Is it worth the cost to reupholster old furniture?



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It's a choice many people come to face at some point in their lifetime. That cozy chair you've spent years curling up in has lost its luster. It's dirty. The fabric ripped. But it's your favorite chair, so you don't want to get rid of it. Is there anything you can do to save it?

Angie’s List member Yvette Bonilla knew she could have bought new furniture for less than the $6,000 it cost to reupholster her old furniture

But the Atlantic Beach, N.Y., resident liked her old furniture — a sofa, two club chairs, a side chair and six dining room chairs — and wanted to maintain the set.

Another reason: Quality. Her older furniture still felt sturdy, and she knew the couch and chairs would last longer than newer, cheaper pieces of furniture.

“It really came down to the quality,” she says. 

Consumers should consider the quality of furniture and its sentimental value before deciding whether to reupholster or replace, according to highly rated furniture repair companies. A new couch or chair might cost less than reupholstery but not last as long as older, quality furniture.

Consumers need to consider the following factors when deciding whether to repair or replace their worn couches and chairs:


What’s the cost comparison?

Reupholstery can cost just as much as buying new furniture, depending on the work required and fabric used, says Vitian Robinson, owner of highly rated Vitian’s Re-upholstery in Indianapolis.

For example, if you need a single cushion re-stuffed and reupholstered because your puppy chewed it up, the job may cost about $80. But if your couch needs a full overhaul that involves re-stuffing, reupholstery and repairs to springs or backboards, the job could cost between $700 and $1,200, or more. 

Fabric drives the cost, with a typical sofa using about 13 yards of fabric and a typical chair using about 7 yards, Robinson says. Upholstery fabric typically costs between $20 and $70 per yard or more, depending on quality. So the reupholstery of a typical sofa could cost between $260 and $910, or more, for fabric alone.

The amount of fabric affects labor costs — more fabric means more labor. Intensive or special reupholstery work, such as the following, can increase labor costs:

• Working on couches with zippers

• Attaching, replacing or fixing welt cords, or fabric cords that outline the seams of cushions and pillows 

• Making sure that shapes and patterns align

• Tufting, forming patterns by threading through fabric and tying the ends with buttons or knots

Whether the cost of reupholstery is worth it depends on the quality and sentimental value of the furniture, says Dan Kim, owner of highly rated Pro Furniture Doctor in Manassas, Va.


What’s the quality of the furniture?

Consider keeping that couch or stuffed chair if the furniture remains sturdy with a quality frame, Robinson says. 

Typically, frames last longer in chairs and sofas built 10 to 15 years ago or longer, Kim says. “Old furniture is always better built,” he says. 

Many manufacturers lowered their standards in recent years by using woods previously unsuitable for furniture frames, Robinson says. Manufacturers often assemble frames with staples and fast-drying epoxy, as opposed to older furniture, built with strong hardwood and screws, she says. Screws last longer because they don’t loosen as easily as staples. 

Replace a couch or cushioned chair if the frame seems damaged, she says.

Special inspections shouldn’t be needed to notice if your couch or chair frame is falling apart, she says. 

“You notice by sitting on it,” Robinson says. “If springs start to pop, if the backboard is breaking, you know it.”

If the frame remains strong, reupholstery gives consumers a chance to restore their couch with more control over the look and shape of the cushions, she says.

“You can have round cushions, squared cushions, different fabrics,” she says. “You get to update it to what you want it to look like. It becomes a bit more custom.”


Does the furniture have sentimental value?

Royersford, Pa., Angie’s List member David Hannah found an antique rocking chair 25 years ago in the attic of an inn his parents purchased. He’s dragged the chair with him to every home and apartment he’s lived ever since, through four or five different moves, says his wife, Leslie Hannah.

“Over the years, it got in worse and worse shape,” Leslie says of the chair, which deteriorated with torn corners, worn padding, spots of discoloration, scratches and a ripped back. 

She thought about throwing it out, but her husband became attached to the chair. So she decided to repair and reupholster the piece of furniture instead.

“I wanted to fix it up for him as a Christmas present. I also got sick of 15 years of throwing a blanket over it whenever anyone came over, because I was embarrassed.”

She spent $850 to repair the piece of furniture after hiring highly rated The Plane Concept in Willow Grove, Pa., and learning the chair likely originated from the late 1890s, she says.

“It’s an incredible amount of money to spend on one chair, but it was old, an antique, and the quality of the work that was done was excellent,” she says.

Consumers might want to consider keeping and repairing worn pieces of furniture they’ve become attached to, such as antiques or furniture passed down from parent to child, Kim says.

If a consumer gets rid of a piece of furniture they inherited from a grandparent or parent, they might regret it, Robinson says.

“There’s no price to sentimental value, so if your furniture means something to you, think hard before deciding to replace it,” she says.

Even if the furniture doesn’t have sentimental value, consumers might simply like their favorite sofa or stuffed chair, either because of comfort or style, Robinson says. Consumers should consider replacing worn fabric on couches they find comfortable, and that fit with the overall style and décor of their home, she says.


Will repairs meet your expectations?

Consumers need to make sure they have realistic expectations when hiring an upholstery company, Robinson says.

For example, she typically won’t reupholster recliners with fluffy, attached cushions, she says.

“It’s impossible to get that fluffiness back,” she says. “You can’t duplicate what’s done in the factory, and sometimes that’s what people are expecting.”


Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story originally posted on Sept. 5, 2013.


Click here for the original post.

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Author: This article was written by Jason White, Angie’s List.