What is furniture upholstery?

The main components of an upholstered piece of furniture include the frame, support system, padding and fabric.


• Frames for furniture vary from traditional wood to the metal and plastic of many modern pieces.


Support systems for frames include:

• Solid systems, often used for kitchen chairs.

• Springs to support the seating area.

• A tension system, with a web-like structure to create a solid surface.


• Padding is the upholstery foam and batting that fills out cushions.


• Upholstery fabric is thicker and more durable than ordinary cloth. Fabrics include cotton, silk and blends.

Reupholster or replace?

Before you decide whether to replace or recover a piece of furniture, be clear on how much each option will cost in terms of money and time. A new couch may fit into your budget more feasibly than the costs of upholstery. The cost to repholster a sofa can range from $700 to $1,200. However, you may decide that a piece's quality or its sentimental or historic value justifies the cost of reupholstery.

Custom upholstery or DIY upholstery?

If you have the time, patience and supplies, doing your own upholstery can has some advantages. You may learn a new skill and you'll have control of every step in the process. A DIY project, however, can be costly if you need to buy supplies you may rarely use.

To find a reputable, experienced upholsterer, ask friends and family for recommendations and read local consumer reviews on Angie's List. Other sources of references include fabric stores and interior designers who regularly work with upholstery experts.

Before you talk to a prospective upholsterer, be sure of what you want and what to ask. Inspect your furniture by wiggling the frame and sitting on cushions to see what work may be necessary to ensure that the piece is in good shape. Ask if you can provide your own fabric. Typically, an upholsterer carries samples ready to order from fabric houses.

Ask to see photos of the upholsterer's completed projects, as well as references. Be sure to actually call the references.

Factors that affect the price estimate are the style, age and condition of furniture, as well as the type and amount of fabric used, if you don't supply it. The quote should include rough estimates for basic labor and extra labor if the frame needs any restructuring. The estimate should also lists costs for padding, seat springs, fabric and supplies. Shipping, pick up and delivery fees should also be included.

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