November 08, 2018

People Always Ask: Is it worth reupholstering?

Is it worth reupholstering this old sofa or is it better to just buy new?  Well, it depends.

We recently had a client move from Richmond Hill to a lovely part of old Markham. The home had been recently renovated so they needed only some decoration.  They had an old sofa probably from the 60’s or 70’s that was barely used from their old living room. We cajoled them into recovering the sofa and save it from a landfill site.  The size was perfect and it was comfortable.

Vintage Mid-Century Modern MARGE CARSON Floral Design SOFA Couch MAD MEN ERA

Sofa from the 60’s Via Pinterest  For our Pinterest boards go here.

But how can you tell if its a good quality piece?

If you are lucky to have a sofa handed down from parents or grandparents from the 50/60/70’s era it will likely have great styling (those slim and sexy silhouettes are back in) and be of good construction.  Frames back then were solid wood, corner blocked and screwed – a frame worth recovering.  If you are not sure of the frame quality, lift it up on one end.  Is it heavy?  Then its likely solid wood.  Try to feel for the springs either on the deck or underneath.  Is it coil springs – top quality.  Is it sinuous spring? – second best, if they are spaced 3-4″ apart.  Cheaper sofas have sinuous springs that are laid out 6″ apart. Check the corners of the frame underneath (you may have to cut the bottom lining to see) – is it corner blocked?  Another good sign.  And I hate to say it, but did you pay a good penny for it when you bought it?  A good quality 3-seater sofa, say 10 years ago, should have cost $2,000 and up.

Glue Screw solid wood sofa frame

Via Silva Custom Upholstery – Corner blocks, screwed and glued

web and coil sofa construction

Via Silva Custom Upholstery – Web and Coil Construction

Ok, so you’ve established it’s a pretty good frame.

Summerhill Toronto Living Room Design

Lumar reupholstered these sofas that came from a previous home – see more of this project here

Next lets consider the costs to reupholster versus buying new.

If you were to use the same fabric on either a new standard lawson style sofa or a reupholstered similar piece, the cost would be a little less on the reupholstered piece.  With an average fabric in our studio, the cost (fabric and labour) to reupholster a 3 seater sofa (without any major changes to the frame) could run $2,000-$2,500. The same fabric on a new, good quality sofa would be $3,000-$3,500.  So the reupholstery job wouldn’t be ‘cheap’ but less than new.  Could you find a sofa for $2,000 or less?  Definitely. But it probably won’t last you the next 15-20 years.

But do you like the styling of the piece? 

Can minor tweaks be made to bring it up to date?   We have often taken the skirts off of sofas and chairs and replaced it with wood legs.  These can be bought relatively inexpensively.  ($20-30 per leg).  We’ve taken tufted back chairs and made them tight back.  We’ve taken tall back cushioned sofas and brought them down to a more contemporary low height.  These are all relatively minor tweaks that don’t cost much.  You can totally reshape arms and such but then you are talking greater labour charges.  So I would keep major reconstruction in check.

reupholster settee

Our client’s father hand carved this beautiful settee decades ago. We reupholstered it to give it a fresh feel. Definitely a keeper – a great story and a new traditional look! For more of our day to day Instagram inspiration go here.

Further, if you have an old chair, settee or sofa with unusual shaping or carved show wood, it might actually be a lot less expensive to reupholster than to buy a new similar piece.  These would generally be very high end suppliers offering this quality, style and detailing and the price tag would reflect this.  If the piece has sentimental value again, it might be considered for reupholstering.

Vaughan Renovation Luxury Living Room Design

This distinctive chair in the foreground was also reupholstered by Lumar. An old chair brought to new life – what a statement piece that is uniquely you!! To see more of this project, go here.

Which brings us to the environmental issue. 

What better way to ‘reuse, recycle’ than to update an old chair or sofa?  If everyone bought with the intention of dumping their cheap sofa in a landfill every 5-7 years (cause that’s how long a cheap one will last), think of how large that pile would be.  On the other hand if you #buywellbuyonce, you might spend more, make it last 15 years and then reupholster it.  You only throw out the old fabric on the piece. And this sofa can last you another 15 years.  I’ve had clients say its the third time they are recovering a piece.  How great is that?  It can avoid the landfill for 30-45 years!!  Even longer, if you can get the kids to buy into this idea.

So, is it worth reupholstering?  I’d say, yes, as long as its a good quality frame, the size and comfort is right, and you can work with the style.

Call us if you need some cajoling:)

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