We recently sat down with the Chade Life, the founder of Leather Medic and asked some basic questions about reupholstering.
Q: How long have you been in the leather/upholstery business?
A: I’ve been repairing vinyl and specializing in leather repair and refinishing for over 30 years, and founded the Leather Medic Franchise Opportunity of which I am CEO. We added our
upholstery shop as a complement to our services over 20 years ago.
Q: Where does reupholstery fit into your leather repair business?
A: We currently employ a full-time re-upholstery expert in our local shop in Southwest Florida. It is very synergistic with leather repair. If we can’t fix a damaged area we have a very unique
ability to refinish and replace it with vinyl or leather to match. Whether it is in an auto or furniture. If someone wishes to recover in cloth materials we can do that also.
Q: How can you tell if a piece is worth it to reupholster?
A: Older furniture in many cases is often higher quality than new. In addition, there may be a sentimental value that is irreplaceable. Regardless of its age or perceived value, the piece
needs to be structurally sound to be worth it to reupholster.
Q: Why is reupholstering so expensive?
A: It does involve specialized skills and is a time- and labor-intensive process. Besides stripping the piece down to the frame, you may have to reinforce the frame and/or replace the coil and
zigzag springs. Then take into consideration the cost of fiberfill, padding and the fabric itself. Reupholstering is about more than just replacing the surface material. Keep in mind that this work is really custom to each project.
Q: Is there a less-expensive way to reupholster?
A: If the inner parts of the piece are in good shape – the frame, springs, and padding – then all it really needs is a new surface cover. But usually when someone wants a piece reupholstered,
the interior of the piece is going to need some refurbishment.
Q: Do you have tips on cushions and filling?
A: Price is the biggest difference. Down-and-feather cushions cost much more than foam ones. Although down is comfortable, it tends to compress fast and not hold its shape. There can also
be a combination: use a foam core wrapped with feather-and-down. This combination is soft, yet keeps its shape. There have also been great improvements in foam selections varying from firm
to very soft.
Q: What common mistake do people make when shopping for fabrics?
A: Choosing stripes or large patterns for pieces that are rounded. When the fabric is stretched the pattern gets pulled quite a bit. As a result, the stripes will be crooked or the pattern out of whack. Your upholsterer should tell you what will work and also tell you what won’t work. When dealing with vinyl and leather we don’t have those issues.
Q: What fabrics are resistant to kids or pets?
A: Most upholstery will eventually get damaged from pets, kids and people. It’s inevitable. As for dogs, in my experience, they love every type of material. Remember that, with our abilities with vinyl and leathers we can address just the damaged areas. Cats don’t like mohair and will stay away from it but is very expensive.
Q: How can you know if you are paying a fair price for reupholstering?
A: Call several places and get bids. Make sure they are specific, in writing, of exactly what they are going to do. If all of the bids are in the same range, you can bet that the price is fair. If one shop is vastly undercutting the other shops’ prices, they are what we call a “chop shop” and will not do the best job for you. Make sure you are confident in their services.
Q: What exactly is a bad job?
A: In my opinion, when they reupholster your piece by putting the new fabric right on top of the old fabric and will put a layer of cotton padding between unless specifically requested by the
customer. All of the existing upholstery is left on the piece. Within a few months, the cotton padding may begin to bunch up on the back. At that point, you would have to start all over again.
Remember the details matter.
Q: What can you tell me about slipcovers?
A: We suggest washing the fabric before having slipcovers made. The fabric will definitely shrink, and that will be a problem. Even if you have the slipcovers dry cleaned, they will shrink
so much they will no longer fit. Also, when purchasing material for slipcovers, buy extra. There are many ideas where leftover materials can be used such as pillows and arm covers etc.
Q: Can you recover a flea market piece in an affordable way?
A: It’s all about the frame and springs. Sit down on the piece in a quiet place. If you hear the springs squeaking, that is not a good sign. It means the springs will have to be replaced and that can be mean a higher cost. Check for odors, they are sometimes very difficult and impossible to remove and will add to the cost.
So there you have it. Old pieces are worth it if they are well-made and or have value to you. Upholstery costs so much because it is custom work and is labor-intensive. If the interior is in good shape, you can save money by only replacing the surface material.
Foam cushions are the least expensive and often the best option. Avoid stripes and large patterns on pieces that do not have square shapes. Kids and pets and people will eventually damage the surface material.
Get several different bids and stay away from the low-balls. Stay away from a job that puts new fabric right on top of old fabric. Always pre-wash fabric for slipcovers. Finally, check the springs and frame and odor in a flea market find; if it squeaks or stinks, it will mean big bucks.
Not sure what to do with your project? Contact Leather Medic for a quote.