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How do you know if a piece of furniture is worth reupholstering?

By Jeff Frank

The first question is, how heavy is the piece. If the sofa feels light it probably isn’t worth reupholstering.

If you think you might have a good quality, piece turn it over. A good solid wood frame and a coil spring foundation are good indications that you may have a piece worth preserving.

Furniture with 8 way hand tied coil foundations are almost certainly worth reupholstering.

Experienced re-upholsterers can tell you immediately whether or not your furniture is worth recovering — and they will almost always tell you the truth.

Re-upholsterers don’t like working on junk furniture. They will recover anything if you insist, but they will let you know whether or not the furniture is worth recovering, if you ask.

Many people are astonished when they find out the price of recovering an old sofa is as much (or more) than the cost of buying a new piece.
When reupholstering spend whatever is needed to get top quality cushions. A cheap cushion will wear out long before the rest of the sofa.
In many cases the high price of reupholstering is directly related to the cost of the fabric. Careful shopping for fabrics can reduce the price by several hundred dollars.

Fabrics do not follow the well know maxim “you get what you pay for.” It is easy to find excellent inexpensive fabrics if you look for them.
An average sofa requires 15- 20 yards if the fabric is a solid color or a small pattern that does not need to be matched up.
Add 25% – 50% more yardage if the fabric has a pattern that needs to be matched. The amount of additional fabric will depend on the size of the pattern repeat.
In addition, the time needed to upholster a sofa with a matched pattern can be double or even triple the time needed for a plain fabric.
Fabric cost is not necessarily related to either durability or cleanability or even overall quality.

Some of the most delicate fabrics can be among the most expensive.

Many excellent fabrics are very durable, highly stain resistant and also“cheap.”

Fabric durability is measured by Abrasion Testing. According to the most common test method a fabric that tests at 30,000 double rubs is considered “heavy duty” for residential use. This rating is often listed by fabric retailers.

Very durable heavily discounted fabrics are widely available at prices below $10 per yard.

High quality fabrics that are available at lower prices have typically been discontinued by the mills or a retailer has decided not to reorder a particular pattern or color.

Fabrics are constantly being discontinued. There are always thousands of different discontinued fabrics being sold at heavily discounted prices.
Check out this article “Are 90% Off fabric sales really a good deal? for more details on this topic.

Fabrics that are still being made and stocked can easily cost anywhere from $30 – $100 per yard. Some fabrics have retail prices more than double that amount. A good leather can cost more.

A good professional interior decorator may be able to save you money if you decide to reupholster.

If you choose to use a fabric that is not discontinued decorators can sometimes obtain a substantial discount from the fabric’s retail price.
For example a fabric priced to you at $80/yd. may be available to decorators for $40/yd. while manufacturers can buy the same fabric for only $15 – $20/yd.

Highly experienced professional decorators will have more fabric sources than newbies and may also be able to get special discounts that are offered only to repeat or high volume customers .

Although the cost of reupholstering a sofa with an expensive fabric is often more than purchasing a new sofa, that cost can be dramatically reduced by using lower priced discontinued fabrics.

Professional interior designers and decorators may try to discourage you from looking at discounted fabrics. There are two main reasons for this:

They often make a profit on the cost of the fabric.
Restricting fabric selection to discounted fabrics makes it more difficult for them to find the “perfect” color, texture and pattern.

Comment by Suzan Perry:

As an upholsterer who has been working 25 years in my market this is the best explanation for the general public ever! This is what I tell clients and about 40% say “I’ll just get a new one!” Most of my biz is antique to midcentury modern.

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