Good Questions: How Much Should I Pay My Reupholstery Friend?

Good Questions: How Much Should I Pay My Reupholstery Friend?

Maxwell Ryan
Jul 17, 2007

Hello AT,

Thanks to Apartment Therapy's awesome Craigslist scavenging skills [Go Molly!], I got a beautiful Victorian couch for a doozy of a deal. When getting estimates to have it reupholstered, I realized that getting a professional to do the job was far out of my price range. However, I have a very talented and wonderful friend who offered to upholster it for me (it's one of his hobbies) after I told him of my expensive reupholstering dilemma...

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Not only did he do a fantastic job, he also had a pile of beautiful leather that he got for free and passed along to me for use on the couch. I told him I would certainly pay him for his time, but we decided to wait until the job was done before we talked money, although I did pay him $200 up front to cover the cost of staples, piping, etc. Now I want to make sure I pay him fairly so that he feels his time was well-spent, but I'm struggling to come up with an amount! I've never really had anything upholstered, let alone by a friend. Here are some more specifics, in case it helps:

- The couch doesn't have springs, thus no "innards" had to be worked on. Also, all original foam inside the couch was able to be re-used without any manipulation.

- He is in between jobs, so I just gave him the keys to my apartment so that he could work on the couch at his leisure. The project has taken about four months from start to finish.

- He used his own compressor nail gun and a mixture of his tools and mine. The piping for the couch was sewn by a local upholsterer.

- He sewed this really kick-ass pocket on the side of the couch to store remotes in.

- I'd say he put about 20-25 man hours on the project.

I know you're not supposed to mix friends with money, but we both thoroughly enjoyed watching the project develop and I have no regrets. I just want to offer him something that will make him feel appreciated.

I'm emailing a picture of the couch pre-upholstery job. I haven't taken post-upholstery pics but can happily snap a few and send them along if they'll help.

Thanks for any input!

All the best,


Dear Kayce,

Now this is a great question, and we can't wait to see what answers come in.

From our perspective, money and labor have a lot to do with how rich you all are and what comparable work that your friend might find would pay (for example, if you and your friend are 25 and students your hourly would be a lot different than if you're both 35 with good jobs). Here's the way we'd work through it:

1. You pay for all materials

2. Figure out a comfortable hourly and then multiply it out over the time you thought it took.

for example 20 hours x $20 = $400

3. Look at this number and see if it feels right. If it does add another $50 or so to make sure that you put forward a sense of generosity and keep the friendship on the best possible terms.

4. Also figure that reupholstering a sofa in leather like this would probably cost you @ $1500-$2000, so with your friend you want to make sure that you get a good discount for yourself and a nice pocket of spending money for him.

5. Above all things, remember that your friendship is MUCH more important than money and you may find that you pay your friend more than you expect in order to keep him comfortable. If he really is a friend, this will be worth it.

Although we sometimes hire friends expecting a discount, it doesn't always work out that way. If you want to really bargain, only do that with a professional (not a friend).

Anyone else...?

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