When the cushions and upholstery of your outdoor furniture wear out, your first impulse might be to replace them or have them professionally reupholstered. But this can be surprisingly pricey. So why not do it yourself? You don't need sewing skills, and you can choose from a wide range of indoor/outdoor fabrics in assorted colors, prints, and solids at any well-stocked online or local fabric retailer. Redoing your upholstery yourself is also a great way to restore vintage garden chairs and other salvaged patio furniture without turning the whole endeavor into an expensive project.
Equipment / Tools
- Red or black non-smearing marker
- Standard scissors
- Fabric scissors
- Staple removal tool or flat-head screwdriver and pliers
- Staple gun
- Indoor/outdoor fabric
Trace the Chair Seat
Remove the chair seat base or pad from the chair frame. Use a red or black non-smearing marker to trace the shape of the seat onto a large piece of paper to create a simple pattern. This can be newspaper, butcher paper, or pieces of printer paper taped together.
Cut Out the Pattern
Cut out the paper pattern with scissors. Keep in mind that you'll need extra fabric that will wrap over the edges and onto the bottom of the seat, where you will secure the fabric with staples. In general, you should plan to add about 3 inches all around your pattern.
Purchase the Fabric
Choose an indoor/outdoor fabric that will accommodate the pattern plus several inches all around.
Most fabric stores have a special section for indoor/outdoor fabrics (often in a home decor area). These fabrics usually come in bolts that are 54 inches wide. Some stores carry samples of outdoor fabric that can be ordered. It is usually grouped by color, brand, or manufacturer.
If you're on a budget, look to purchase indoor/outdoor fabric off-season, such as after summer or before spring.
Cut the Fabric
Lay out the fabric, wrong side up, on a table or flat surface so it is smooth and wrinkle-free. Place the pattern over the fabric (preferably in a corner, to conserve as much material as possible). Use a pencil to trace around the pattern, adding a margin of 3 inches (or as needed) for wrapping the fabric around the chair seat. Cut out the fabric with good, sharp fabric scissors.
Remove the Old Fabric
Place the chair seat upside down and pull out all of the staples securing the old fabric. You can use a staple removal tool if you have one; otherwise, use a thin flat-head screwdriver and pliers. Remove the old fabric from the seat.
Add the New Fabric
Place the chair seat upside down onto the wrong side of the fabric cutout so the seat is centered on the fabric. Pull the fabric over the edge of the seat and staple it to the backside of the seat, using a staple gun. Continue around the seat, stapling the fabric every 1-2 inches. It's okay if the fabric overlaps on this side. Just make sure that the material doesn't crease, dimple, or overlap on the right side (top side) of the seat. Check frequently to see how the fabric looks on the right side of the pad.
Flip over the chair pad to inspect the finished upholstery. If it isn't completely smooth—maybe there's a crease or overlapping fabric here and there—you can always remove the staples, smooth out the fabric, and re-staple.
Fit the seat onto the chair frame. If there are any screws or other fasteners that hold the seat in place, add those now, or install new hardware.