How much does it cost to reupholster a chair?

This week on YouTube, we’re (finally!!!) wrapping up Aunt Bea, HOORAY!!!!!

As a last hurrah I decided to dive into a very sticky topic of conversation: How much does reupholstery cost????

If you haven’t already noticed, shops tend to be very skittish and noncommittal about sharing their pricing publicly.

We’re not trying to be evasive. There are great reasons to be a little close-lipped about what you charge, especially on very visible platforms like Facebook.

Here a few reasons I don’t typically talk about my pricing all over the place:

  • Project pricing is extremely variable, and I don’t want to oversimplify for a client I’ve never met. To a stranger looking at my page, two chairs may look identical for all intents and purposes. BUT to an upholsterer, there may be a significant difference in how much labor and materials are involved. I REALLY don’t want to suggest that Customer A’s chair is representative of Prospective Customer B’s chair. I ask for a photo in order to give accurate pricing and to explain certain details that may have an impact on the job.
  • Fabric. Most of my fabrics  cost $50-$70/yard. But some cost less than $40. And some cost over $100. And believe me, that’s nowhere near the top of the fabric market, it’s just the price point I try to work in. If you want to spend $300/yard on fabric,  you can. Additionally,  a large repeat can REALLY skew the yardage. So it’s a little dangerous to trot out prices without a little more discussion on the fabric question.
  • Sometimes, I underbid. My pricing is always under evaluation. Otherwise, how do I know if it’s appropriate? I do time studies on different jobs, and sometimes, I discover that my bid was way too low. At which point I think, ‘well, I’m not doing THAT again.’ Often, my client does not know this. If I promised a price, I’m going to make every conceivable effort to honor that price. . . but I’m not going to repeat it. So if people ask on Facebook, “how much did it cost?” I’m likely to give a rather tap dancy answer, or to privately message the asker for further discussion. (To that end, I may very well delete this post in a year. Enjoy!)

Lastly, I really don’t think it’s my place to announce all over social media how much my client spent. Gross. That might kind of upset me if a business announced my itemized purchases for everyone to see. . .

So here we have Aunt Bea. She is NOT a client project – we picked her up for teaching purposes and will now be donating her to Bridging, a wonderful local charity that provides furnishings to families and individuals in transition.

And I don’t think Aunt Bea will mind, if we are frank and candid with the numbers 🙂

THE ESTIMATE:

First let’s look at Aunt Bea before.

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This is where most pricing begins, very simply, with a photo. For THIS photo, I would have sent back an estimate something like this:


 

REUPHOLSTER WING CHAIR: Loose back cushion, kick pleat skirt. Duplicate style. Replace seat and back cushion. 

  • LABOR: $715 (fully upholstered chair $490+skirt $100+loose back cushion $50+wings $75)
  • Fabric: $400-$560 (8 yards at $50-$70/yard)
  • Foam $125-$150 (3.1#33 seat, HR18 back)
  • TOTAL: $1,240.00 – $1425 + tax


 

(I wouldn’t necessarily itemize the labor bid for a potential client, but just so you see how my pricing is structured – I use a base labor with add-ons for things like skirts, tufting, etc. Different shops have different formulas, to be sure.)

Now, however, let’s look at how Aunt Bea would ACTUALLY have totaled up,  if we had done this exact project for a client (more about that to follow . . . )

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For simplicity’s sake, we eliminated the skirt, which could have been an entire YouTube series on its own. . . That bumps down our labor, and our fabric. And we used a very reasonably priced fabric from Greenhouse – we love for our students to start thinking about first quality fabrics, since a cooperative fabric is really, really helpful when you’re struggling with new skills. . . But obviously, we don’t want anyone sweating bullets over cutting into a super expensive textile when they’re just learning.

So let’s plug in these concrete decisions and write up a new bid:


REUPHOLSTER WING CHAIR: Loose back cushion, Duplicate style, except eliminate skirt, add a tack band and change seat and back cushion to boxed/plain seam. 

  • LABOR: $615 (fully upholstered chair $490+loose back cushion $50+wings $75)
  • Fabric: $272.30 (7 yards at $38.90/yard)
  • Foam $125 (4″ 3.1#33 seat, 4″ HR18 back)
  • TOTAL:  $1,012.30


NOW, let’s go the other way . . . 

If this was for one of my clients, I would have made a very concerted effort to do additional foundation work.

For the sake of YouTube, we tried to stick to the necessary basics . . . but when I work for clients, I want to make sure that they leave with a 100% product. In the case of an old, second hand chair, that probably means gutting it – retying the springs, replacing all the foundation materials (burlap, webbing, cotton)

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So let’s add that in, and do another ballpark:


REUPHOLSTER WING CHAIR: Loose back cushion, kick pleat skirt. Duplicate style, except change seat to boxed/welted cushion. Replace all webbing/burlap. Re web and retie edge-wire spring system. Replace all padding. 

  • BASE LABOR: $715 (fully upholstered chair $490+skirt $100 +loose back cushion $50+wings $75)
  • FOUNDATION LABOR/MATERIALS: $350 estimate (seat springs, arm/back webbing/burlap, new frame padding)
  • Fabric: $450-630 (9 yards at $50-70/yard)
  • Foam $150-$175 (3.1#33 seat with an HR18 topper, HR18 back)
  • TOTAL: $1,665-$1,870

(For a client, I may also have made additional aesthetic recommendations – raising/lengthening the skirt, modifying the arm style, adding buttons to the back cushion . . . But these would not affect price.) 


So on the lowish end, our chair is $1,022 and on the highish end it’s $1,880.

If our chair had no wings, and no loose back cushion, our low end would be lower. (This would be about $850-$900 with fabric and a new seat cushion) 

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If it had additional labor intensive details like nailhead or double welt, our high end could be higher.

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It’s dangerous to get too attached to ballparks, you see . . .

But I know that if you’ve never had anything reupholstered, it’s helpful to have some idea on what this kind of service runs. So I do have a few guidelines for people who are looking for very general information:

  1. Professional upholstery is usually in the ballpark of buying very good quality new furniture. (With an older frame, I firmly believe you get a lot more for your money than you would in a new chair, but if you’re looking for the lowest cost option, you can probably cross reupholstery off your list.)
  2. If you’re looking at a having a typical chair reupholstered, $1,000+ is a good number to have in mind.
  3. PLEASE SEND A PICTURE.

Now I want to be very, very clear  that my pricing only represents MY PRICING. Students and other professionals often want to talk about, “Well, what would YOU charge on this?” It’s an important conversation to have, but dangerous to take out of context. My pricing shouldn’t be based on what other shops are charging, so much as it should be based on what I’m offering, and what I need to charge to deliver it.

I know there are shops around me charging less, and that’s okay.

I know there are shops around me charging more, and that’s okay.

Every shop is different.

My pricing should have little to do with what my neighbor is charging. They may offer extra services, or have much lower overhead. I don’t know what their pricing is based on . . . . But I SHOULD know what mine is based on.

I want to do the best work I can. I want to deliver great customer service, and use top quality products. I charge enough to do those things.

I want to keep my business small, and focus on the services and clients I’m most excited about. Raising prices probably means changes I’m not interested in making, so I don’t.

So how much does it cost to have a chair reupholstered?

It depends. . . .AND SEND A PICTURE!!!

THANKS FOR FOLLOWING AUNT BEA! NEXT WEEK, WE’LL WRAP UP WITH ONE LAST POST: A LINKED PRODUCT GUIDE TO THE TOOLS AND SUPPLIES USED THROUGHOUT OUR VIDEO SERIES.

If you want to read more about how upholstery is priced? Here’s a great article by James Conklin. Also check out our related post, “Why is upholstery so expensive?

(And if you’re feeling brave,  weigh in on the pricing discussion – how do you price your upholstery services? What is your pricing based on? How do you feel you compare to the market around you?)

3 thoughts on “How much does it cost to reupholster a chair?

  1. Amber says:

    Awesome article! Pricing is such a challenge. I’ve actually put together a worksheet that will auto populate my quote for me with a few details added by me each time. It is EXTREMELY helpful and helps me to be quick with quotes and be consistent with quotes. I do upholstery and also sewing so I have templates for several “base” cost options and can build from there. Every once in a while I can’t get to my computer to create a quote and those are always the times that bite me in the booty!!

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