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How to Select an Upholsterer

When you are ready to reupholster a piece of furniture, if you don't know how to do it yourself, you will need to hire a professional upholsterer. Like any professional service, there are variations in the quality of work and the cost for services among upholsterers. A reference from a friend or other industry professional is a good start, but knowing what to ask when you meet with the upholsterer will help to ensure your expectations are met.

With a few good pictures and some basic measurements your upholsterer can estimate the cost to recover the item and the amount of yardage you will need for the project. But once the upholsterer examines your furniture, he or she should be able to tell you whether any of the component parts need to be replaced or repaired and the cost to do so. An upholster can also give you an idea of how you can restyle an upholstered piece, by adding or removing tufts, changing the number of loose cushions, adding or removing a skirt, or changing the trim details.

Most upholstered seating pieces are comprised of a frame, padding--like foam, down, or horse hair, depending upon the age of the piece-- and some type of batting or covering over the padding. If your piece is an antique, you may want to retain the original parts if they are not broken and the padding still functions. Rebuilding a piece of furniture will be more expensive than simply changing the covering. A piece with loose cushions costs more to recover than a piece with attached cushions. Retying 8-way hand-tied springs is more labor intensive than replacing sinuous springs. Replacing down is more expensive than replacing foam. These are things that will affect price, but also affect quality and performance.

Ask whether the quoted price includes replacing foam or down. If you are replacing foam or down, ask about the density to be used to be sure it will meet your expectations for comfort and wear. If your piece has loose cushions, ask to see an example of the upholsterer's work, Inspect the stitches and the zipper. Are the stitches straight and even? Are there any puckers along the seam? The zipper should be concealed under a tab, with the ends of the zipper tucked into little pockets. Unzip the cushion cover and look at the seams. Are the cut edges of the fabric straight, are they finished or cut with pinking sheers?

In the end, you get what you pay for. Be sure that you know what you are getting, so you know what you are paying for. At Bolt Fabrics, we can offer you references to local upholstery professionals whose work we know and have confidence in. Just ask.