Learn When to Reupholster a Couch

A studio apartment with an off-white sofa and ottoman with brown and yellow pillows and a yellow throw.

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Couches are perhaps the most used furniture in our homes. Short of maybe our beds, there's nowhere else where we spend more time—eating takeout, watching our favorite streaming series, chatting over a glass of wine. It's no wonder that, eventually, our beloved perch can start looking less-than-perky.

When it comes to deciding whether it's worthwhile to reupholster your couch, there's no easy answer. Truthfully, your best course of action depends on a few topics, each of which should be carefully considered in advance of committing to what can be an expensive undertaking.

While it's true that you're potentially saving your sofa from going to a landfill and opting for the more sustainable option, know that reupholstering an old sofa could actually end up costing you more than you would pay for a new one. Plus, the fact of the matter remains that, even after you have it reupholstered, it could still be uncomfortable. If there's structural damage to your piece (or just really bad wear and tear), that's not necessarily something new fabric is going to fix for you.

Ultimately, opting to reupholster your couch and going to such an expense is generally only worthwhile under a few conditions. Here's what you should consider.

If the Couch Is a Family Heirloom

If the sofa has been in your family for a while and is a prized possession with history and sentimental value, it may be worth saving. There are certain things that are irreplaceable, and you cannot put a monetary value on them—a couch that has cushioned multiple generations of your family is definitely one of them.

If you do opt to preserve an heirloom sofa through reupholstery, consider if you want to maintain the current style of the piece (like selecting a similar fabric or upholstery technique) or update it with a more modern aesthetic. Different looks may impact the type of upholsterer you go to, such as one well-versed in antique preservation versus a modern furniture maker.

If the Sofa Is a Valuable Antique

When you have a sofa that dates back more than a century and you've already invested good money in it, reupholstering it makes sense. The aesthetic value of your piece is not something that can be easily replaced by a brand-new sofa.

In this case, by reupholstering, you are restoring an antique. This is definitely not an instance where you should try to restore a piece on your own, though. Hire a qualified professional to reupholster your couch—it may be more costly than a DIY method, but it will be a worthwhile investment.

If the Sofa Has Good Bones

It makes sense to reupholster your sofa if it's very high quality or has an unusual frame. Pieces made from solid wood or those with intricate curves and lines are almost always worth saving. Plus, when these factors are at play, it's possible that the cost of reupholstering your current piece would be less than buying a new sofa of comparable quality and style. Under all that wear and tear, you may have a perfectly good sofa that can be brought back to life with a few yards of new fabric.

If You're Eco-Conscious

For homeowners that are focused on doing their part for the environment, reupholstering your couch may be the most eco-conscious choice. While you're still utilizing new materials (like seat foam and fabric), you're also keeping a major piece of furniture out of a landfill and giving it new life.

How Much Does It Cost to Reupholster a Couch?

Remember that there is a difference between re-covering and reupholstering your sofa. Re-covering involves just replacing the fabric, and it is more of a cosmetic procedure. Reupholstering could involve replacing the padding and springs, mending the frame, or restaining any wood. A complete reupholstery job involves a lot of labor and replacement of material and is more structural in nature.

Because each piece of furniture is unique, it's nearly impossible to estimate the standard cost of reupholstery. That being said, your biggest price fluctuation is most likely to come into play with your fabric choice. Different styles of fabric will run you different amounts per yard, ranging from as low as $12 a yard to as high as $200 or more a yard (especially if they're designer). On top of that, there are many professionals who will charge more for a reupholstery job if the fabric is particularly hard to work with. It's a good idea to get quotes from two or three different upholsterers for all fabric and parts, and then weigh it against what you would pay for a new sofa of the same quality.

Alternatives to Reupholstering

If you are just tired of the fabric you have right now but don’t want to invest in a new piece of furniture, you may want to look into slipcovers. Most can be made to order these days through sites like Etsy, and they're an easy way to upgrade the look of your couch without springing for a full makeover. If your sofa isn't actually in poor condition and you're just bored, you could also consider switching up your pillows. Sometimes a few new patterns and a cozy throw blanket are all you need for a completely refreshed vibe.