rusting. The holes they create are smaller and the load is spread more evenly. A properly adjusted staple gun and the proper size staple can be set much more efficiently with no damage to the frame.

I've had 5 pieces reupholstered over the years, the youngest in the 50-60 yr. old range (in original upholstery!). All were completely "ripped down", the frames checked for "racking" and the "wobbles" and tightened. All the webbing was removed and replaced, the springs reused and re-tied. Any horsehair (on the really old pieces) was cleaned and reused, fluffed up and secured with bridle ties. All the foam in the cushions of the newer pieces was replaced (I sampled the density of the foam before deciding which one to use), and wrapped in batting with a non-woven cover. Every piece came home looking wonderful and I've never regretted having them redone.

Reupholstery is labor instensive. You are paying someone who lives locally to take the time to fuss over your furniture. They have worked hard to amass and perfect their skills, they have overhead, and they pay taxes, too. Personally? I would rather pay a tradesman/craftsman in my own country to breathe new life into something I find pleasing and works in my home. I agree than many of new particle board pieces are not worth the time required, but any good upholsterer will tell you that at the time the estimate is given.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 5:35AM
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I don't know if the OP is still reading, but I always think recovering/reupholstery is worth the money, because I'd rather pick out my own fabric, from my own sources, than have something mass-produced. I've found great fabrics on Ebay and online, at much better prices than Calico Corners.

I sincerely doubt that "new performs better" for anyone except people who own furniture stores.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 4:11PM
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If you like the sofa and it is in good condition. By all means, cover it. Nate the decorator on the Ophray show says, spend the money on a good sofa and a style that you love. And have it reupholstered rather than buy a new sofa, he's had the same sofa for twenty years. And you know he is rolling in dough. lol

I bought a Queen Anne sofa from a friend of a friend. It was almost a hundred years old w/horse hair. I hated the fabric but knew it would look smashing in a chenille. I had it covered in a cream chenille to resemble a bathrobe. It looks wonderful in my bedroom, I have to say.

I am going to get someone to show me how to post picture's on here. I need on the job training. lol
You should too Mpp798, a picture says volume's.


I know I spelled Ophray wrong!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 5:54PM
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I completely agree with ideefixe. I have pieces from my mother that I love. I have had these reapolstered a number of time and each time I have them reupholstered I love them even more. If you love these pieces, keep them and reupholter them.
Another suggestion is to look into your community college classes and see if they offer upholstery classes. Recently my neighbor gave me a down lounge, I signed up for the pcc class and unpolstered the piece there. I learned a ton, saved a ton and now have another piece that I love.
Lastly, going forward, buy furniture with simple lines. It is easy to work with and less expensive to reupholter. All in all I think that you will love your couch and loveseat even more if you find the right fabric! Good luck! Shop online for fabrics, you can save a ton!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 1:38PM
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Hello I've worked in furniture for 30 yrs. and i would have to say if it is a good quality piece. recover it.I work at a high end furniture company (H & M) located in hickory north carolina.Have reupholstered many years would like to help.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 10:40PM
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We have living room furniture that was purchased in 2000 from Rooms to Go and they were hardly sat on when we had 1st purchased them. We have had them almost 11 yrs now and are sat on everyday in our new house, plus we have a 3 yr old and the cream color of the living room furniture is going to need to be reupholstered. Was wanting to know how much it would cost to do so and are we better off selling it to get a new set?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 10:03AM
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I would buy new. I am not sure that the quality is worth the price of reupholstering. IMHO.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 4:57PM
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We are in a dilemma. When we married, my parents' friend gave us a used a small wing back chair. We have reupholstered it since and it has been in our living room for many years. It is in good condition and very comfortable. We are now considering putting it upstairs in our newly renovated bedroom. We had a quote of $900 to reupholster it. The fabric is very nice and will look great. But $900 on a chair that owes us nothing! We are not ones to just cast things off and buy new. When we do buy (which is not often), it is good quality. So I don't know what we should do. Any opinions?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 5:30PM
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I appreciate the valuable advice re reupholstering - but finding it hard to apply as a novice! My dilemma: I bought a modular couch made by the Pinehurst Furniture Co. (Candor, NC) about 25 years ago and am trying to decide if the quality merits reupholstering. It seems to have wood (not plywood) framing, and has springs (mostly sprung), I posted a msg asking for info on the Pinehurst Furniture Co but the only response said that a 25 year old modular is at the end of its life and it would be better to buy new. Yet this thread seems to encourage reupholstering. I do like these particular modular pieces (I have 5) but it will be fairly expensive to reupholster (minimum: $3,000). Advice welcome! And I'd love any info on Pinehurst Furniture quality.

Many thanks!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2011 at 10:18PM
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