How to Use Upholstery Tacks and Trim

Tacks and trim are more than just decorations on upholstered furniture -- each serves a purpose.

Nailhead Trim

Nailhead trim adds a luxurious touch to upholstered furniture.Nailhead trim adds a luxurious touch to upholstered furniture.
Upholstery tacks, also known as nailhead trim, provide a finished look as they secure the fabric to the wooden frame. The tacks are available in many styles and finishes, including metallics and colored enamel. Upholstery trim covers the furniture's stapled fabric edge where it adjoins the wooden frame. Trim with a braided appearance is known as gimp; another type of trim is double-welt, which consists of cording encased within a fabric tube.

Step 1

Measure to the center of the wooden frame piece, such as the bottom of the chair seat, to which you'll add the nailhead tacks. The tacks must be driven into solid wood. Mark the center points in several places along the wooden edges with a washable fabric pencil or chalk.

Step 2

Place your ruler along the length of the wooden edge, aligning by the center marks you made previously. Mark small dots at your desired intervals for the tack placement, which typically ranges from 1/2- to 1-inch intervals, depending on tack size.

Step 3

Place the point of the first tack on the center of the corresponding marked dot, keeping the tack straight up and down. Tap twice with a hammer to secure the point in the wood, and then hammer until the tack is seated flush with the upholstery surface. Use needle-nose pliers to hold the tack while hammering; this keeps the tack straight and helps you avoid bruising your fingers. Repeat until all the tacks have been driven into the marked dots. If any fabric pencil or chalk shows after the tacks are in place, remove the marks by dabbing with a damp cloth.

Fabric Trim

Step 1

Cut the end of the fabric trim, whether it's gimp and double-welt trim, to remove frayed edges. Fold the cut edge back about 1/2 inch to the reverse side and finger-press. Secure the cut end to the back of the trim with a small dab of hot glue, holding it in place for 10 to 15 seconds or until the glue begins to set. Use care to avoid burning your fingers on the hot glue.

Step 2

Place a strip of scrap fabric or aluminum foil on the upholstery and the wood frame, leaving a space where the upholstery meets the wood, to protect the furnishing from glue drips. Pin the scrap or foil to the upholstery with straight pins to keep it in place. Use small pieces of transparent tape to hold the scrap or foil in place on wood.

Step 3

Apply a small dab of hot glue on the back edge of the furniture piece, where the fabric joins the wood. Place the secured end of the trim on the glue dab, with the reverse side of the trim against the glue. Hold it in place for 10 to 15 seconds.

Step 4

Apply a narrow bead of glue along the next 2 to 3 inches of the upholstery edge. Press the trim against the glue and hold in place for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat until the trim covers the edge between the furniture and the wood, and you end up back at the starting point. Leave about 1 inch of the edge before you get back to the starting point unglued.

Step 5

Cut the trim 1/2 inch beyond the point where it meets the first folded end. Fold 1/2 inch of this loose end to the reverse side and secure with hot glue. Apply hot glue to the remaining 1-inch section of the upholstery and wood join, and hold the trim end in place for 10 to 15 seconds. Remove the protective scrap or foil pieces. Allow the hot glue to set and cure for at least an hour before using the furniture piece.

Things You Will Need

  • Ruler
  • Washable fabric marker or chalk
  • Hammer or mallet
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Fabric scraps or aluminum foil
  • Straight pins or transparent tape

Tips

  • Speed up your application of nailhead trim and increase your accuracy by making a cardboard template. Cut two pieces of corrugated cardboard to fit your design, and glue the pieces together to make a double-thick cardboard layer. Mark your placement intervals along the edge and cut 1/2-inch slits at each mark with a craft knife. Place a tack in each slit, hold the loaded cardboard against the furniture piece, and tap the tack points into the wood. Remove the template and finish driving the tacks into the wood frame.
  • Nailhead trim strips are another option. This trim comes in kits that contain a roll of tack heads joined in a strip, with pierced heads at intervals, and individual matching tacks. Individual tacks are driven through the pierced heads to hold the strip in place. The strips give you precise placement of adjacent tacks, and because you only need to hammer in every fifth tack, the job is easier and takes less time.

Warnings

  • Wear protective eye wear when using a hammer or mallet.
  • Hot glue guns reach temperatures that can burn fingers, clothing and furniture. Prepare a safe place to rest the gun while you work with it. Silicone mats and potholders are a good choice. You can also find silicone finger caps that cover your fingertips and prevent burns when you work with hot glue.
  • Unplug the glue gun as soon as you finish using it.

About the Author

Jan Burch has written about home, garden, wellness and other topics since 1992. Her articles have appeared in ByLine, Living Natural and New Mexico Woman. Based in Albuquerque, Burch is a Feng Shui consultant and Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner. A life-long crafting enthusiast, she holds a master's degree from the University of California.