Reupholster your couch without removing the old fabric with this simple method! It’s a super easy, budget-friendly way to recover a recliner sofa, and can be done in a single afternoon!
I have the world’s comfiest couch. It’s super soft and plush, and is the best place to take a nap on a sunny afternoon. It also reclines, meaning that you can be comfortable doing pretty much anything. I love it.
My couch is also almost a decade old. My parents got it for me for my birthday when I was a sophomore in college. It’s followed me from Texas to California to Missouri, and seen five different homes and numerous ounces of cat drool.
It’s a little more rickety than it was in its younger days, the recliner mechanism requires replacement, and the microfiber fabric has numerous stains.
Taking into account that I wanted a neutral living room in my new home, I can acknowledge that it’s probably time to get a new couch. But couches are expensive, and honestly, I love this couch.
So I didn’t want to replace it. But reupholstering a couch costs almost as much as buying a new one. So I thought a bit, and came up with a plan.
Planning and Ideas
I couldn’t find a single purchasable slipcover on the internet for a recliner sofa, nor could a find a single tutorial for sewing a slipcover for a recliner couch either. And people have googled this. I found numerous forum questions about recovering a recliner sofa, only for no real answer to be given.
Since the internet seemed to be in need of an easy way to recover a reclining sofa (and really, couches in general,) I decided to come up with one.
Honestly, this is kind of a cheater method. We’re not sewing anything. We’re not taking apart the couch and reupholstering each piece. We’re reupholstering the couch without removing the old fabric. We’re securing fabric where we can with brad nails, and tucking the fabric into the folds of the couch in the places we can’t reach to secure.
That’s the quick summary. And it’s easy-peasy.
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- Brad Nails and Nail Gun– I used a nail gun instead of a staple gun for a couple reasons; 1) My staple gun takes force from me to expel a staple. Some of the angles I was securing at were awkward, and it was really hard to expel a staple. The nail gun was just much easier to use. 2) It’s pretty easy to rip fabric out from under a nail. This is why professionals use staples. But in this case, I liked the fact that I could undo my work easily if I decided to go back to the red.PS: I love my nail gun. It’s electronic and doesn’t require a compressor, making it super easy to use. I’ll be honest – it’s a little pricey, but it’s by far my favorite and most-used tool.
- Fabric– I used two bleached 9′ x 12′ drop cloths to cover my couch, which meant this whole project cost me under $30. If you’re budget constrained but not sure about drop cloths, check out my free 5 Creative Sources of Budget Fabric cheat sheet for more affordable ideas.
How to Reupholster a Couch Without Removing the Old Fabric
Step 1: Cover Back of Couch
I laid my fabric over the back of the couch, tucking fabric into each fold until the fabric was taut. I tucked a lot of fabric, 6″-12″ into the folds. Tucking so much fabric reduces the probability that the fabric will come loose.
Since the sides of my couch didn’t have any folds, I tried to artfully arrange the fabric. Then I secured it with brad nails.
An important point here is that much of the structure of the couch is wood-based (wood, plywood or osb). Anywhere where I could feel something hard was probably wood that my nails could secure to.
I think most couches are like that, but you might want to check your couch to be sure before starting.
At this point, the back of the couch looked like this:
I cut my fabric a couple inches below the end of the couch. I only wanted to have to flip the couch over once, so I left that way for a bit.
Step 2: Cover Sides
I once again started by laying the fabric over the couch and tucking what I could into the folds.
Then I flipped the couch over and cut the side fabric to be the correct length to wrap around the bottom of the couch.
At this point, I secured the fabric to the bottom of the couch. I actually used my staple gun here, since I had a good angle and the staples wouldn’t be visible. However, the brad nails would have worked as well.
I didn’t go overboard with the staples, since I knew if I ever wanted to remove the fabric, I’d have to pull each of those staples out with pliers.
Once the fabric on the bottom of the couch was secure, I flipped the couch back over and worked on the front of the sides.
I once again “artfully arranged” the fabric and secured it in place with brad nails.
Step 3: Cover Seats and Footrests
There’s a lot of repetition in the method: I laid the fabric over the seat, and tucked it where I could. Since my recliner mechanism was between the arm and seat of the couch, I made sure that it was still accessible when I was tucking.
Then I trimmed the fabric to the correct length, wrapped it under the seat, and secured with brad nails.
The footrests were the part most similar to traditional upholstery; I laid out the fabric, cut it , then wrapped it around and secured with brad nails.
Then it was done!
Could I do this on a leather sofa?
Yes… but it might come untucked a little more often than mine does, since leather is smooth and doesn’t provide much friction to help keep the fabric in place.
How does it look when in the “reclined” position? Still good?
Everything still looks great! After a bunch of “reclines” and “closes,” the fabric will eventually work its way out of the folds, and you’ll have to re-tuck it back in. It takes about 30 seconds, and I’d say I have to do it about once a month.
I did this project, and have some extra drop cloths. Any ideas what I could use it for?
Why, yes, I do! This Fabric Scraps Storage Bin was made with scrap drop cloths, and is great for storing extras as well!
Small pieces are also great for recovering chair seats, especially if you want them to match your couch!
It took way less time than I’d anticipated- I finished this in less than 5 hours!
I’m actually not sure I love it. The fabric bleached just a little too gray, so I’m not sure how well it will fit in my living room. That was part of the reason I’m glad I used brad nails; it will be easy to take off if I decide I prefer the red.
Edit: It’s been over a year, and I love it! The fabric is not too gray, and looks great in my living room. (In fact, go check out the living room before and after – it’s a good one!) I was worried for nothing.
If you don’t love my bleached drop cloths, but are on a budget too, take a look at my free 5 Creative Sources of Budget Fabric cheat sheet for more fabric ideas!
The fabric stays in place pretty well, so I thought I’d post this method regardless if I decide to rip it off or not. The world is desperately in need of easy ways to recover recliner sofas! Especially ways that are so easy they don’t require removing the old fabric!
Let me know if you use this method. And if you find something else that works, I’d love to know about it! Tell me in the comments below!
Saturday 18th of July 2020
I love this idea!! I desperately need a rescue for my microfiber recliner. What fabric did you use? And where did you buy it from?
Saturday 18th of July 2020
Thank you! It was just a dropcloth from Harbor Freight! I bleached and washed it before putting it on the couch.
Friday 7th of February 2020
Thank you so much for this tutorial. We just moved and almost threw out our recliner set which was beyond comfy but decided last minute to keep it. This assured me that my couches will have an even longer lifetime. They were second hand couches so they’ve lived their life but are still so comfy! Any recommendations on different fabrics to use? Ours is a leather like material.
Monday 10th of February 2020
So glad you found this helpful! I used a drop cloth for budget reasons - any by-the-yard fabric is going to up the price of this project by quite a bit, especially if you use actual upholstery fabric. Because of that, I didn't really investigate any other options (sorry!) but I've used this faux suede on other projects and really liked it!
Monday 30th of December 2019
I'm literally laughing out loud because I have the Exact. Same. Recliner Loveseat. In Red. And it's so comfy and so worn and ugly and in need of recovering. Going to redo it just like you did.
Thursday 2nd of January 2020
Right? Soooo comfy, but in serious need of some TLC. So glad this helps you too - I knew somebody else had this same dilemma!
Saturday 7th of December 2019
Hey! I really want to do this to my recliner sofas. How does it look when you recline them? Or just part of the sofa? Do any of the folds come out? Can't wait to give this a go!
Saturday 7th of December 2019
So glad you're thinking of trying this! Once you do, let me know how it turns out! The sofa look exactly the same when reclined, just, you know, reclined. And yes, the pieces tucked into the sides of the cushions do eventually work their way out; living alone using my sofa daily, I typically have to retuck everything back into place once a month or so. It only takes 30-ish seconds, so I consider it an acceptable price to pay. Hope this helps!
Sunday 13th of October 2019
Wow thank you for this! I have a 1998 fkexsteel rv sleeper sofa with horrendous material and while most ppl remove these and put in new furniture, I believe that this will outlive almost all furniture and while it’s ugly, it’s comfortable to sit and also lie on. I can’t afford to have anything done, and I can’t see, but watching you gives me hope to macguyver it. Your couch looks very nice. The main thing I wanted to say is thank you because I usually can’t follow what ppl do and they leave out steps assuming I know what they’re talking about, leaving me beyond frustrated. You were clear and the photos were great. Thx so much!
Monday 14th of October 2019
You're very welcome! I'm so glad you found this helpful!!