How to Recover an Upholstered Tub Chair

Wendy Hughes

Recovering a tub chair can be expensive if done professionally, but you can do it yourself with a little effort and modest cost. Take advantage of the fact that you are not paying for labor, and buy the best quality fabric you can afford. Upholstery fabric wears better and lasts longer than other fabrics.

Be sure the fabric works with the other colors and patterns in the room and is a comfortable fabric you will enjoy.


Spray your chair's fabric surfaces with a protective solution, such as Scotchgard Fabric & Upholstery Protector, to guard against stains. Do this in a well-ventilated area or outdoors.


Allow a few days to complete this project. Stop working on it when you get tired to avoid needless mistakes. Stitch together all the pattern pieces possible, particularly where piping is used, to simplify the project.

Pattern and cleaning

  1. Remove old upholstery and staples carefully using a thin, flat-head screwdriver and needle-nose pliers or staple puller. Avoid tearing the fabric.

  2. Identify each piece with chalk or disappearing fabric marker; write "left inside arm," for example. Put the pieces aside to use as a pattern for cutting the new fabric.

  3. Remove the seat cushion and put aside. Using a seam ripper, take the cushion case apart, remove the zipper and label as before.

  4. Clean the tub chair legs, and refinish or repaint and allow them to dry.

Layout and cutting

  1. Lay out the pattern pieces on the new fabric, and pin in place. Be sure to take the nap and pattern of the fabric into consideration. If the right side of the pattern piece is up, lay it on the right side of the new fabric.

  2. Cut out each piece. Leave a 5/8-inch seam allowance from the stitch line for seams and 2 inches on all other edges. Double-check the pattern placement.

  3. Cut contrasting fabric in strips on the bias for piping, wide enough to fold in half over the cording and have a 5/8-inch seam allowance on each side. Fold in half lengthwise over the cording, and baste or glue fabric next to the cording.

  4. Plump up flat areas of the chair, such as the seat cushion, arms and back, by attaching batting with spray fabric adhesive.

Sewing and assembly

  1. Stitch the side and back pieces together; press seams flat. If you are using piping along the top edge of the chair and down the front of the arm, pin the piping in place on the right side of the fabric, with the raw edges on the outer edge. Stitch in place. Remove the pins. Repeat where you want piping.

  2. With right sides together, pin and stitch the inside and the outside pieces together. Begin at the top center and work out and down each side. Sew close to the piping. Remove pins. Turn the fabric right side out, and press. Do not flatten the piping. Clip seam allowances on curves so they lie flat.

  3. Using the canvas stretcher pliers, pull the bottom of the fabric down in front, and staple to the wood frame, starting in the center and working your way out to each side. Trim excess fabric, leaving about 1 inch after the staples.

  4. Push the wrong side of the fabric along the top of the lower front piece onto the tacks, about 2 inches from the edge of the material. Begin in the center of the back. Hold the fabric vertically taut when pushing the fabric onto the tacks. Turn the tacking strip over, creating the finished edge. The tacks are now pointing down and the fabric is wrapped around the cardboard strip. Position the strip, and use a rubber mallet to hammer the tacks into the frame.

  5. Starting at the center bottom of the lower front piece, pull the fabric taut with stretching pliers, and staple around on the outside edge underneath the frame. The staples will be hidden. Work left and right around the chair.

  6. Cut a piece of canvas or cotton fabric 2 inches larger than the inside bottom of the seat. Press edges under and staple in place, hiding raw edges of the upholstery fabric. Repeat this process on the underside of the chair.

  7. For the cushion, follow the pattern in stitching the back side pieces with a basting stitch. Install an upholstery-grade zipper according to package directions. Remove the basting stitches. Sew the cushion cover together. Insert cushion, zip closed, and place on the seat of the chair.