How to Reupholster a Recliner

by | Feb 25, 2019 | Blog

Old recliners are like keepers of memories and history. Some are family heirlooms that you get to inherit from grandparents  Some are treasures collected from your neighborhood dumpster. While their outer appearance is lackluster, you just know you can breathe some cozy life again into it. Well, if you are looking to put the snuggle back into that threadbare recliner, here is a simple guide on how to do it, without breaking the bank.

A Video Demonstration

Before we break down a written description, we suggest referencing the video below from Sailrite. Keep in mind that this is not an easy process.

Required Tools

To start you off you will need a few tools to help you out. They will make the unstitching and restitching of the upholstery more manageable.

  • Seam ripper
  • Heavy-duty scissors
  • Reupholstering staple gun with staples (electric if you are going solo)
  • tack remover
  • hot glue gun
  • extra glue sticks
  • thread/needle
  • covered button kit
  • upholstery needles
  • Straight pins
  • Measuring tape
  • Wrench (adjustable)
  • screwdriver
  • wax coated thread

Don’t forget to have some patience as well. Like we said, this isn’t an easy process by any means.

Some Quick Tips

  • Take a lot of pictures to help you put the chair back together.
  • If you are using the fabric from your seat as cutting patterns ensure that you mark them for easy identification when putting the seat back together again.
  • Recliners require about 8-12 yards of upholstery fabric. If you are going for patterns, measure the repeat pattern’s size as well.
  • When cutting the patterns out remember to add a few inches for tucking and seaming
  • Use batting over replacement foam to add stability to your upholstery fabric.
  • Extremely linear patterns like plaids or stripes may be harder to align as the recliner pieces shift, rendering your project sloppy. Large prints are easier though as they need little alignment.

Upholstery Guide

1. Take the main pieces of the recliner off of it.

Detach the back from its base, while the recliner is an upright position. Then with its bottom facing up, use your screwdriver to unscrew off the seat cushion. With the seat once more in a vertical position, unbolt the armrests and move on to the footrest and voila the seat has been taken apart, ladies and gentlemen! A word of caution though, you will probably find some lost old and musty items in the there in the process.

2. Take out the old fabric pieces if you have need of them. They are excellent patterns for cutting out the new fabric. Removing the old material also ensures a crisp, smooth finish when the upholstery is done. No offensive fold lines or creases.

3. Cut out your new pieces of fabric, ensuring that there’s enough fabric left out for stitching and tucking.

4. Iron out the cut-out fabrics before starting on the stitching, to give you a more relaxed time while stitching and more so for the final look.

5. Use straight pins to keep the material in place before commencing on the stitch work, and fold the fabric to outline edges evenly.

6. Staple the fabric, beginning from the middle of the frame, ensuring that your material is as taut as possible. Adjustable wrenches may come in handy at this point to ensure that the fabric is held in a tight grip. Take special care at the corners to prevent puckering of the fabric.

7. Recliners have cardboard pieces on them, and that means a staple gun will not do. So use your hot glue gun to re-cover the cardboard with your fabric pieces. Basically if you cant staple the area, hot glue gun it.

8. Using your covered button kit package and the directions on its back, wrap your chosen buttons. The kit will make the whole process much more manageable.

9. A long upholstery needle, we are talking 8-inch size, and some wax coated button thread should make the tufting and resewing of the buttons back to the seat easy peasy work. The benefit of wax-coated cotton is that even with the pulling and tagging it will stay strong and not break.

10. Reverse engineer the seat’s takedown and put the seat back together again.


It is no walk in the park, but the satisfaction of saving your old recliner will go unmatched for in comparison to the moments spent in that beloved chair to come.

Barry White

Chief Editor and Furniture Expert for


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