How to reupholster a couch in 6 easy steps

Need to know how to reupholster a couch? If you have an old couch that's in need of a revive, reupholstering is easier than you think.

 Mustard Velvet 3 Seater Sofa in a modern industrial style living room - Swyft
(Image credit: Swyft)

Researching how to reupholster a couch? Reupholstering a couch to give it new life is a great way to save money and add some personality to your living room. It’s also a project that you can complete in a weekend, which is perfect if you’re short on time.

Even the best sofas will be in need of a refresh at some point. But some people wonder is it worth it? Is it cheaper to reupholster a couch or just buy new? If you have the skills, reupholstering will save you a ton of money. Purchasing new fabric, even high-end fabric, will be much more cost-effective than buying a whole new sofa. If you're not sure, do a cost comparison and you'll see the difference.

Another common question people ask is can you reupholster over the existing fabric? If the old fabric is neutral enough or the new fabric is dark then you could feasibly go over the existing fabric. But I wouldn't recommend it. For one, you can remove the old fabric to use as a pattern for the new fabric. Also, you don't want the old fabric to bunch up under the new cover.

So let's get into what steps to take if you're ready to reupholster your couch.

How to reupholster a couch

You will need:

1. Remove the old fabric from couch

Removing the old fabric can be done by using a seam ripper or a knife. Be careful not to damage the underlying foam or stuffing. 

If there are any tacks or staples holding the fabric in place, remove them using pliers or a screwdriver. 

I recommend removing the fabric very carefully, one section at a time so you can use the old fabric as a pattern as mentioned above.

vacuum cleaning a sofa - Alamy

(Image credit: Alamy)

2.  Clean the couch and frame

Once the old fabric is removed, clean the couch frame and padding using a vacuum cleaner and a cloth. We've got a guide for how to clean a couch that'll help out here.

Make sure that all of the dirt and dust is removed, as this will help the new fabric to last longer.

swathes of fabric samples - Deposit photos

(Image credit: Deposit Photos)

3. Choose a new fabric

Now it’s time to choose a new fabric. Make sure that it’s of good quality and is the right color and design for your living room. 

You can find affordable fabrics at any fabric store like Joann's or Hobby Lobby. If you’re not sure how much fabric to buy, it’s best to overestimate, as you can always cut off any excess.

fabric on an armchair - Deposit photos

(Image credit: Deposit Photos)

4. Cut your fabric

Once you have chosen the fabric, cut it to the correct size using the old fabric. Make sure you cut it a little bigger to allow for the seams. You'll want to invest in a good pair of scissors like Singer's fabric scissors from Amazon to make clean cuts.

Once the fabric is cut, spread it out over the couch frame to make sure the cuts are correct. Double-check that the fabric is positioned evenly and that there are no wrinkles.

woman's hands at a sewing machine, sewing fabric

(Image credit: Deposit Photos)

5. Sew the fabric pieces

Now it’s time to sew the pieces together. Remember to leave the bottom open so you can fit the new material over the frame of the couch. I recommend using a sewing machine – like the Brother CS5055 from Amazon which is super easy to use – for sewing the pattern together, as it will make the job a lot easier. 

If you don’t know how to use a sewing machine, there are plenty of online tutorials that can teach you how. Be sure to use a straight stitch and a zig-zag stitch to reinforce the seams.

an upholstery gun on swathes of fabric - deposit photos

(Image credit: Deposit Photos)

6. Fit the new couch cover 

Once the pieces have been sewn together, fit the cover over the couch. Trim any excess fabric using a pair of scissors. Attach the fabric to the underside of the couch using an easy to use upholstery staple gun like Yeohome's on Amazon. 

Make sure that the staples are evenly spaced and that there are no wrinkles in the fabric.

An assortment of color blocked and floral indoor outdoor cushions

(Image credit: West Elm)

7. Make new cushion covers

To make new cushion covers remove the old fabric and again use it as a pattern to create the new cushion covers. 

Sew the pieces together with your sewing machine. I recommend installing zippers, which come in array of colors on Amazon, on the backside of the cushion so you can remove the cover and wash them when needed.

Now stand back and admire your handiwork. You’ve just given your old couch a new lease on life.

How do you reupholster a couch without removable cushions?

But what if you can't remove the cushions from your couch? Reupholstering a couch without removable cushions can be done by following these simple steps:

  1. Carefully remove the fabric from the cushions using a seam ripper. Use it to create a pattern for the new fabric. 
  2. Drape the new fabric over the existing cushion and use an upholstery staple gun to attach the fabric to the wood frame back behind the cushion. 
  3. Cover up the seam with the new cover you create for the base of the couch.

And that’s a wrap. Your couch is now reupholstered and ready for use. Enjoy!

Dori Turner writes blog posts and feature articles on affordable design and DIY from her home in the heart of Oklahoma. She has a passion for teaching others how they can transform their home on a budget.

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