“This may be a daft question but is there a difference between re-covering and re-upholstery?”

This week I was asked a great question. It was such a simple question that it really made me think, as upholsterers, we are constantly in the thick of it and sometimes those really obvious questions just get missed.

So, I spent a few minutes thinking how best to explain the most obvious of questions “This may be a daft question but is there a difference between re-covering and re-upholstery?” and this is what I came up with:

Re-covering of furniture

When upholsterers talk about a re-cover usually they are referring to just taking off the top cover of fabric.

So this means that the stuffings and padding are in really good condition, but the cover is a tad grubby, torn or maybe just doesn’t match your new curtains. This cover is then taken off piece by piece by removing the staples or tacks till the paddings are exposed. Most upholsterers will then apply a layer of white felt (a white cotton padding) and polyester (a soft fluffy padding not unlike what you may find in a duvet or sleeping bag). On foam using white felt is not usually necessary.

There are also fire-retardant barrier cloths that can also be used but I won’t go too deeply into this at present.

One last thing to mention is that there are some out there who will cover over your existing fabric as it saves loads of time. However, be warned; this is extremely bad practice and can only make for a poor finished job. This practice is very poor as going over the old cover means you are creating more bulk. The lines of the furniture can be badly distorted and coupled to this, if there are any problems under the cover like a broken frame or perished foam you won’t see them. It is only done to save a lazy upholsterer time. So please be clear with your upholsterer on his or her process.


Re-upholstery of your furniture

This is simply taking off all your upholstery (fabric, stuffings and springs) until you get back to the frame and then rebuilding it all with new materials.

Re-Upholstery of antique furniture

With traditional furniture, this is a pretty dirty job as at times you can be taking off padding that can be a 100-years-old and with all the grime and dust that it has collected over the years. ( read my blog about a First World War letter I found in a sofa). “Stripping out” a piece of furniture needs to be done carefully as it is not uncommon for the frame to be rickety and in need of repair.

The process of rebuilding involves applying new webbing, sewing in the springs (if it is a sprung seat) and then re-stuffing with horse hair and a lot of stitching to create the lines and details of your furniture.

Modern furniture

It is less common to strip a modern piece down to frame as the cost implication can be great. However, this does happen usually on furniture produced pre-1988 when the fire regulation came in to place. This period of time saw foams and filling being volatile to burning and more importantly emitting poisonous gasses. This whole subject is very complicated, but it is very good to be aware of this as it can be overlooked.

As upholsterers, we have to advise that these foams and filling be removed and replaced with new but that decision is ultimately left to the client.

But in exactly the same way as a traditional piece, each piece of upholstery is removed until the frame is exposed. The next step with modern furniture depends on the style of seating, but essentially is springs, then stuffing/padding, a layer of polyester and then fabric.

So, what is the difference between re-covering and re-upholstering my furniture?

In the simplest terms;

Re-covering your furniture is just replacing the old fabric cover with a new one. Similar to having new carpet laid, or re painting your walls.

Re-upholstery is taking all the fabric, stuffing and springs off your sofa, and then re building it from the frame up. This would be morelike renovating your home’s walls with new brick work, plaster and paint.

Want to find out more call Richardson and Paige for free advice and help on 01380 578012