Upholstery Basics: Constructing Coil Seats — Part 2


I’ll bet that whether you’re at work or home, you’re willing to linger a little longer if your seat is soft. There’s no telling what you found while stripping your piece of furniture. How about some horse hair, pig hair, hay, even old t-shirts to pad your seat? I kid you not . . . I’ve found them all! This month on Upholstery Basics, we’ll add a little cush to the coils we tied in Part I with some cotton, foam and Dacron. Whether your chair has coil springs, zigzag springs or no springs, you can use these steps to rebuild your tight seat, sans t-shirts. — Amanda

Read the full how-to after the jump!

Materials

  • goggles
  • pliers
  • staple remover
  • scissors
  • air compressor
  • stapler
  • 1/2” long staples
  • burlap
  • chalk
  • edge roll
  • permanent marker
  • square point upholstery knife or razor blade
  • seat foam
  • electric carving knife
  • spray adhesive
  • cotton batting
  • Dacron

Instructions

If you’re starting with no springs, refer to steps 2–9 from Part I, but staple the webbing on top of the frame instead of the bottom. If you have zigzag (sinuous) springs, which look the same way they sound, start here. And don’t forget your goggles!

1. Cut a piece of burlap a few inches bigger than the seat on all sides and center it on top of the frame. Staple the middle of the back side. Avoid stapling on top of tacks, and do your best to keep the staples in the center of the frame where it’s strongest.

2. Pull the excess to the front and staple.

3. Now that we have the burlap secured in place, we’ll need to make some cuts to release the burlap around the back leg posts. Release cuts can be tricky, so before you start cutting, smooth the burlap from the middle of the seat to a post that’s in the way, and fold the excess burlap back. If the corner of the post is the first thing you touch, draw a line from the middle of the seat to the post on the back side of the burlap you just folded over.

4. If the flat side of the post is the first thing you touch rather than the corner of the post, draw a y-cut as shown in the diagram below on the back side of the excess burlap. A perfect y-cut is shown on the left, where the ends of the y perfectly meet the sides of the post. If the cut needs to be deeper (burlap puckers in front of the post), always extend the ends of the y straight back to the edges of the post as shown on the right. You don’t want to make the y wider than the width of the post. Otherwise, you’ll see frayed or cut edges.


5. Now cut on the lines you’ve drawn, but be careful not to cut too far. As you get close to the post, make baby cuts until it’s to the right depth. Then place a few staples on either side of the post to hold it in place.

6. Repeat steps 3–5 for the other leg posts and any wooden arm posts, if you have them.

7. Once you have all of the release cuts secured, continue pulling tightly and stapling the burlap all the way around the frame.

8. Fold over the excess burlap and staple again.

The point of edge roll is to provide extra padding on the edges that get the most wear and tear. On this chair, we’ll put edge roll on the front and two sides and skip the back side, since it doesn’t get much action. If your chair has wooden arms, put edge roll on the part of the frame that’s in front of the arms.

9. With a small seat like this, I use a 1/2” diameter edge roll. Place the end of the edge roll 1/2” from the back leg post with the tail in toward the center of the seat. Staple through the tail into the frame, being careful to line up the outside edge of the edge roll with the edge of the frame.

10. As you approach the corner, draw a line with a permanent marker that is even with the next side.

11. Draw two lines in the shape of a “v” out from the line that’s even with the next side.

12. Cut out the “v” with the knife or razor blade without cutting all the way through the edge roll. Bend the edge roll to turn the corner, and continue stapling. Repeat steps 10–12 for the other corner.

13. When you reach the other leg post, cut off the excess 1/2” from the post and staple it down.

14. Once the edge roll is stapled all the way around, reinforce it with another round of staples by pinching off a small chunk of the edge roll and stapling it to the outside edge of the frame.

15. I’m using a 2” thick, medium-density foam for this seat, but feel free to experiment with different thicknesses to get the look you like best. Using the edge roll as a guide, trace the shape of the seat onto the underside of the foam. Squish the foam down around the posts and make marks around them.

16. Cut 1/2” beyond the mark with a carving knife, to ensure the foam is able to reach the edge of the frame. I’ve left the back of the seat unmarked until I cut out the notches for the posts. Then I’ll put the foam back on the seat, mark the back side and cut off the excess.

17. Attach strips of burlap to the edge of the foam with spray adhesive. The burlap shapes the foam and attaches to the frame, so leave an extra 10” beyond the edge of the foam, so there’s plenty to hold as you staple. I like to cut out the excess burlap where the leg posts go before I put the foam on the seat.

18. To allow the spray adhesive time to dry, go back to the chair and fill in behind the edge roll with several layers of cotton, so there’s not a dip around the edge of the seat.

19. Close your eyes and use your hands to find low and high spots on the surface of the seat. Then place the cotton in and around these areas to make the surface even. Finish off the cotton batting with a full layer that comes to the edge of the seat. If you like a higher crown, repeat step 5 from Dining Chair Do-Over like I’ve done here.

20. Once the adhesive is dry, center the foam on top of the frame, and with the palm of your hand, push down the front middle of the foam and staple the burlap to the front side of the frame. The foam should be rounded, not boxy, when you staple.

21. Pull the foam tightly to the back and staple from the center out across the entire back side of the frame. Be sure that the foam is extending slightly beyond the edge of the frame or edge roll before you staple.

22. Now that the back side is secured all the way across, move to the front and staple the remainder of that side.

23. Repeat steps 20–22 for the right and left sides. Then cut off the excess burlap down to the staples.

24. Next, we’ll cover the seat with Dacron. Determine where your fabric staples to the frame. The Dacron will stop just before your staple line. Lay a piece of Dacron, with a few inches of excess, on top of the foam. Starting with the middle front, split the Dacron layers in half and staple ONLY the bottom layer to the frame.

25. Smooth the Dacron to the back and put in the same release cuts as before to get around the leg posts.

26. Staple down the back edge. Then move on to the right and left sides. Continue splitting the layers as you staple.

27. Cut out excess Dacron in the front corners, around the legs and even with the bottom edge.

Reminders

1. Always secure the release cut you’re working on with staples before moving onto the next one.

2. Humidity will affect the drying time for spray adhesive, so allow a few extra minutes if it’s raining or you live in a sticky climate.

3. Always use spray adhesive in a well-ventilated area, and do not use spray adhesive if you are pregnant. Get a friend to help!

And just to make you feel far more accomplished, take a look at that top photo; you can now do all of those seats! See you back here next time for the fabric finale!

Candy from Candied Fabrics

Whoa! This is so AWESOMELY detailed! I’ve done some upholstery, but never followed all these steps. I’ve got a mission rocker that needs a redo and this post will be my bible. THANK YOU!

Jennifer

This is a fantastic post! And goes way beyond the basics! It’s officially bookmarked in my creative references! Thank you!

Jaime

I’m soo0 excited by this series! I have a set of these exact chairs that I bought on Kijiji a few years back and they are way overdue for re-upholstering! I’ve been trying to make time to take a course, but now i don’t need to – your instructions are awesome. Now all I need is to find the perfect fabric for this project.

Katie

This is quite an extensive way to handle upholstery. I’m loving that it goes beyond adding a new cover – you’re practically showing how to make a new seat! The instructions are spot-on! Very nice!

Claire

so cool and so simply! you’re making me so handy. i don’t think i will buy furniture from a store ever again

Meg

Thank you so much for this! I’ve been meaning to re upholster my chair for ages and now I know how to do it properly.

Cheers
Meg

Jen

Amanda- Love the Upholstery series, one day I’ll be brave enough to tackle a chair. Also love your orange nail polish – what is it?

Julius

This is superb. I hope you will soon do a similar tutorial on re-caning a chair seat.

Claudia

Thank you for this excellent tutorial, so clear and complete! And professional, too.

Kate

This is wonderfully comprehensive and I can’t wait to give it a go. However, I was just wondering if the steps here are the same/similar if re-upholstering a dining chair that doesn’t have springs?

Anita

This is a great thorough tutorial. I have a chaise lounge with damaged foam (exuberant young dog!) that I would love to redo but I’ve been kind of afraid to try.

Sarah

I have always shied away from buying chairs with coils to re-upholster, but this tutorial will certainly help put my fears at bay! Thanks for the detailed step-by-step.

jma

Please tell me where I can find the fabric on the settee in the center. I can’t live without it!

Rose

Thank you so much for the detailed and clear tutorial! Looking forward to the next one. Does anyone know who makes the fabric that is on the rocking chair second from the left? It is exactly what I have been looking for.

Amanda

Jen, I don’t know the name of the color, but it’s the orangey-red from Gelac.

Kate, check out the Dining Chair Do-Over post I did a few months ago for how to do dining room seats.

JMA, the fabric on the settee is a vintage one I found on eBay. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find more of it.

Rose, the rocking chair fabric is by Schumacher, and it’s called Chiang Mai Dragon. We sell this fabric at Spruce, so feel free to give us a ring if you need more info about it (512-454-8181).

Looking forward to finishing this chair up with you all!

Cindy

Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

Now I can’t wait for warmer weather so I can start stalking all the rummage sales for a reupholstery project.

Thanks for another great tutorial!

Jerolyn Nordlund

I want to pin this to my style on Pinterest!

Connie Casey

I am about to tackle my first REAL upholstery project…not just a dining room seat cover. This will prove to be a wonderful tool and guide. Thanks for taking the time to walk us through this! Now hopefully Ill have a beautiful antique rocker sooner than later!

Sarah

First, thank you so much for this series, it has proven extremely helpful for me!

Second, is there an online store that you would recommend to buy upholstery supplies? I cannot find any local stores that carry jute webbing or dacron batting.

Thank you very much!

Sarah

Peter Cole

Is a part 3 going to be produced, parts 1 and 2 are very good and very helpful as I am doing up chairs very similar to those shown in your tutorial but I cannot find the final part to enable me to finish off.

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