The key to knowing when to reupholster is understanding what that entails.

The decision is often a hard one. The sofa looks great, but the fabric is wearing thin or there's a spot where the cat scratched it. Maybe your sofa is fairly new, but there's a big tear on the back. The question is: When should you reupholster the sofa, and when should you let it go and buy new? There are some guidelines to know first before undertaking reupholstering a piece of furniture.

Recover or reupholster

The key to knowing when to reupholster is understanding what that entails. A standard reupholstery will include adding or replacing cushions, making any repairs to the frame and support system, re-staining exposed wood, and adding new fabric and trim. If your furniture is in good repair, but there is a major stain or tear in the fabric, and it's relatively new, you may only need to recover.

However, if you've had a piece of furniture for some time and it feels like it's in good shape, it's usually a good idea to replace the cushion foam and materials underneath so that your chair isn't being reupholstered with clean new fabric over an old, dirty cushion. Some say recovering and reupholstering are one in the same, but it's important to understand the distinction.


One of the critical determinations of whether to buy new or reupholster is the value of the piece of furniture. If your furniture is a high-quality chair, for example, replacing it with the same quality new chair could cost significantly more, making reupholstering a good value. A well-made piece of upholstered furniture will last decades and may be worth the investment. This is also true based on the value of the piece to you.

The chair you want to reupholster may be an heirloom or something you'd like to bring back to life. Valuable antiques, well-made items and heirlooms all fall under the category of being worth reupholstering. Also part of the value? If the piece you have fits perfectly in your house, having it reupholstered might be a better choice than taking a chance with a new piece of furniture.

Location and use

When determining whether to replace or reupholster, it's important to give thought to how the piece is used, and what is a priority. For a busy family, having a solid and sturdy sofa might be key, but if the traffic and wear and tear on the sofa from kids or pets is significant, buying new might be a better option than an expensive reupholstery job.


Reupholstering costs typically factor in fabric, materials, such as foam and padding, and labor. The upholstery company is a good starting point for fabric, but you may be able to save some money by providing your own upholstery fabric. Check with your upholsterer to see if they'll let you use your own fabric; most will.

If you are re-covering a piece of furniture, your costs will be limited to the fabric and labor. Prices can vary greatly depending on where you live, the cost for the fabric and the amount of work and time involved on your project. Be sure to get estimates for the work and understand exactly what will be done.

(For more information, contact Kathryn Weber through her website,

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.

Load comments