Part Two: Traditional Furniture reupholstered
Following on from my previous article on the cost to get your furniture upholstered; which focussed on modern furniture, in this article I’m going to explain more about reupholstering traditional furniture.
As you would expect, traditional furniture will have a host of issues that may need to be fixed. To help simplify what you might expect to find; and what’s likely to affect the overall cost to reupholster; I’m going to use a sofa as my example. I’ll break down the process step by step.
First, let’s look at the seat
The most common thing I come across with an old antique sofa is a collapsed seat.
This means that invariably the springs are broken, and the supporting webbing has fallen through or broken. How do you know for sure this has happened? Well, apart from the obvious discomfort when you sit on it (!) the tell-tale signs for this are that from the top you can actually see the springs sticking through the fabric.
Also, when a collapsed seat is the problem, when you look underneath, you’ll notice that in most cases the seat is touching the floor.
When this has happened, the whole seat needs taking out and replacing. This is when explaining the process gets a little technical. But put simply, it will take anything from three to six hours to strip a sofa. At R&P, we always allow a day to rebuild the seat – but in some cases, it could take closer to two days.
In many situations, the basic process is followed as for a modern sofa. So do take a look at our previous article. I want my modern furniture reupholstered. How much does it cost? However, there are some details and processes that are specific to traditional furniture.
The process explained in more detail:
Older furniture, because it’s invariably built using traditional methods and only hand tools, will take longer to upholster than modern furniture. Several layers and steps build up to the finished product – and these require skill, patience…and time.
We start by webbing the base. As I mentioned, we use traditional methods and are proud of that fact. So tacks, rather than staples are used. Occasionally staples are necessary, but very rarely.
The next step is placing the coil springs and sewing them to the web. These are then ‘lashed’ down. The easiest way to explain this process is that it’s like the tendons in our body – they keep everything moving in the right direction. Without this crucial step in the process, the spring will buckle and bend in a very short time.
Next, we place a very heavyweight hessian (called ‘tarp’ in the industry) over the springs then sew the spring to the hessian. We then apply coir hair (coconut fibre) to build the shape, creating the height that adds comfort to the seat. Everything is then stitched in place to hold the seat together. The next step is adding a horsehair top stuffing, and after that, a layer of cotton is added.
Next, the arms
Like the seat, there are lots of tell-tale signs that indicate the arms of your sofa need some TLC!
As they don’t have to take the weight of many people sitting on them ‘day in/day out’ they tend not to collapse as often as the seat of a sofa. So they can usually last a lot longer – but not indefinitely, of course.
How can you tell if an arm has collapsed? If it has, wooden edges are often visible either on the front or side, and you’ll notice the padding has usually moved and is saggy!
If that’s the case, then, as with the seat, this will need stripping back to the frame.
The process can take approximately four hours. Add to this the rebuilding of the arms, and in most cases, one and a half days work can be added. Arms can be either sprung or not, so depending on which is the case with your sofa; time can be added accordingly. In most cases, one and a half days is a fair estimate for this stage of the project.
The process explained:
The process follows a similar line to the seat. So once the arm is stripped we start with the webbing, then the heavyweight hessian and then a build-up of coir fibre; then a lighter weight hessian known as scrim. Everything is then stitched into shape.
If the arms have springs then, like the seat, those springs are sewn in place and the hessian placed over them.
Finally, a top stuffing of horsehair and felt is added.
Next, the back
The back, like the arms and seat, will usually have tell-tale signs when it needs some attention.
A common sign is that from the outside of the chair, you will see the webbing sagging through the outer layer of fabric.
Some other obvious things to look for are parts of the frame showing through the fabric.
Like the arms, backs can be sprung or not. The stripping will take around three to five hours. For the rebuilding steps, a sprung back can take two days, and a non-sprung back would be more in line with the arm and take about a day.
The process explained:
Again we start with the webbing and heavyweight hessian. We then build the layer of coir hair which is then covered in a light hessian and stitched in place, creating the shape of the back.
A top stuffing of horsehair is applied, and next are the layers of felt, calico and the final material cover.
This brings us to a rough idea of cost
As you can see from these many steps, it’s a very time-consuming process requiring a high level of skill. But, as a side note, massively rewarding!
However, you have to consider your budget, of course.
The time spent on your sofa is likely to be up to 56 ¼ hours of work for a skilled upholsterer. Those skills and the materials needed to complete the task (excluding the final layer of fabric), will bring you to a total close to £3,000.
The choice of final fabric you choose, and the various other finishes that may be required – such as deep buttoning or fluting – will all add to this cost.
So, you can see there is a pretty price tag involved and one that must be carefully considered before you proceed.
BUT – although this may appear to be expensive, there are other important factors involved.
Upholstery is an exceptional, traditional skill that will allow your furniture to last for many, many more years. And, in the right hands, it will shine like never before.
Is it worth it?
Probably the best way to know whether your sofa or chair is worth spending a considerable amount of money on is to decide what it means to you.
Is it a family heirloom? Does it have sentimental value? Is it valuable? And try to find out how old it is – because if it’s 80 to 100+ years old, that tells you an awful lot about the quality of your furniture and its heritage.
It would help if you also made a price comparison to buying new. You’ll undoubtedly discover this is almost impossible because even new upholstered furniture at the highest end of the scale will not come close to comparison with the quality of a sofa that’s 100 years old.
Answering these questions will help you decide if the cost is worth it. In our experience – in most cases, it is.
So, if you decide your item of furniture is valuable to you, for whatever reason, then you will want to trust its refurbishment to a team that is skilled, and who care. We are that team!
Contact us now and let us take a little piece of the past into the future for your family.