Lately, buying secondhand chairs and sofas has been the topic of discussion via IG stories, and it’s been something that I’ve been learning more about thanks to my very public Facebook Marketplace addiction.
I received a lot of questions about buying secondhand upholstered pieces after sharing these finds, however, I am not an upholstery expert, and I myself have been dying to learn more just like you.
So I reached out to two upholstery experts who I know and trust to answer your most burning questions about secondhand upholstered pieces: Christine of Nouvelle Vie Furniture (Pompton Lakes, NJ) and ML Glover of ML Glover Interiors (Ellicott City, MD). They both had some amazing insight and I’m excited to share their responses to your questions today!
Q: What exactly do I look for when buying secondhand sofas and chairs via FB MP or Craigslist?
Unless you are definitely planning on recovering the chair, the first thing to look for is the condition.
The frame and arms must be sturdy (no wobbling), as frame repairs are pricey and intrusive, meaning fabrics and cotton/foam must be carefully removed to repair the break and then rebuilt. You want pieces that are in pristine condition with minimal wear. Ultimately, the best purchases just require a quick steam clean.
Q: How do I clean secondhand upholstery? I’m scared of bed bugs and the overall potential grossness of used fabric.
Thorough vacuuming with attachments and a small handheld steam clean machine is a must to clean the surface dirt. Be sure to use warm water first, and don’t use soap unless there are spots.
Upholstery fabrics are sprayed with a protective “Scotchguard” spray at the factories, and the steam cleaning lifts this off. Follow general cleaning rules, and know that some fabrics will bleed colors so tread lightly in an inconspicuous spot. Warm water cleans better than cold, and Oxi cleaners offer the best results.
Also – don’t soak the piece! Staples and tacks rust easily and bleed through fabrics, and a gentle light touch with the steamer will do the job.
On the topic of bed bugs…
You can have a chair exterminated for bugs. Always pass if it’s a really strong possibility. There are DIY fixes out there, or you can call a pro. Goodwill and most thrifts steam clean and check for mold and critters.
In 34 years of upholstery work, I have never had a piece infested with bugs. I’ve only had very dirty, smoke stench, mold and dry rot only (smoke does not come out of upholstery. It lingers until it’s removed).
Q: How much does it cost to reupholster something?
I personally received a quote from an upholsterer for the following pieces that I was interested in buying secondhand:
If you are interested in buying secondhand furniture and are looking to replace the fabric, I think the costs of hiring someone are worth it, especially when you’re using a piece with ‘good bones’ that will last years and years.
Reupholstering costs vary, depending on recover, rebuild, new cotton, new foam, etc.
Finding an upholsterer who does good work requires some research. If you can find one that local decorators use – Bingo! Look at other work they’ve done and how busy they are. Be sure to ask if they will use your fabric or if you must buy fabric from them. Paying a bit more in labor is usually a good thing. All fabrics can be found online.
Don’t forget that there are pick up and delivery costs. Delivery is great – having a beautiful recovered piece of furniture safely delivered is always money well spent.
Here’s a helpful upholstery yardage estimator from Fabric Farms to show how many yards of fabric you will need for different items:
Q: What brands should I look for?
- Drexel Heritage
- Ethan Allen
- Henkel Harris
- Hooker Furniture
- Lee Industries
- Milo Baughman
- Mitchell gold
Basically, if the sofa or chair looks like it could have been in your grandmother’s basement circa 1972, it’s worth reupholstering. Any vintage piece can look modern with the right fabric.
Q: What items do you not recommend buying??
Q: How can i diy reupholster something??
If you know me, you know I’m a DIY-er, and there’s nothing that YouTube University can’t help me with. However, I’ve reupholstered two chairs (with the help of Christine walking me through each step), and I have to say that it was hard, and I probably won’t be doing it again unless it was a smaller piece, like a dining chair.