To Reupholster or not

DEAR GAIL: We have a sofa and chair that have seen better days and we’re considering reupholstering them. Is it better to reupholster or just buy new? ROBIN S.

DEAR ROBIN: Reupholstering is one solution to refresh your sofa and chair, but you need to take a couple things into consideration first before you start. Reupholstering most times is less expensive than buying new. I say most times because there are a couple price factors involved in reupholstering that will affect the total cost to reupholster a piece. First, are the pieces you’re considering the style you want to keep for the next 10 years? If you’re going to invest in reupholstering pieces, you’ll want to keep them for quite a few years in order to recoup the costs.

Were they good quality pieces when you bought them? Are the frame, springs, and cushions still in good condition? In my opinion, unless the pieces were good quality pieces to start with, I would not suggest reupholstering them. An exception to that thought is if the piece holds special memories or meaning to you. Maybe it was your grandmother’s favorite chair or is a special piece that you bought when you were in Germany. Now a days you can purchase fairly inexpensive upholstery, so if you paid less than around $1,000 for the two pieces to begin with, they are probably not worth reupholstering because you can buy new.

In estimating how much it will cost to reupholster, let’s look at your sofa. Since you didn’t mention the size, let’s assume it is an average size sofa of 86 inches long by 36 inches deep, exposed feet, loose back cushions in good condition. The two costs that you’ll have are fabric and labor. If you select a plain solid fabric that is 54 inches wide, you’ll need approximately 15 to 17 yards of fabric depending upon the style of the sofa. If you’re looking to select a print fabric that has a pattern repeat, you’ll need to add another 10% to 35% more fabric depending upon how large the pattern repeat is. Now fabric has a very wide price range, from just dollars per yard to over a hundred. Let’s take an average price of $35.00 per yard which will give you a good selection to choose from. Along with the fabric, you have your labor costs. Reupholsters range in price also from about $30.00 to $40.00 per yard, plus may or may not have pick-up and delivery charges.

So let’s do some calculations using the average yardage, fabric and labor costs so you can compare reupholstering to buying new. If your sofa needs 16 yards of solid fabric, the fabric costs $35.00 per yard, the reupholster charges $35.00 per yard and has only a one pick-up and delivery charge of $ 25.00; it will cost $ 1,145.00 to reupholster your sofa. If you only paid $1,000 for the piece and it does not hold any special memories, I would suggest buying new. You would be able to update the style, have a tight new frame and new cushions. But if you originally purchased a good quality piece for a couple thousand dollars or more, that still has a good tight frame and the springs and cushions are still in excellent condition, you might consider reupholstering it. I have many clients that have reupholstered a piece two or three times because it was a good piece or has special memories.

Now if buying new or the cost to reupholstering is not in your budget, you can also consider slipcovers to completing change the look of your pieces. A fitted slipcover will cost about the same as reupholstering as you need the same amount of fabric, although the labor cost will be a bit less. But you can have a loose cover made or purchase a ready-made for just a couple hundred dollars. Reupholstering is a wonderful way to transform a piece of furniture and extend its life, but just make sure it is the right choice for you and your particular piece.

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