Reupholstering can cost two-thirds of buying new: Expert

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Pink stripes give this old chair a new hip look. A little fabric can be a cheaper way to freshen up your home.

Before you send that sofa to the recycling bin, why not see if you can inject new life into it? And that’s exactly what Toronto homeowner Kathryn Quail did.

“It seemed really wasteful to put our chairs on the curb,” she said. “We weren’t sure if they had the value worthy of reupholstering, but Nick Mancuso of Arctic Upholstery Ltd. showed us the difference between a piece worth recovering and one that would be better suited for a garage sale, and that made the case for us.”

Mancuso also suggests you take the time and compare apples to apples when you’re at the point of buying a new piece versus reupholstering.

“If you have a really good quality piece that you’re considering to reupholster, then go out and price something that is comparable, brand new,” he says. “Often you’ll find reupholstering can be about two-thirds of the cost of a new item. While cost saving is one benefit, you’ll also have a much larger selection of fabric and leather to choose from. This isn’t usually the case when you’re buying retail. Material selection is limited, making design and style choices difficult.”

Reupholstering is more than just changing the fabric. An upholsterer can also modify the shape of your treasured item. If you really like the shape of the back but the arms are a bit square and you wanted to make it a little more round, that’s doable. Any upholster can manipulate the current shape of your furniture to some degree.

But miracles can only go so far. Think twice before you decide on investing in reupholstering furniture from the ‘80s or ‘90s with huge bolster arms or those big overstuffed chairs.

Then, once the evaluation is done and the piece is deemed viable, the upholster will take the piece of furniture pretty much down to the wood, with the exception of the foam and cushions.

“It’s not like peeling a banana and sticking fabric back on the frame. You have to get right down to the bare bones, the internals. Reupholstering your furniture in many ways is no different than renovating your home,” reminds Mancuso. “You have to start with a solid base.”

As in any good renovation project, checking references is key. Here are a few tips to keep in mind before embarking on this project:

• Get several quotes as they can vary from upholsterer to upholsterer.

• Ask what is included in the quote.

• Does the upholsterer remove old fabric or simply recover?

• Do they rewrap the frame and seat cushions with Dacron for protection and comfort?

• Do they tighten the frame, fix springs or webbing?

• Do you want any style changes?

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