Reupholster or Buy New?

CassandraJanuary 28, 2014

I posted earlier about pricing two new chairs. These would be replacement chairs for the exact same two I currently own. The reason for the replacement is that my cats have really destroyed the chairs with their scratching. The chairs work perfectly in my space, so I am not inclined to look for something different.

My question concerns getting them reupholstered versus tossing them and buying new. The cats have scratched the material, but the chairs themselves are in fine shape. Having never had anything reupholstered, I wonder whether the cost might be worth it vs. buying new (although I've heard it can be just as expensive). Do upholsterers make house calls to give estimates, or how would I begin to find out?

To replace the two chairs would run around $1400. I've attached the link that shows the chair and fabric I want. Thanks!

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$700 a chair, between labor and fabric, is doable. But then that's a push.

Are the existing chairs really well constructed? Do you want a fabric that is reasonable priced?

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 9:26AM
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The chairs are quite sturdy and well constructed. The fabric I want is the one shown in the photo--I have no idea, because I haven't priced it yet, whether it is expensive or not. If the price of upholstry isn't much less than buying new (which I suspect!) then I'll buy new. Just want to investigate the options.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 9:46AM
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How old are the original chairs? I ask because new furniture tends to not be made very well. If the original chairs are older and HEAVY (heavier than the new),definitely keep them and reupholster them, even if it costs more to do it that way. If they're the same build, put the old ones on CL to sell cheap to someone who likes to reupholster, and buy the new ones.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 9:50AM
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Generally it is not cheaper to reupholster. People reupholster because they are at a price point where the fabric is custom anyway, and/or because the chair itself is superior quality.

Edited to add:
I will mention one other reason. I do not know enough about furniture to really assess construction quality, but I have 4 amr chairs that were part of a furnished house I bought, and I am reupholstering all of them. It will cost more than new. But, i hate to put things in landfill, I like their quirky mismatched styles, and a sense of history.

This post was edited by mtnrdredux on Tue, Jan 28, 14 at 9:58

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 9:56AM
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Upholstery can vary widely in price. I would get two estimates. I was able to get estimates by sending an image of the chair attached to an email.

One way to greatly reduce costs is to purchase your own fabric at a discount. One can get fabric at more than 60 percent off without really trying. The upholster could charge full price for fabric, or might give a discount. Some upholsterers carry a very limited line of fabric and some the opposite. Some make money on the fabric and some don't make much on it and just carry the books as a convenience; I think it depends on volume. When you email the photo to the upholsterer, ask him to price it both with your own material and with a material comparable to the picture. (Unless you have a fabric swatch or name, then give him that info)

Also ask what the lead time is, whether they pick up an deliver, and total cost including that service.

If the upholsterer doesn't have a website, just call and ask him if you can email a photo for estimate.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 10:02AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Another option would be slipcovers which can be replaced as the cats destroy them....

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 10:04AM
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Whatever you decide to do, I assume you still have your cats. I hope so. :) I would really like to replace my sofa and loveseat but want to give my almost-3-year-old twin cats one more year to settle down. It's not so much the scratching as tearing across arms and backs as they race through the house.

Have you ever tried Sticky Paws? It's essentially clear, double-sided tape that you place in strategic places on your furniture (mostly at the corners). Cats hate how it feels and won't scratch there. It looks funky but it serves as a good training aid and you can eventually take it off. I recently got a used velvet armchair and ottoman and used the tape for the first month or so after I brought it into the house. My cats don't scratch it. They can be very naughty kitties, so I think it's working.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sticky Paws

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 10:05AM
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Or keep a spray bottle full of water nearby, and when they approach the chairs, give 'em a squirt.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 10:23AM
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A lot depends on where you live. In my area there are many very reasonable
upholsterers. Most of my upholstered pieces have been redone...including my grandfather's seventy year old wing chair!! Tibrix is right: older is usually better! I recently bought a Baker club chair at a thrift store for $10.00. With discounted fabric, I have a beautiful chair for $700... half the cost of new.
I know it's hard with cats that scratch. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 11:14AM
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Or keep a spray bottle full of water nearby, and when they approach the chairs, give 'em a squirt.

Which works great if you're sitting there with squirt bottle in hand, just waiting for them. One of my cats will take a squirt square in the face and barely flinch. He makes sure to come back to that spot when I'm otherwise occupied.

Also, scratching posts. They may not be Houzz darlings, but I have two at opposite ends of my living room and they get a major workout. Cats gonna scratch. Gotta give them something they can attack with impunity.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 11:27AM
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If you like the style of the chair, definitely reupholster.

I have a Sam Moore chair I bought a good 10 years ago. It is American made and well constructed. I paid at least $500 for it, but my cats had also scratched it. I did get it reupholstered. I bought the fabric at Calico Corners (probably overpaid though still on sale), and I found an upholsterer. It can be hard to get referrals. Calico Corners has their own upholsterer, but you can do better than that.

Yeah, I could've bought a cheap made-in-China chair, but I could not get rid of a quality chair. The fabric cost me about $150 for 5 yds and the upholstery around $300, but I don't think I could have bought the same chair for that amount now. I could've also saved on the fabric, but I really fell in love with this pattern. Surprisingly, it has held up well from the cats over the past two years since I had it done. I get a lot of compliments on the chair. I know it could be a trendy fabric, but in 10 more years, I'll probably want something else.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 11:29AM
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Thanks for all the very helpful advice. I am rather heartsick that these chairs have been destroyed by my two cats. They are 8 years old and would be in pristine condition if it weren't for the cats! All I can say is that they (the cats) are an intimate part of the family and not going anywhere--and yes they still scratch things. So I'll just have to do my best to protect the new chairs as long as I can. My plan is to get the new chairs (or get the old ones reupholstered) and then make some throw-type slip covers. The cats only tend to scratch when I am not home. Frankly, I am thankful that, while the cats have taken to these two chairs in the study, they've ignored the "good" living room couch and chairs.
gsciencechick, that's a very pretty chair!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 4:25PM
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I had 2 chairs reupholstered a few years ago and the price range was $700 for one chair and I think $800 for the other one. Seems kind of high since I have also had a 3 cushion sofa redone several times over the years for about the same price as one chair! I would definitely reupholster rather than buy new - the quality is not what it used to be.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 10:34PM
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