Yes, that is the million dollar question. People say this to me all the time: “I have this old sofa that belonged to my [mother, grandmother, etc.] and I was thinking of reupholstering it. What do you think?”
Well, here’s what I know. Reupholstering is a labor intensive process which can be expensive so there are a few things you should consider before deciding whether to reupholster a piece of furniture:
How old is the piece? If it’s a family heirloom or an antique, it may be worth it to have it reupholstered.
How well is it constructed? Is it sturdy or rickety, is it made of hardwood or softwood, is it screwed and glued or just nailed together? Repairing the frame will add to the cost, and if it was a poorly made, cheap sofa to begin with, it is not worth it to reupholster it.
If it has exposed wood, what kind of shape is it in? Again, repairing or re-staining the wood will increase the cost.
Does the piece have interesting design features (carved wood, interesting shape or details)?
If the piece is a treasured family heirloom, that has great sentimental value, and it’s well made and in good physical condition, it’s probably worth it but there are still some more things to think about:
The average sofa takes at least 15 yards of fabric. A good quality upholstery fabric usually starts at about $60 per yard so the fabric alone will cost you $900.00 before the actual labour to do the reupholstery.
An older sofa, even if it is well made and in good condition, will likely need some new foam, padding, or springs so that will also add to the labour cost.
Now I know you've probably heard designers on TV or in magazines talk about buying fabric for $15 a yard and reupholstering a garage sale find for next to nothing. When I talk about reupholstering a piece of furniture, I’m mainly talking about a sofa or an armchair and there is a difference between recovering a cushion and completely reupholstering. Re upholstery almost always involves replacing foam and repairing or replacing springs. Unless you are really talented, full scale upholstery is best left to the professionals, but it’s pretty easy to recover a small ottoman or a chair with an inexpensive piece of fabric and a little effort.
Very often re-upholstery will cost you about what a new sofa or chair would cost because with new padding, etc., you are essentially getting a new piece of furniture, so it’s important to weigh out all the pros and cons before going ahead.