Wednesday, June 2, 2010

PDQuick! Salvaging Your Sofa

PDQuick Tip:  Sofas and upholstered chairs can be very expensive to replace or to reupholster.  One way of avoiding such high cost while breathing new life into tired and worn fabric is through the use of slipcovers.  We've all seen the one-size-fits-all types of elasticated slipcovers available in home stores and these can do a good job for the money, but a nice alternative to both these mass-market covers and the expense of reupholstery is to have a custom slipcover made specially for your furniture (or, if you are especially handy with a sewing machine, sewing one yourself).  Not only will such a covering fit your furniture perfectly (and will, in fact, look like upholstery); if your sofa has loose cushions you will also be able to have them slipcovered individually, which is a much neater look and looks less rumpled than the store-bought varieties.

Additional Tips and Suggestions: 
  • Cutting the fabric for the main body of a slipcover (whether for a sofa or a chair) is an art form in itself, but if you can find someone who knows how to do it well, it is well worth the money.   In the past, I have used an older gentleman who was recommended to me by a nearby fabric wholesaler.  You can probably find your own resource through similar means or through an upholsterer. 
  • In my experience, the cost for labor to have a custom slipcover made has typically been about $150.00 (and you will, of course, need to add in the cost of fabric as well).  Your total cost for a sofa slipcover (depending on the fabric you choose) can be in the range of $300.00 to $500.00.  If your sofa is well-made and has "good bones", you might consider it worth the cost for sprucing up this way and thereby buying yourself several more good years of use. 
  • If you don't want to go to the expense of having a slipcover made for the entire sofa or chair and your furniture has loose seat and/or back cushions, an alternative is to just slipcover the cushions themselves.  This look can be very sophisticated or even shabby chic and is a good idea for a decorating change-of-pace even if your existing cushions are in good shape.  One of the benefits to covering only the cushions (besides the cost savings on the fabric) is that if you have basic sewing skills, you can make simple "box cushion" slipcovers yourself and save additional labor costs.  What makes this an even easier sewing project is the fact that you will already have a cushion (and therefore a pattern) to work with and will be spared the additional effort of cutting a cushion and covering it with batting.
  • If the furniture you are covering is expected to get normal or heavy use, you should be sure to select fabric that is washable.  One of the other great benefits of slipcovers is that when soiled they can be removed and tossed in the washing machine.
  • To avoid future problems with "shrinkage" when you wash your slipcover, bring your fabric to a dry cleaner before cutting to have the fabric washed (and shrunk) and professionally ironed.  This will probably cost you about $70.00 in additional expense, but is well worth it.  A typical sofa with cushions can require about 15-20 yards of fabric, which is way too much fabric to wash in your own machine (and probably too much for the machines at the laundromat as well).  [NOTE:  Once the slipcover is made and the sections of fabric are in smaller pieces, you won't have any problem washing in your home machine.]
  • As an additional point, if you find that the foam cushions on your furniture need replacing as well, consider having new upholstery-grade foam cut.  Again, the cost is not minimal (e.g., a 24" x 80" piece of high-density upholstery foam will cost about $85.00 to $100.00) but it is a small fraction of what a new sofa would cost you.  Just remember that upholstery for use with "heavy-use" furniture should always be high-density.  You should also be sure to cover the foam in dacron wrap, which is rather inexpensive and will "soften" the sharp corners of the foam and make it more comfortable for sitting.  All of these materials are available at any upholstery supply store or in some cases at fabric stores.
  • Even if your sofa is still in good shape, one way to ensure that you protect your investment is to invest in a yearly professional upholstery cleaning.  You can find such services in the Yellow Pages or online.  Just be sure you go with a reputable company (check with the Better Business Bureau or ask friends or neighbors to recommend someone).
Copyright 2010 - All rights reserved - Pamela Yeaton

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