The Most Important Thing to Know Before Reupholstering Your Couch

updated May 30, 2024
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Living room with pink sofa, midcentury coffee table, exposed brick wall, and round mirror
Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Shopping for a new couch can be a challenge: You have to make sure whatever you get is comfortable, the right size for the space, a material that will stand the test of time, and a color you love. So if you have something already that fits everything you need except for the upholstery (and that can’t be fixed with a thorough upholstery cleaning), it’s worth considering a refresher for that piece rather than buying new.

“Reupholstering furniture aligns with the principles of sustainability by promoting a more mindful approach to consumption,” says Clint Moore, the operations director of Spruce Upholstery in Austin, Texas. (It’s worth noting, too, that custom upholstery is a designer-favorite method for turning a basic sofa into a complete scene-stealer.)

Spruce Upholstery was opened by interior designer Erika Barczak in 2007 as a hub for furniture restoration and reinvention, balancing projects that are either a gentle nod to history or a modern spin of individualism (the store is well-known for having one of the best fabric showrooms in the city). Over the years, Moore has worked on reupholstering couches for those who want the feel of new furniture without the waste of getting rid of the old. “Reupholstering involves skilled craftsmanship, which is a valuable tradition to preserve,” he says.

If you’re unfamiliar with the ins and outs of this furniture shopping option, here’s what you need to know about how much it costs to reupholster a couch.

Credit: Erin Derby

What affects the cost of reupholstering a couch? 

“When planning for the reupholstering of a couch, it’s crucial to consider the various stages of the process, from stripping the furniture of its existing fabric and padding, to addressing any structural issues,” Moore notes. 

Depending on how intricate your sofa’s design is, the project starts by carefully removing the old fabric and padding before studying the structural integrity of the build underneath. From there, any repairs to the structure will be done, which can either be minimal or extensive. Then your new fabric is cut and sewn to size alongside new padding before being attached securely to the frame.

How long does reupholstering a couch take? 

Because so many direct-to-consumer furniture brands pride themselves on quick deliveries, it’s a fair question to ask how long reupholstering your sofa takes. After all, sometimes you need a comfortable place to sit, like, tomorrow. But keep in mind that you’re supporting local craftspeople by going the upholstery route, and patience is part of that virtue. 

Moore says that reupholstering a couch can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, and usually has to go with the flow of specific circumstances. All of the aforementioned work also depends on the availability of your fabric selection and the schedule of your upholsterer!

“Allowing for a reasonable time frame ensures that the reupholstering process is done thoroughly and to a high standard,” he says.

How much would it cost to reupholster a couch?

Using the standard sofa dimensions of 82″ W x 34″ H x 34″ D x 21″ seat height, Moore discusses how much to budget for a reupholstering project below.

Important note: Moore makes it clear that these are just estimates, and the total can go up or down depending on a few different factors.

“The cost can vary based on factors such as the specific upholstery service, additional customization options, and any unforeseen issues encountered during the reupholstering process,” he says. Nevertheless, having this reference cost in mind can help you determine if it’s worth it to reupholster your couch (or if your inexpensive sofa would be better served by adding a slipcover).

Sofa recovered in a solid, inexpensive fabric: $1,500 to $2,000

Budget-friendly fabrics are made of lower-grade, often synthetic materials that don’t require as much attention to detail during the reupholstery.

“The cost will mainly depend on the quality of the fabric chosen and the labor involved in reupholstering the sofa,” Moore says. “Because you’re opting for an inexpensive fabric, the price would be on the lower end of the spectrum.”

If you’re looking strictly at monetary value, it’s probably not worth the investment to reupholster any piece of fast furniture, as that alone would cost more than just replacing it. But if you have a fabric you love and the money to spend, it is possible!

If, however, you have a solid wood piece of furniture with sturdy construction, even the cheapest upholstery option can be a bargain compared to buying the same sofa brand-new.

Sofa recovered in the same solid, inexpensive fabric and cushions refilled: $1,800 to $2,500

If you choose the same budget-friendly fabric as above but decide to refill the cushions, expect to pay more for that behind-the-scenes labor.

“The price increase depends on the type of filling used, the amount of filling required, and the labor involved in removing and replacing the cushions,” Moore says. He also notes that there could be an additional price for repairs to the sofa’s frame, depending on its condition.

Sofa recovered in an expensive fabric and cushions refilled: $4,000 or more 

Because more expensive fabrics are made of pricier materials, you’ll be paying to sit on the likes of velvet or suede.

“Additionally, if you opt for higher-quality cushion filling, such as down feathers or memory foam, this will add to the expense,” Moore says. “The labor costs might also be higher because working with more delicate or luxurious fabrics requires more skill and care.”

Going this route may be worth it if the sofa is a family heirloom or a rare vintage find, but the overall price of the project will increase in tandem with how intricate the sofa’s build actually is.

Credit: Elissa Crowe

How can you save money on reupholstering a couch?

One way to cut the cost of reupholstery is to save money on the fabric. Here are some places you might be able to find fabric at a discount — just make sure you’ll have enough for your project, and that the fabric is rated for upholstery.

  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Sample sales
  • Wholesale fabric suppliers
  • Designers selling excess or unneeded fabric