How to Respring an Upholstered Chair
The childhood cautions "sit still" and "don't fidget" are miserably hard to obey, even as an adult, when you are sitting in a chair with sagging or bumpy springs. Part of re-covering a chair is removing lumpy padding and replacing broken or worn-out springs. Even beginning upholsterers can learn this essential task that involves simple tools and a little time. Restore a beloved chair to comfort and good looks by learning to respring it.
Remove the old covering fabric, springs and webbing slowly and carefully. If this is your first attempt at respringing, take time to notice exactly how the webbing is attached to the chair frame and how the springs are tied to the chair frame. These are probably the least standard assembly steps in upholstery, and from one chair to another you may encounter different versions of up/over/around wrapping and tacking, as each craftsman decides the best way to secure these fundamentals. Take particular care in removing old tacks with your pliers. Pulling tacks out at an angle can cause little fractures in the wood that result in an overall weakening of the structure.
Save the upholstery materials you remove, except for the tacks. The webbing and covering fabric will serve as patterns for the new materials.
Count the springs and measure the total strips of webbing. This may sound silly, but more than one beginner has gotten to the store without remembering how many springs and how many yards of webbing are needed. Take a sample spring and your longest piece of webbing when you go shopping. Springs come in several styles and even more weights; your goal is to match, or come as close as possible to, what you have. Webbing may also be available in more than one variety.
Cut and attach webbing strips across the seat, both lengthwise and widthwise. The most secure seat for the springs is obtained by tacking one end, weaving strips over and under each other, then tacking the other end. The webbing platform should be taut, but not tight enough to strain the chair frame.
Set springs on top of the webbing platform and mark where they will be attached to the webbing. This is the clumsiest part of this project, but marking the places where you will tack the springs to the webbing is easier than guessing. Beginning with the row of springs closest to the back of the chair, place a spring at the center of each spot where the webbing strips cross each other. Using clock directions, mark where you'll sew 12:00, 4:00 and 8:00, then do the same for the next spring.
Sew each spring to the webbing using heavy linen thread or light upholstery twine and following your markings. Begin with the backmost row of springs and work your way forward. Put a tack in the frame parallel to the center of each spring; if you have 16 springs in rows of four, you will be tapping four evenly-spaced tacks into each side of the frame. Do not pound tacks all the way in -- you need to tie twine to the tacks first. Add more tacks, two at each corner and one between each pair of evenly-spaced tacks. Each side of your frame now has nine tacks.
Tie the springs to each other. Again, using clock directions, tie them to each other in four places, in this order: 12:00 to 6:00 and 3:00 to 9:00.
Tie springs to the edge of the frame using upholstery twine. Your goal is to tie the springs so as to make a slightly rounded cushion-shape. Upholsters use a variety of knots for this. One of the simplest knots is to wrap both ends of a thread over a tack, with ends to the left and a loop of thread to the right. Bring both ends through the loop and gently pull them tight. Use a slip knot on the top coil of the spring, then secure it to the tack with the double-end-loop knot. This time, twine winds through all the coils in a diagonal line. In clock terms, diagonals are 1:30, 4:30, 7:30 and 10:30. The result is springs that are tied in eight places, which is the best strategy to assure long, even wear and a comfortable seat. Once springs are tied to the frame, tap the tacks in completely.
Pull all the springs down approximately 1 inch by looping additional twine through the webbing to the top coil of each spring. Tie both ends of this temporary tie to the underside of the webbing. Once the fabric that covers the springs is secure, cut the ends of the twine.
Cut a new fabric cover using the old one as a pattern. Using your staple gun, attach the cover, starting with the back outside edge of the frame. Staple the back securely, and pull fabric over the front edge. Pull the fabric taut until you have a slightly rounded cushion shape. Then staple, starting with the corners and moving toward the middle. Fasten the sides the same way. Your chair is now resprung. Complete the project by adding padding and the outer fabric to the chair.
Things You Will Need
- Measuring tape
- Fabric marking pen
- Old webbing, springs and covering fabric, for reference
- Upholstery tacks
- Tack hammer
- Heavy-grade staple gun
- New webbing
- New springs
- New covering fabric (burlap, homespun or cotton duck)
- Heavyweight linen thread or light upholstery twine
- Heavyweight upholstery twine for springs
- Large-eyed straight upholstery needle
- Pulling fabric taut and anchoring it securely are skills needed at several phases of reupholstery. You may find that having a helper/holder speeds up your work considerably.
- Even though you are using your old upholstery fabric pieces as patterns for new pieces, order an extra quarter yard of each material just as a precaution. If the fabrics are washable, check on the amount of shrinkage and factor that in to your purchase as well, so that you can pre-wash with confidence.