A new seat cover gives an old chair a fresh look.

How to Cover a Nonremovable Chair Cushion

by Leah James

You don’t have to trash your chair just because the fabric is trashed, even if the cushion isn’t removable. Chair fabric frequently wears out before the frame does. In a busy household with children, it’s almost a given. Even if the fabric isn’t snagged or torn, it’s likely sporting a few stains. As long as the webbing, springs and padding remain in good condition, you can cover the cushion with new fabric -- which beats banishing the children from the chair.

Identify the trim installed around the perimeter of your chair’s seat. Wedge the forked tip of a tack remover beneath the heads upholstery nails. Strike the handle’s end with a wooden mallet to work the pins or nails free. Insert the tip of needle-nose pliers between the cushion fabric and glued-on welt or gimp, and then pull the entire strip away from the chair.

Slip the head of a spade-shaped staple remover beneath the staples holding the fabric to the chair. Rotate the remover’s handle downward while striking the end with a wooden mallet to lever the staples out of the chair.

Grasp stubborn and broken staples with upholstery pincers. Twist the staple while pulling to wrench the staple out of the chair.

Mark the old cover with a chalk arrow pointing toward the back of the chair. Remove the old cover and iron it.

Spread out your new fabric with the decorative side facing upward. If the fabric has a directional pattern running along its length, arrange the fabric so the top of the pattern points away from you.

Lay the old cover decorative side up on the new fabric with the chalk arrow facing away from you. Position the old cover so the center rests on the center of the new fabric’s primary motif, if you’re using patterned fabric.

Cut out the fabric using the old cover as a pattern. Follow the shape of the old cover, but cut the new one an inch larger all the way around. Chalk the new cover with a directional arrow that points away from you.

Center the new cover on the chair decorative side up. Position it so the chalk arrow faces the back of the chair.

Staple the new cover to the center back of the seat frame. Smooth the fabric toward the front of the seat -- keep it taut, but don’t stretch it -- and staple the center front. Repeat with the right and left centers.

Staple outward from the center staples while smoothing the cover with your hand. Leaving no more than one staple’s width between each pair, staple the entire perimeter of seat cushion. Follow the shape of the chair along curves and legs. Trim the excess fabric to the staple line with your scissors.

Trim the edges of the cushion with gimp or upholstery nails to hide the staples. Starting at the left center, hot glue gimp over the staples. Apply the glue in 3-inch sections at a time so it doesn’t cool. Turn the gimp’s cut ends under one-half inch and abut them. Tap upholstery nails into the chair frame with a nylon-tipped hammer. Space them so the nail heads touch, which is called close nailing.

Items you will need

  • Tack remover
  • Wooden mallet
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Staple remover
  • Upholstery pincers
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Scissors
  • Staple gun
  • Staples
  • Gimp
  • Upholstery nails
  • Hot glue gun
  • Nylon upholstery hammer


  • For a softer cushion, staple additional layers of batting to the seat before you affix the new cover. Trim the excess batting along the staple lines after you staple it to the chair.
  • Follow the same process for a chair that also has a non-removable back cushion, but point directional patterns and chalk arrows toward the top of the chair’s back.


  • Always wear safety glasses when removing upholstery nails, tacks and staples.


  • The Complete Guide to Upholstery; Cherry Dobson
  • Complete Step-by-Step Upholstery; David Sowie and Ruth Dye
  • Singer Upholstery Basics Plus; Steve Cone

About the Author

Leah James has been a full-time freelance writer and editor since 2008. With more than a decade of experience in interior decorating, she frequently writes about home design. She studied English literature at Lyon College.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images