Koa Rocking Chair

Upholstering a Wooden Chair: Our 9 Pros and Cons

If you have an old wooden chair, upholstering it can be a great way to give that chair new life. In fact, upholstering the chair gives you a chance to refinish and repair scratches from everyday use and even repaint your chair a different color. But with all of these benefits, should you upholster your old chair? There are pros and cons to upholstering a wooden chair. On the one hand, upholstering can be a great afternoon project that revitalizes your chair. But there is a possibility that doing so is not worth the risk or worth your time and money. 

While this article does not go through the steps of upholstering a chair, we wrote this to give you something to think about if you are considering the option. So let’s see if upholstering your wooden chair is a good idea for you. We will start off with some of our thoughts on the advantages and then will go over some of the disadvantages.

Advantages of Upholstering a Wooden Chair

If you want to redo some of your furniture or give your home a new look, upholstering a wooden chair can be a great idea. Upholstering wooden chairs is relatively easy since you don’t need a lot of special supplies or tools to do the job. Some of the reasons to upholster your chair is to make it more comfortable, change up the design or color, reuse what you have, avoid going shopping, and save money. 

Make it More Comfortable

One of the best reasons to upholster any wooden furniture is to add some comfort where it counts. Wooden chairs are hard and can be painful to sit on for long periods. If you find a fabric that you like, you can apply that and some foam to the seat of a wooden chair to add some cushion.

Putting fabric and padding onto your chair can improve the comfort of it. So maybe instead of sticking the chair in a corner and only using it when you need to reach that item at the top kitchen cabinet, it might become your favorite chair in the future. Or if your chair is primarily for guests, upholstering it can help guests feel better when they come to visit. But be careful because if it’s too comfortable, they may never want to leave.

Regardless of whoever sits on a given wooden chair, it can be nice to add a cushion to make the seat more comfortable. Not only will you want to sit on it, but you will have an extra seat for when you have friends or family come over to enjoy the wonderful weather that’s typical of Hawaii.

Change Up the Design or Color

If your wooden chair is already comfortable, you may not want to change the padding. But you may want to add some color variety to your chairs. Changing the appearance of a chair is usually much cheaper than buying a new chair.

While you can also change the design with new paint, you may not want to mess with the wood finish. So instead of repainting your chair, you can change the color of the seat of the chair by changing the color and design of the fabric. You are only limited by your fabric selections of color, patterns, and type of fabric. That’s where upholstering is a better option. And if you decide to change the color or design in the future, you can easily take off the fabric and replace it. Using paint would require a new coat to go on top of the current color.

Adding some fabric and padding can be an easy way to change the look of a chair. And if your other furniture already has a particular color or pattern, changing and matching your remaining wooden chair to the rest of your furniture is a no-brainer.

Reuse Your Furniture

Many people, even those who have never visited the state, know that living on an island in the middle of the Pacific is expensive. So you pay a premium to ship anything to Hawaii from the mainland. And not only is new furniture expensive, but it can sometimes be hard to find. Since shipping options are limited, your furniture selection can be limited. Meanwhile, shipping lighter and perhaps smaller items, like fabric, isn’t as expensive

Avoid Going Shopping for New Chairs

This may not bother you, but shopping in general can be taxing on your patience and time. You have to spend time going to furniture stores, testing out new chairs, and maybe even working with sales staff. All of that can be avoided if you decide to work with a chair you already have.

  • You can upholster chairs at your leisure versus when you decide to go shopping for something new, you typically have to do so during store hours.
  • While online shopping is convenient, it might not save you much time for items like furniture where there is still no substitute for seeing or buying something in person. 
  • By upholstering a chair you already have, you won’t have to wait for shipping to Hawaii or perhaps scheduling a time for your chair to be delivered from the store.

Depending on where you live, shopping for furniture can be a hassle. Why spend your valuable time searching online or driving from store to store looking for that perfect chair? Working with what you have will save you from all of that.

Save Money

It can’t be stressed enough how expensive things are in Hawaii. From living costs to new furniture, you can easily spend a lot of money if you aren’t careful. When possible, using what you have and buying just a bit of fabric can save you money.

Of course, you will have to spend some money on your choice of fabric. And if you don’t already have foam padding, you may need to buy some of that for your chair. However, even in areas with lower costs of living, fabric and foam padding are almost always going to be less than a new chair.

In that case, it’s better to use your chair and add some upholstery to it. You can save even more money by asking friends or family if they have any extra fabric or foam padding. That way, you might have a newly upholstered chair without spending anything.

Disadvantages of Upholstering a Wooden Chair

While upholstering an old wooden chair has its advantages, this is not always the case. So even if you’re set on upholstering your favorite wooden chair, consider the disadvantages of doing so.

These things may not change your mind, but they’re worth knowing before you put in the time and effort. That way, you can make an informed decision regarding your next woodworking project. In some cases, it may be the right decision, but you won’t always know that unless you know what could go wrong.

It Takes Time

Of course, any woodworking project will take time. Unless you do this for a living, you’ll have to work around your work schedule and other responsibilities. With a busy schedule, an afternoon project could extend for quite a while.

  • Upholstering a chair could be as simple as stapling fabric over some foam padding, and that’s easy enough to do in an afternoon.
  • But if you want to do more complex upholstery, that could take much longer.
  • As a beginner, regardless of the extent of your project, you should take it slowly so that you do everything the right way.
  • If you have some upholstering experience, you can go a little faster, but you still need to account for the time it takes to acquire materials and prep your chair.
  • It’s always possible for you to make mistakes, and that’s okay. However, fixing your mistakes will add extra time to your project.

While you could save time and have a professional do the work, odds are if you are reading this, you probably want to complete the project yourself. Upholstery doesn’t have to take days or weeks, but you also don’t want to rush the project. Be sure to take your time so you can make sure that you do it correctly.

You Need the Right Tools

Upholstering is a fantastic skill to add to your woodworking tool kit, but you may need some special tools. For example, you’ll need a stapler and staples that can work with fabric and wood. You may already have a regular stapler and some staples, but those won’t work well. Office staples usually aren’t going to be strong or long enough to work with wood and fabric.

When it comes to choosing a fabric you also need the right kind of fabric. Some types of cloth are thicker than others and thus more durable and better suited for upholstery. You don’t want to use the same fabric for a chair that you would use to make clothing.

Also, you want to make sure you choose foam padding that is supportive and doesn’t remain compressed after only a couple of uses. You want the padding to last. And if the foam padding compresses too easily, then your chair might not be as comfortable as planned.

The Cost Can Seem High

If you still decide to upholster your chair, there are some things that can make the project costly.

  • You may have to buy a certain amount of fabric even though you don’t need that much. And if you only have one chair to upholster, the cost for that extra fabric is just an unnecessary expense.
  • The same thing is true for foam padding. You may not always be able to find a small amount of it so that you might end up with an extra amount.
  • Buying a special stapler and staples may not make sense if you only plan to use them once. In the end, you may not have much use for that special stapler after this project.

When you start adding up all of the materials, tools, and the cost for your time to complete this type of project, it can seem like a lot. While the costs may not equal that of a new chair, it still doesn’t mean that upholstering your old chair is always the best way to go.

It Could Damage the Chair

The risk is usually minimal, but you may not want to take a chance if your chair is very old or a fragile family heirloom. There is a possibility that upholstering a very old chair could damage or crack the wood. The final thing to consider is that adding fabric to a chair can cover or detract from the beauty of the wood. 

Final Thoughts

We hope this article was helpful. So before you do anything to your wooden chair, consider what could happen, the pros and the cons. In some cases, upholstering will be the obvious choice, but there might be times when you don’t want to risk any changes or it just doesn’t make economical sense. You get to decide if you want to take on this project. Upholstering a chair can be relatively inexpensive and a fun afternoon project. 

Even if you are not in the market for a new chair right now, come get ideas for your next project at www.rkwoodshawaii.com. While you are there, check out our evolving list of services or call us to visit our shop in Hilo, (808) 959-4060.