This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Arrow Fastener. All opinions are 100% mine.
Learn how to make a DIY bench cushion to fit any bench, window seat, or outdoor bench without any sewing—all you need is a staple gun!
We have been using an IKEA Kallax cubby storage unit turned on its side as a window seat and reading bench in the kids’ room, and it works great! But even with a bunch of pillows and blankets, it’s not super comfortable to sit for long periods of time. So I made a simple DIY bench cushion to add to the top of the window seat, and I did it all without any sewing. You just need a piece of wood, bench foam, batting, fabric, and a staple gun, and it will come together in just over an hour!
We actually have another Kallax unit in the kids’ room that we use for toy storage. That one has fabric bins in it rather than just open shelving, but it’s another great use for this piece of furniture. We also use IKEA Trofast bins as dressers, which the girls love because they can easily open and close the drawers to get at their clothes.
And now that this window seat is upholstered, the kids’ room is feeling pretty functional and organized these days. The kids love curling up with a good book, a pillow, and a blanket anytime they want!
How To Make A No-Sew Bench Cushion
Making a bench cushion is actually pretty easy, even if you’ve never upholstered something yourself before. The great thing about this DIY bench cushion is that you make it completely separately from the bench, then put the cushion on top of the bench at the end. This means you can make your cushion any size you want, so it will fit on any bench, window seat, storage bench, or any other long seat you already have. If you use outdoor fabric, you can even use this no-sew bench cushion for outdoor benches too!
The most important thing about DIY upholstery is having a good staple gun; being able to easily drive staples (without the gun jamming) makes a world of difference. I used an Arrow T50 R.E.D. staple gun and it made quick work of securing the fabric.
You can find links to the exact materials and equipment I used for this project at the bottom of this post.
- 1/2″ plywood, cut exactly to the size of the top of your bench
- 2 yards of upholstery fabric
- 3″ medium density bench foam, cut exactly to the size of the top of your bench
- hi-loft batting (I bought the “full” size roll which is 81″ x 96″)
- 5 yards of upholstery trim (optional, I used this cute pink fringe trim)
The amount of the materials you’ll need depends on the size of your bench. The amounts listed above are how much I bought for this project. The top of our IKEA Kallax bench is 16 1/2″ x 57 7/8″ so I had the plywood cut to exactly that size at Home Depot before I bought it. Everything else I cut down to size myself and had a little left over.
- Arrow T50 R.E.D. staple gun
- Arrow T50 staples – 5/16″
- Arrow TR550™ All Purpose Glue Gun
- Arrow clear hot glue sticks
- spray adhesive
- staple puller
- large serrated knife, like a bread knife
- drop cloth
Start by cutting everything to the correct size.
I had my plywood cut to the correct size in Home Depot before I took it home, but you can cut yours down to size with a table saw or circular saw if you want to do it yourself.
Lay the plywood on top of the bench foam, lining up two sides at a corner. Mark the edges of the other two sides on the foam using a pen or marker.
Cut the foam down to size using a large serrated knife (like a bread knife, or an electric knife if you have one.) Don’t worry if the edges of the foam aren’t perfectly smooth; the batting will cover that up and smooth it out later.
Put the foam down on top of the plywood, then lay your batting over the foam. Trim the batting so that it overhangs the bottom of the plywood by a few inches on all four sides.
Next, attach all the pieces to make the DIY cushion.
Set all of the pieces aside and put down a drop cloth for this next part to protect your work area from overspray from the spray adhesive.
Put the plywood on the drop cloth, and coat the entire surface of the plywood with spray adhesive. Position the foam on top of the plywood so that all the edges are lined up, then gently press the foam onto the plywood for a few seconds until the adhesive dries.
The next step is to attach the batting. Batting helps minimize friction between the fabric and the foam, so you want it to be able to move a bit, but you can’t leave it totally unsecured or it will bunch up over time.
Lay the batting over the foam. Lift the batting up on one side and spray the side edge (the 3″ tall part) of the foam with spray adhesive. Press the batting gently against the side of the foam.
Repeat for all four sides. For the corners, press the sides smoothly all the way to the corner, leaving the extra batting puckering out at the point.
Trim the batting flush with the bottom of the plywood. I just ran one blade of my scissors along the wood and trimmed everything flush.
When you get to the corners, pull the puckered corner fabric straight out, away from the corner, then point your scissors straight down and cut off the excess batting flush with the corner.
Smooth the batting at the corners so that you don’t end up with wrinkles at your corners.
Now it’s time to actually upholster the DIY cushion by adding fabric.
Lay your fabric out on top of the cushion and line it up so that any patterns are straight and square to the cushion. Trim away the extra fabric, leaving 3-5″ of fabric overhanging the bottom of the plywood on all four sides.
Carefully turn the entire cushion over, including the fabric, so that the bottom of the plywood is facing up and the fabric is pretty side down. Double-check that your fabric pattern is still square to the cushion before you start stapling!
Starting in the middle of one straight edge (don’t start at a corner!) gently pull the fabric up and around to the back of the cushion and staple it to the plywood. Your staples should be 1″ to 2″ from the edge of the plywood; don’t worry if that leaves a bunch of loose fabric behind the staple, you will trim that off later. Be sure to pull the fabric straight back (perpendicular to the edge of the plywood) so that you don’t end up with weird pulls or pleats in your fabric as you go.
Continue gently pulling and stapling the fabric around all four straight sides, stopping about 4″ from the corners to leave room for pleating the corners.
Use a lot of staples! There shouldn’t be more than a few millimeters between staples so that the tension is evenly spread out. Remember, staples are really inexpensive, so use a bunch! If there are large gaps between your staples, the fabric can pull and tear at those points when someone sits down on the cushion.
I also like to vary how far my staples are from the edge of the plywood so they aren’t all exactly lined up with each other. This helps spread out the tension across more of the fabric so it isn’t all pulling against one single line of staples.
I used an Arrow T50 R.E.D. staple gun which made this part of the project a breeze—it was fast and powerful and got the staples in nice and flat every time. And unlike other staple guns I’ve used before, it was really easy to squeeze the trigger. Even my 5 year old could do it, and she was so excited to help Mommy with a project!
How to upholster the corners of your cushion.
I like to upholster corners using a three-step process: I pull the center straight back and staple it once to hold it in place, then I fold one side in and staple it once, then fold the other side and staple it once. Once all three parts are tacked in place, I can go in and fuss with the fabric and add more staples.
I find this makes really pretty “wrapped” corners that are simple yet elegant, and it’s way easier than making a bunch of pleats and keeping them nice, neat, and even…
Here’s how to “wrap” the corners of your cushion:
Start in the center of one corner and pull the loose fabric straight up and over the corner of the plywood at a 45-degree angle. Make sure you don’t have any weird pleats or wrinkles in the fabric at the corner of the cushion, then add one staple to hold that piece in place. The sharp corner of the plywood will push into the fabric a bit, but that’s ok—there isn’t much tension on this section of the corner, and the next two steps will cover it up anyway.
Starting on one side, grab the fabric “wing” that is sticking out and fold it up towards the plywood like you’re wrapping a present. You’re aiming for a nice straight pleat that runs up and down the corner of the foam. It helps to put one finger on the corner of the foam (the corner that’s at the bottom of the cushion currently) while you fold the “wing” up.
Just like wrapping a present, there should be a 45-degree angle fold on the “inside” of the wing and a folded “pleat” that runs up and down the corner. You can adjust the pleat by sliding the fabric against itself. Sliding the fabric changes both the “inside” angle and the angle of the pleat at the same time. So just play around with it until you are happy with how the pleat looks.
Staple it once, close to the corner, to hold the pleat in place while you work on the other side.
You’ll do the exact same thing with the fabric on the other side of the corner—fold the wing up towards the plywood, like you’re wrapping a present. Create an “inside” 45-degree angle fold and a vertical pleat. Slide the fabric against itself to adjust the pleat until both pleats look good.
Staple it once near the corner to hold the second pleat in place.
You’ll need to add more staples to really secure the corner, but first, trim away excess fabric so that your corner doesn’t get too bulky. Be sure to leave 1-2″ of fabric to staple into.
Once the extra fabric is gone, add a bunch more staples to really hold it all in place. If there are any bits of fabric that stick out, fold them in on themselves and staple them down, keeping it all as flat as possible.
Repeat for the remaining three corners, then go around the entire back of the cushion and double-check that there aren’t any giant gaps in your staples.
How to remove staples easily, if needed
A couple of times the staples hit a knot in the plywood and bent as they were going in. If you find you have bent staples, or just put a staple in the wrong place, you can easily remove staples with a staple puller.
Slowly slide the narrow tip of the staple puller under the staple you want to remove, keeping the nose of the tool flat against the plywood as you go. Gently wiggle the staple puller from side to side as you push it under the staple, and the staple will pop right up after a few seconds!
You could also use a flathead screwdriver or other blunt, flat tool to remove staples, but it’s better to use a staple puller because it won’t scrape or tear the fabric as it slides under the staples.
Install the bench seat cushion
If you don’t want to permanently attach the cushion to your bench, just turn the cushion over and set it on top of your bench, and you’re done!
Because I know my kids won’t be super gentle with this window seat, I decided to secure the cushion on the bench with a couple of screws.
Put the cushion on your bench, then drive a few screws up into the plywood from the underside of the bench to secure the cushion at all four corners. Make sure your screws are long enough to go all the way through your bench and at least a 1/4″ into the plywood. You don’t want them to be so long that they go all the way through the plywood and into the foam or you might feel the tips of the screws poking through the cushion. (Though the 3″ foam is thick enough that you probably won’t notice if the screws stick up a tiny bit…)
My cushion sat mostly flat on our reading nook bench, but I wanted to add a bit of trim to make it pretty and cover up the small gap between the cushion and bench. This project is already a no-sew bench cushion, so I figured I would continue the trend and use hot glue to attach the trim rather than sewing it on.
Working in sections, I ran a thin bead of hot glue around the very bottom of the sides of the cushion and pressed a pink fringe trim into the hot glue for a few seconds until it dried.
The trim is optional, but I think it gives the cushion a clean, “finished” look, and it definitely helps cover up any weird bumps at the corners!
The whole project took me just over an hour and I’m thrilled with the results!
We moved the rocker back against the window as well, and now there are a bunch of great seating options if you want to read and look out the window.
If you want to do your own DIY upholstery project, I definitely recommend Arrow Fastener’s T50 R.E.D. staple gun. Plus they have a full line of manual, electric, and cordless staple guns, rivet tools, glue guns, nail guns, grommets, hammer tackers, and other tools and accessories for any other project where you want to fasten one thing to another. Whether you’re a pro or a weekend-DIYer, their products are easy to use and deliver quality results. Learn more about Arrow Fastener and their products (and where to buy them) on their website, plus find a bunch of other #MadewithArrow projects and tutorials on their site as well.
Staples actually have three different “size” measurements: length, width (or crown), and gauge. But don’t worry, it isn’t actually complicated! The width of the staple mostly depends on what will fit in your staple gun. Most staple guns that you would use for home DIY projects (whether manual or electric) use medium crown staples, which are 3/8″ wide. Or, if they are called a “finish nailer”, “finish stapler”, or “air stapler”, those usually use narrow crown staples, which are 1/4″ wide. As for gauge, most staples that you can buy for these types of staple guns are considered “heavy-duty staples” and they have a standard gauge. Unless you have a light-duty stapler (more like a paper stapler) or you specifically need really thin/fine staples for something, you don’t need to worry about the gauge.
So, check your staple gun to figure out which staple width it uses, but after that, all you really need to worry about is staple length (which is the next FAQ!)
The staple length you need for an upholstery project (or any project, really) depends on the thickness of the material you are stapling, and what kind of base material you are stapling into. Obviously, the thicker the material, the longer the staple, but the base material matters also because you want the staple to go all the way into the base without any parts sticking up. This means that for harder base materials like oak, MDF, and plywood, you should use shorter staples, and for softer base materials like pine, cedar, or foam, you can use longer staples.
The general rule of thumb is that you want at least 3/16″ of the staple to go all the way into the wood. So figure out how thick your material is and add about 3/16″. For upholstery projects, I almost always use 5/16″ staples. If you’re not sure about the length you need, buy the length you think you need AND the next shortest size. If the staple stands away from the surface (i.e. the crown of the staple isn’t fully flat against your fabric/plywood) when you try to staple something, the staples are too long—go down a size and your staples should go in nice and flat!
Yes and no. Yes, that is another option for attaching batting when doing an upholstery project. No, you can’t staple the batting and the fabric at the same time. If you would prefer to wrap and staple the batting, follow the instructions in the “Attaching the fabric” section to attach the batting, then follow them a second time to attach the fabric. If you try to attach both at the same you can end up with weird, uneven wrinkles and bunches in both the batting and the fabric.
I generally prefer the spray adhesive method because I find it simpler, and I don’t usually need the very bottom edge of the plywood to be cushioned for any reason. Plus, if you plan to permanently attach the cushion to the bench with screws, it helps not to have any extra bulk underneath the plywood. But I do use the stapling method when upholstering something with thinner foam that doesn’t have “sides” to adhere to, or for projects where the bottom edges of the cushion are visible and I want them rounded and pretty.
The foam you use for your DIY bench cushion is mostly a matter of personal preference. Most upholstery foam comes in low, medium, and high densities, but contrary to popular belief, the density doesn’t actually affect how “cushy” the foam is; it’s more about the durability of the foam. All three feel about the same when you sit on them, but low-density foam will “go flat” and lose its spring a lot faster than high-density foam (think like a year of daily use vs. over 10 years of daily use.)
But, of course, high-density foam is more expensive than low or medium density foam. I prefer to use medium density foam because I find it strikes the right balance between being a quality foam and not being outrageously expensive.
If you’re on a really tight budget and don’t mind the durability trade-off, I’ve heard of people using low-density foam mattress toppers or egg crate foam inside their cushions.
Foam thickness is mostly a matter of personal preference, but in general, you don’t want to go any thinner than 2″. It also depends on how you intend to use your bench cushion; if it’s a window seat for lounging, maybe go with 4″ or 5″, or if it’s a kitchen table bench, 2″ or 3″ should be fine. I chose 3″ foam because it’s a good balance of cushy and soft feeling, and not outrageously expensive.
Batting serves a couple of different purposes. First, it minimizes the friction between the fabric and the foam so that the cushion is more comfortable and doesn’t “stick” as you sit on it. Batting also adds “fluffiness” to your cushion by smoothing and rounding out the harsh edges of the foam and filling in any gaps and wrinkles in the corners of your cushion. That said, you don’t NEED batting when making a bench cushion, but I strongly recommend using it!
No, not really. A glue gun won’t hold the fabric firmly enough and it will start slipping around on the cushion and coming loose after a few uses.
Nope, it won’t if you staple it correctly! When upholstering, be sure to always pull the fabric straight back, perpendicular to the edge, to avoid uneven stress on one side of the staple. Be sure your staples aren’t at an angle either! Your staple gun should also be perpendicular to the edge so that the staples themselves are parallel to the edge.
Also, be sure you pull your fabric evenly all the way around; don’t pull tighter on the corners or anywhere else or it can cause puckering in the fabric and extra stress near the staples. And finally, make sure you use enough staples; large gaps between staples can cause puckering around the edges of your cushion and extra stress on the fabric near the staples.
It depends on the size of your bench cushion and where you’re planning to put the bench, but usually, the friction of the fabric on the bench keeps it from moving around too much. If you’re putting it in your kid’s room like I did, I’d recommend permanently attaching it, just in case!
If you leave it unattached, the fabric usually provides enough padding to keep the staples from rubbing. But if you’re worried about the staples scratching the bench (or about the entire cushion slipping) grab a non-slip drawer liner, or a non-slip rug pad and put it under the cushion to help keep it in place.
I usually just wipe up messes and spills as they happen; I use a cloth and a little bit of water if necessary, or I use a spot treatment cleaner for anything that might stain. If your cushion is in a high-use area, you can also spray it with Scotchgard before you start using it to help make it a little more spill-proof.
I actually got it on Amazon—I’ve been pretty happy with their selection of upholstery fabrics by the yard. This fabric is by Premier Prints; it’s called Bloom and the color is Shore Life. Here’s a link to it on Amazon: Premier Prints Bloom Slub Canvas Shore Life
Nope, for upholstery fabrics, I usually don’t.
If you have a long bench, you can make multiple bench cushions and just line them up next to each other. It can definitely be hard to find plywood and foam long enough in a single piece, so don’t be afraid to make 2 or 3 separate cushions. But don’t try to make one cushion using two pieces of plywood next to each other and wrapping one piece of fabric around the whole thing, that’s just asking for disaster!
DIY Bench Seat Cushion—Upholster A Cushion Without Sewing!
- large serrated knife
Cut everything to size
- Cut a piece of 1/2" plywood to the exact same size as the top of your bench.
- Lay your piece of plywood on top of your bench foam, lining it up on two sides at a corner. Use a pen or marker to mark the other two sides.
- Cut the foam along the marks so that the foam is the same size as the plywood.
- Lay the foam on top of the plywood, and lay the batting over the foam. Cut the batting to size, leaving a few inches overhanging the bottom of the plywood on all four sides.
Build the cushion
- With a drop cloth underneath the plywood, coat the entire top surface of the plywood with spray adhesive. Place the 3" bench foam on top of the plywood, line up all the edges, and gently press down to attach the foam to the plywood.
- Lay the batting on top of the foam and center it so the overhang is even on all sides. Use spray adhesive to attach the batting to the foam ONLY on the 3" tall sides of the foam; do not use spray adhesive on the top surface of the foam. Press along the sides of the foam all the way to the corners to ensure the batting is firmly attached, leaving a little pucker of batting at each corner.
- Trim the batting along each side so that it is flush with the bottom of the plywood.
- To trim the batting at the corners, smooth the batting straight along the sides until you reach a corner, then pull the pucker of extra batting straight out and away from the cushion. Cut straight down, through the batting, right at the corner of the foam.
- Smooth the batting along the sides of the foam and into the corners so the corners aren't wrinkled.
Attach the fabric
- Lay your upholstery fabric on top of the batting and line it up so that any patterns are straight on the cushion. Cut the fabric to size, leaving 3-5" of overhang past the bottom of the plywood.
- Turn the entire cushion over (including the fabric) so that the plywood side is facing up. Gently pull the upholstery fabric straight back towards the center of the plywood (perpendicular to the edge of the plywood), then staple it in place using a staple gun.
- Continue stapling the fabric to the bottom of the cushion on all four sides, making sure there aren't any large gaps between staples. Stop about 4" from the corners to leave room for pleating the fabric at the corners.
Upholster the corners of the cushion
- To upholster the corners, find the middle of the loose fabric at the corner and pull it up and over the corner of the plywood at a 45-degree angle. Staple the fabric once to hold it in place.
- Starting on one side of the corner, fold the "wing" of loose fabric up onto the plywood and form a vertical pleat running up and down the corner (like wrapping a present). Staple the fabric once right near the corner to hold it in place.
- Repeat the same process with the fabric on the other side, pleating it so that it too has a straight crease running vertically along the corner. Staple once to hold it in place.
- Cut away excess fabric to remove some of the bulk so your cushion can lay flat on your bench. Leave 1" to 2".
- Once the excess fabric is gone, add a bunch more staples to hold everything in place. If any fabric sticks out, fold it onto the back of the plywood (as flat as possible) and staple it. Repeat for the other three corners, then go back around all four edges of the cushion and add staples to fill in any gaps.
How to remove staples, if needed
- If you need to remove a staple, carefully slide the front of a staple puller under the staple, gently wiggling it side to side, until the staple pops up.
Install the cushion
- Turn the cushion over and position it on top of your bench. Drive screws from underneath the bench up into the plywood of the cushion to secure the cushion to the bench.
- Using a hot glue gun, attach the upholstery trim to the very bottom of the cushion to hide the gap between the cushion and bench.
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