If you have an old wooden office chair that is looking a little worn or beat up, you don't have to throw it out. You can recover it and give it new life, just as you can a a wooden office chair that you have found at a yard sale or thrift store that is showing some signs of wear but that still has a quality frame. With the right tools and a little sweat equity, you can give your chair a new look and get many more years of use out of it.
Remove Any Old Fabric
Many old wooden office chairs are made entirely of wood, including a wooden seat. However, some have an upholstered and cushioned seat. If you have a chair with a fabric seat, you will need to first remove the old fabric. In most cases, the fabric will simply be stapled to the underside of the seat. You can remove it by using a staple remover or small flat head screwdriver to pry away the staples. In some cases, the fabric may be screwed onto the seat or the seat may be screwed onto the chair frame. In that case, you will need to unscrew the seat and remove it first to remove the fabric, or you will need to go around and remove each of the screws holding down the fabric.
Create a Cushion for the Seat
For chairs that do not have an upholstered seat cushion, it is best to create a cushion for the seat before recovering it. This will make for a more comfortable seat, and it will make the fabric look nicer when it is wrapped around the seat. To make a cushion for the seat, you simply need to measure the seat and then cut a piece of high-density foam that is at least 2 inches deep to fit the shape of the seat. Lay the foam on the seat, then wrap it in polyester batting. Staple the batting to the underside of the seat.
Recover the Seat
To recover the seat, you must measure the height and width of the base. Add the depth of the cushion to each side, and add an allowance of 1/2 inch to 1 inch to wrap under the seat. Center your fabric over your seat cushion, making sure to line up any pattern on the fabric with the lines of the seat. Pull the fabric under one edge of the seat and staple it to the bottom. Pull each side of the fabric taut around the edges of the seat, stapling it in place as you go. Take care to fold in each corner so that no raw fabric edges are showing.
Consider Covering the Seat Back and Arms
Many old wooden office chairs will have slat backs and arms that are unupholstered. Depending on the condition of the wood, you may want to consider recovering these with fabric, as well. You can wrap each of the individual slats in pieces of fabric that are cut to size, then staple them at the seam along the back. Cover the staples with small pieces of fabric or other decorate elements, such as trim. Cover the arms of the chair in the same way. If you prefer, you can wrap the slats or the arms in polyester batting before covering them with fabric so that there is a bit of padding under the fabric.