How To Reupholster An Office Chair

It’s surprisingly easy to reupholster an office chair! Whether the fabric on your office chair is falling apart, or you just want to replace the boring black fabric with something brighter and more colorful, it’s easy to give your chair a total makeover! Today’s tutorial will show you, step by step, how to reupholster an office chair in a single afternoon!

How To Reupholster An Office Chair: Fix a worn out chair, or just add some fun color to a boring black chair!

This project is so versatile; you can completely customize your office chair to match your decor and style, and it will only take you a few hours!

This is actually the second office chair I’ve reupholstered. The first one was slightly different, so if your chair doesn’t look quite like this one, check out my other reupholstered desk chair tutorial to see if your chair is more similar to that one! Also, the foam had gone flat on my first chair, so I added more. If your chair is a little flat, check out that tutorial to see how to add more cushion!

How To Reupholster An Office Chair

Here’s what I used for this project: (affiliate links below to the products I used and recommend)

  • fabric (anything thick and sturdy, I used outdoor fabric because it’s smoother than upholstery fabric, but either will work)
  • office chair
  • screwdriver
  • pliers
  • scissors
  • stapler (I used Ryobi’s One+ Airstrike cordless stapler)
  • eye protection
  • spray glue (optional)

By the way, Ryobi generously sent me their Airstrike stapler when I told them I had a desk chair I wanted to reupholster. They thought it would make the whole project go much faster, and they were totally right!

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The first thing you need to do is figure out how to take your chair apart! Most office chairs have two cushioned pieces: a backrest, and a seat cushion. You should be able to detach both cushions by unscrewing a few screws. (Make sure you remember how it was all attached before you start taking it apart, or you’ll never get it put back together when you’re done!)

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I started with the backrest. Some office chairs have plastic backing pieces behind the cushions, and some are just covered in fabric. Either way, once you have removed the cushion from the chair, the next step is to start taking the cushion apart. If your chair has a plastic backing, it should just pop right off of the cushion, exposing the staples underneath. (You can see photos in this tutorial.) This chair had a fabric backing, so I was able to get at the staples right away. I just had to pull back a fold in the fabric.

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Once the staples are exposed, start prying them up! This is the hardest, most time-consuming part of the whole project. I found the easiest way to do this was to stick a flathead screwdriver under the staple and pry, then grab the staple with a pair of pliers and pull it all the way out. You don’t need to be too careful of the fabric since you’ll be replacing that anyway.

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Once the fabric backing is removed, you can get at the staples that hold the cushion and fabric in place. (If you had a plastic backing on your chair, it should look something like the photo above when you remove the backing.) Pull out all of the staples you can find! Once the staples are gone, remove the fabric from the cushion, but leave all the foam in place.

Place the cushion on your fabric and cut the fabric down to size. You want to leave enough extra fabric that you can pull it around the entire cushion and staple it onto the back. Err on the side of too much fabric; you can always cut the extra off later, and you definitely don’t want to find yourself without enough fabric to cover the whole cushion!

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If you have spray glue, you can spray the back of the fabric and press it onto the foam to help hold it in place while you staple.

Put on your eye protection, then pull the fabric around to the back of the cushion, and staple it into the wood backing behind the foam. Be sure not to pull too tight or you’ll create wrinkles in the fabric and foam.

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This snazzy stapler makes this part of the process super easy! I used a regular staple gun on the last chair I reupholstered, and it took about twice as long. Plus my hand got really tired from driving the staples. This time the stapling process went quite smoothly, and all I had to do was pull a trigger!

Fold the fabric into pleats behind the cushion to help pull the fabric tight around the corners.

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Staple all the way around the cushion, pulling the fabric tightly and evenly around the whole thing. Once you’re done, cut off any extra fabric at the back of the cushion. If you have a plastic backing, pop it back in place and you’re halfway done! If your chair had a fabric backing like mine, there’s one more step.

The original fabric backing had folds that hid the staples, but that requires some hemming and sewing, which I didn’t want to do for this project. So I just folded some more outdoor fabric around the original fabric backing and stapled it back into place. You can see the staples from the back of the chair, but they are so small and unobtrusive that I don’t mind at all! (If you want, you can use decorative upholstery tacks instead.)

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Once you’ve re-attached the fabric backing, you’re done with the backrest cushion!

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Reattach the cushion to your chair, and then remove the seat cushion.

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Again, your seat cushion may have a plastic backing (in which case, just pop it off, same as before) or it may have a fabric backing. In my case, it was just a light piece of black fabric to cover the wood at the bottom of the chair. Start removing staples, same as before, but this time be careful when removing the fabric backing so that you can reuse it later.

Follow the same steps you used for the first cushion: remove all the staples, remove the fabric from the seat, trace and cut a new piece of fabric, spray glue it onto the cushion, pull the fabric around behind the cushion and staple it, and cut off the extra fabric when you are done. Make sure the fabric doesn’t cover any screw holes!

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If you had a plastic cover, pop it back on. Otherwise, staple the backing fabric back on.

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Then reattach the seat cushion to your chair, and you’re done! Now you have a brand new (to you!) reupholstered office chair!

How To Reupholster An Office Chair: Fix a worn out chair, or just add some fun color to a boring black chair!

The chair lives in my craft room, and the cheery fabric really brightens up the place!

Want to share this tutorial with your friends? Just click any of the share buttons on the left to share with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.!

If you liked this project, check out these other project ideas!

Disclosure: I received a stapler from Ryobi to help complete this project, but I really love Ryobi’s products and all opinions in this post are 100% my own. I would never write a post about something I didn’t think was useful or interesting for you guys, and Practically Functional will only publish sponsored posts for companies or products I love and believe in!

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Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. Lil says

    2 years ago

    Have you ever tackled changing the base color? My chair is all blue but I changed the color scheme in my sons room now and don’t want to purchase another chair. Any suggestions on how to approach that? Thank you!

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      2 years ago

      You can use spray paint to change the color on all of the non-fabric parts! I really like Rust-Oleum 2X Ultra Cover spray paint; it covers really well, it’s primer and paint in one, it comes in tons of colors, and it adheres to metal, wood, and plastic so you can use it to paint all of the base parts no matter what they’re made of.

  2. Cheri Bywater says

    4 years ago

    What a great tutorial! I have an ugly black office chair in need of some TLC. Have you ever added padding to a chair?
    The foam seems a little skimpy on mine – i can feel the screws in the back! I picked up a square piece of foam and I’m going to try it.
    Thanks for the beautiful photos.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 years ago

      You can definitely add padding when you do this! They sell foam at most fabric stores so just pick up some extra foam and add it on before adding your fabric! Just be sure to pull your fabric tight so the extra padding doesn’t make the chair too tall or anything. 🙂

  3. Julie says

    5 years ago

    This looks awesome! I am doing this to a seat cushion on a wooden chair. I replaced the foam cushion with a thicker foam and chose a vinyl fabric for the material. Is there a trick to trimming this thicker vinyl material so you don’t see the folds around the edges? The seat has rounded corners and those bottom edges are noticeable on the chair. Thanks.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      5 years ago

      The only way I’ve been able to get rid of the folds is just to pull the fabric tighter, which might be a little hard with vinyl. 🙁 You might be able to trim away some of the bulk in the folds, but you don’t want to trim too much or you’ll just end up with holes.

  4. LuAnne says

    5 years ago

    Thanks for the inspiration! I just finished my chair and I love it! I wish I could post a photo.

  5. Sandy Chalmers says

    6 years ago

    I would love to know where to get that fabric.

  6. Paula Tarnaski says

    6 years ago

    Wonderful idea!! It is beautiful!

  7. Peaches says

    6 years ago

    Beautiful! Can you tell me approximately how many yards of fabric is needed? Thank you!

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      6 years ago

      I used one yard for this project and had a little left over!

  8. mindy says

    6 years ago

    I love that fabric! What is it called or where can I find it?

  9. Delia Davis says

    6 years ago

    When I reupholstered a chair like this, i had the hardest time with that plastic part of the top chair..any suggestions to make that easier?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      6 years ago

      Was it the plastic backing to the chair that snaps on and off? The first chair I did like this had a backing like that, and it was SUPER hard to get on and off! Unfortunately I don’t have any real tricks to make it easier; you sorta just have to pull at it until it snaps off. I seriously thought I was going to crack the plastic getting it off the first time. 🙁 But it does come off, just pull hard! And when you’re putting it back on, try to make sure you’ve trimmed the extra fabric down really close so there isn’t too much extra bulk, or it will be hard to put it back on as well.

      • Jane says

        3 years ago

        For the hard to get off plastic rings and other parts. Heat them with a blow dryer on high, or a cheap $10 heat gun. Just be careful not to melt it. Or make it to hot to hold on to.

  10. Hope says

    6 years ago

    Love love love this idea…both my husband and I work from home and our bland but necessary office chairs will be attractive thanks to your idea and tutorial. His office is next to the front door so I’ll tackle the one 1st.

  11. Robin says

    6 years ago

    Oh! This is so pretty! Next time I find an abandoned office chair, I will definitely try this!

  12. keri @ shaken together says

    6 years ago

    Can’t wait to do this for our chair! Buh bye mauve – hello pretty, fancy office chair!

  13. Gwen says

    6 years ago

    How super, super cute, Jessi! I have to do my chair, but it’s kinda complicated. I’m going to figure it out!

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      6 years ago

      You can do it Gwen! Just remember how it all went together as you’re taking it apart so you can put it back together again!

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