New Life for an Old Office Chair

diy office chair title 1This chair has followed me for years, and I had even used it for several years in my old classroom.  The bones were good and it was still comfortable, but it was not pretty to look at.  A few months back, I decided it was time to reupholster.

Skill Level: Intermediate

Timeline: 4 hours


  • 1.5 metres (1.6 yards) upholstery fabric (mine was a remnant from the sale section at Fabricland)
  • screwdriver
  • staple gun (I bought a DeWalt from Home Depot and found it easy to use)
  • 1/4″ staples
  • sewing pins, iron
  • Elmer’s spray adhesive (I found it in the paint section at Home Depot)
  • Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue (I bought mine at Michael’s)

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1) Take apart the chair.  This chair is just two pieces of pressed plywood covered with foam and grey fabric.  I was able to unscrew the pieces fairly easily, but was disappointed the backrest was not two pieces sandwiched together to hide the staples.  The foam was in decent shape so I didn’t remove the original foam or fabric.

office chair 12) Lay Out the Pieces.  For anyone out there with a little OCD, you will already have realized I chose a difficult fabric pattern to work with.  Carefully choose the direction of the pattern, the centre of the pattern, and place the chair pieces on the fabric accordingly.  This is a bit annoying, but well worth the time.

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3) Allow Plenty of Extra Fabric.  For scale, each little octagon is 2″.  I gave myself at least 2 inches all the way around to wrap and staple the fabric.  I wouldn’t use more because it just becomes hard to work with.

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4) Cut Out the Fabric. Yeah, I didn’t have enough room to cut the backrest piece from the top part of the fabric, so I re-centred the backrest on the left.  I unfortunately only gave myself an inch and a bit for wrapping and this was not ideal.  2 inches is better if you can swing it.

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5) Wrap and Staple.  This seems like a brainless activity, but I had to work slowly and methodically to prevent bunching and folds.  I started by tacking the middle of each long side down – pull, smooth and staple all the way along.  Remember to keep checking that the pattern is still centered on the front side.  When doing the corners, pull and smooth out fabric folds each time before you staple.  I ended up with a couple of fabric folds I’m not thrilled with, but overall, it worked out okay.  If you make mistakes, you can always pull out the staple and try again.

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This piece was harder to wrap.  I was kicking myself as I pulled on the tiny piece of fabric – next time I’ll allow for 2 whole inches!  I was also continually checking that my pattern design was still centered on the front.

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Not bad, though!  I trimmed the excess fabric to prevent bunching once I glued on the backrest cover.

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6) Cut Out the Backrest Cover.  I eye-balled a pattern out of newspaper approximately the same size as the backrest.  When you see the trouble I had next, you might want to make the pattern another 1/2 inch wider all the way around.

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I used the previously centered piece of fabric from the top to cut out the backrest cover.

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7) Fold and Iron a Hem on the Backrest Cover.  This is me realizing I could only fold over 1/2 inch all the way around the cover.  Gah.  Oh well.

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I pinned the heck out of this sucker, continually flipping it over and ensuring the fabric still covered the ugly mess on the back of the backrest piece.  I ironed it flat to ensure it stayed in place during the gluing.

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8) Use Spray Adhesive to Attach the Backrest Cover.  I did this project in the dead of winter and had no access to a heated garage or basement at the time, so this was the next best thing.  Note: spray adhesive is vile stuff.  I turned on my bathroom fan, kept doors wide open and covered my bathtub in plastic.  This is actually just a recycling bag cut open, but it prevented my tub from getting super sticky.

I followed the directions on the can by spraying each surface, waiting the prescribed amount of time, and then carefully placing the cover on the backrest.

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9) Touch Up Edges with Tacky Glue.  All along the folded cover edges, some parts just did not want to stick.  I used the Tacky Glue to seal them.  I noticed this glue did not dry for a looong time.  I continued to smush the edges together for days afterwards until the glue dried.  Once it did though, the edges were sealed up nicely.

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Check out my centering job!  I think the patterns line up fairly well.

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I am really happy how the backrest worked out.  You can’t tell (from far away) that they are two pieces of fabric.

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I sprayed the chair when all done with a couple coats of fabric protector.  Here’s to another 10 years with this chair!

~ Heather