ReUsing Existing Fabric

When we think about reusing the existing cover, we basically have two main options.

  1. The more common option involves repairs where we either open up or remove a part of the old fabric, do some repairs to the frame or springs, and then reattach the original fabric back in place.
  2. The other option is totally removing all of the old fabric so that we can fix or rebuild the inside area. Then reattach the old fabric onto the frame.

This article explains the second option. This second option involves taking all the old cover off the furniture, rebuilding all or part of the frame and/or the springs and/or the paddings, etc. Then we'd reattach the old fabric over the newly repaired inside. While reusing the old fabric may seem like a more economical way to go, it might not save the client much, if any, money.

When we strip furniture for reupholstery, we use a variety of methods.

  • Pneumatic air ripping chisels
  • hammer and ripping chisel
  • staple remover
  • pliers
  • claw hammer

During the stripping process the old cover can get ripped up around the edges quite a bit. This is normally not a problem because we just throw away the old cover when we are finished with each job.

However, whenever we have to save the old cover, for any reason,

  • then it takes us much longer to get the old cover off the frame. We are mostly limited to using a staple remover, taking out the staples one by one. In addition, if we are removing the cover from furniture that has finished show wood, we have to go slower and be even more careful so that we don't damage the wood.
  • If we have to reuse that old fabric, then we have to take additional time to inspect and prepare the fabric for reuse. If the furniture had some type of gimp or trim around the finished wood, then that usually means that the fabric had the gimp/trim glued around the edges. Getting that gimp off the fabric is often time consuming.
  • We have to take time to remove all the staples from the old fabric.
  • When we rebuild the furniture, often times the springs and padding ends up to be a different size that it was originally.

"Pulling and stretching" a fabric into place is a large part of the upholstery process. We usually cut the new fabric several inches larger on each end than is needed. This gives us some fabric to hang onto as we stretch the fabric  and "compress the padding" into place before we fasten it.

If the furniture does not have show-wood, the the old fabric has been trimmed back only a little, and it still has some places to hang onto as we pull it.

However, if the old fabric was on a piece that has show-wood, then that usually means that it has been attached next to the wood and trimmed very closely. The ends were covered with some type of trim. What this means in reusing that fabric is that there is very little fabric to hang onto as we try to pull and stretch the old fabric back into place. We cannot pull the old fabric as smoothly and evenly as when using new fabric (which has some extra length to hang onto when pulling). In many cases we will need to put a lining under the cover. With the lining we can add some extra fabric so that we can pull and stretch it into place. This makes it easier to apply the old cover because we don't have to pull and stretch it (with nothing to hang onto).


Extra Hidden Costs

When you have your furniture covered in old fabric (or the existing fabric) the projected lifespan is much less that using a similar new fabric. You are paying a lot for a specialized service that may not last as long as using a good quality new fabric.

Summary. While it might seem like you could save some money by having us reuse the old fabric, the extra time it takes us (for which you pay additional) makes the cost of reusing the existing fabric very close to the cost of just buying new fabric.

When it Makes Sense to Reuse Existing OR Old Fabrics

If a client is willing  and able to pay the extra cost, at times it does make sense to use the old fabrics.

  • Memories: Sometimes the old fabric has some sentimental memories attached to it. Putting that old fabric on the treasured upholstered furniture can make your memories more vivid and longlasting.
  • Part of a Set: Sometimes the piece that needs fixing is part of a matched set.
  • Likes the Fabric: Sometimes a client really likes the exising fabric.

These are all valid reasons to reuse the existing fabric. You should just know that the cost will be close to the same as buying and using new fabric.