Should I re-upholster or buy new?
It is decided. You’re going to remodel your downstairs. You’ve been living in the 90’s for way too long. You want a whole new look: new kitchen, new window treatments, new powder room, new color scheme, new furniture…
On second thought, wait… I really love that sofa and those chairs are classic and if I just re-upholstered them then it might shave a few bucks from the project…
Maybe. Maybe not. Re-upholstering a piece of furniture can be a great idea if you are doing it for the right reasons. I am always for anything that keeps old sofas out of our ever expanding landfills. However, re-upholstering your favorite sofa isn’t always the best move. First of all, your beloved sofa may not be a great candidate for re-upholstery. Secondly, it may not save you a lot of money. Upholstery work and upholstery fabric can be quite expensive. If, your sofa or chair isn’t of sufficient quality, then no amount of fabric will extend its life. It can be hard to assess the quality of a piece of furniture when it’s covered in textiles. Determining if re-upholstery is a good option (or not) can be quite the design dilemma.
So, how do designers decide which pieces are fit for re-upholstery? These are a couple of the things that help me decide if re-upholstering a piece is a sound option.
The 3 C’s of Re-upholstery:
Coils (& cushions)
The first thing I do is attempt to assess the quality of the piece. I start by sitting on it. Seems like a no-brainer, but if there’s too much movement in the piece, then it’s probably not structurally stable and should not be re-upholstered. I walk around the piece and wiggle it. Does it move from side to side? Do all the legs sit evenly on the floor? If there’s too much lateral movement or if the legs are loose and don’t sit evenly, it’s probably not a good candidate. I remove any unattached cushions and rub my hand across the back and seat to feel the spring system. If the springs seem high and tight and aren’t sunken, then re-upholstery might be possible. I l will try to lift the piece to see underneath. I also check the quality of the decking, which is usually a neutral or plain piece of canvas or other sturdy material that covers the spring system. This can give an idea of the overall quality and condition of the structures that support the seat.
Then, I will attempt to examine the underside of the seat. This should be covered in a thin neutral colored cloth called a dust cover. If the client is ok with me taking a peek, using a staple remover, I will pull away part of the dust cover and try to get a look at the springs (coils) from the underside. It can be stapled back in place when I am done. If I see eight way hand-tied springs, this is a great sign. If the eight-way hand tied system is in good shape, then re-upholstering is an option. Sinuous springs, not so much, but a lot depends on the age of the sofa and the condition of the springs, though most seating with sinuous springs won’t be a good candidate for re-upholstery.
The last thing I do is look at the quality of the cushions. This can be accomplished by unzipping the cushions and taking a peek. If The cushions can be re-filled, but high quality sofas will often have an inner coil cushion that is kind of like a little mattress. If the cushions are in good shape and can be re-used, then re-upholstering is a safer bet.
The question here is can you find the sofa you love in the fabric you want. If you want a fabric that doesn’t come on a sofa you can buy in a store, then re-upholstering is probably a good idea, if you meet the quality criteria. Also, if you had a custom sofa with a shape you loved or that specifically fit an area in your home, like a curved sofa, then re-upholstery might be a good option. This is especially true if the custom sofa is still in great condition.
So what should you do if you want a specific fabric and love the shape and size of your current sofa, but the sofa you want isn’t in great condition? Have a custom replica made. A designer who has access to custom upholstery furniture manufacturers can help you place an order for a high quality sofa that meets your needs.
If you’re primary reason for re-upholstering a sofa is to save money, you might want to reconsider. It’s not always less expensive to re-upholster. The cost of labor to re-upholster can vary, but it’s pretty consistent among most upholsterers. You can usually expect to spend between $700-1500 for basic re-upholstery labor of a full sized sofa.
If you are re-upholstering a custom sofa that cost $3000+ upon purchase or a cherished heirloom, then re-upholstery will likely be less than buying a new sofa of the same quality and customization. However, a lot depends on the quality, condition, and size of the sofa, and the fabric you select. If any foam needs to be replaced or anything needs to be repaired, the cost will increase. Upholstery fabric can range in cost from $40-50/yard up to $400-500+ per yard. Most sofas require 18-25 yards of fabric, depending on whether the pattern has a print and how large the print is. You could spend thousands of dollars on the print alone. It’s easy to see how those costs can add up, making re-upholstery more a labor of love than a budget friendly option.
In the end, the decision to re-upholster requires a lot of information and careful decision making. What has your experience been with re-upholstering?
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