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Is Reupholstering Worth the Effort and Expense or Should I Buy New?

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By Bill Primavera

As a realtor, I have the opportunity to view a lot of furniture, and that furniture can be in varying stages of wear.

In my own home, I have been giving the fish-eye for the past few years to a wonderful wingback chair that I first purchased as a bachelor. It had its original upholstery at the time, a drab and heavy fabric that had seen better days. Also, it looked as through its stuffing was rather anemic.

Because its lines were graceful, I decided to go through the expense to have the chair totally reupholstered (as opposed to just re-covering) where all the springs and padding are totally replaced. I made one big mistake, however; the original piece seemed a bit lean to me in stuffing, so I asked the upholsterer to “overstuff” it.

I should have held my tongue because, when it was returned to me, it looked like one of those “before” pictures when a person then goes on to lose 150 pounds. It was totally amorphous, like an overblown balloon. The graceful lines of the frame were completely obliterated. Oh, no, I thought.

But having gone through the expense, I decided to live with the oversized chair for many years. It was only after it had again received its fair amount of wear, perhaps another 25 years, that I decided to correct my past sin and to liberate the once graceful lines of the piece from the blunder I had committed.

At the time, I thought maybe it would just be easier and maybe even less expensive to replace the chair with a new one, rather than go through the expense of reupholstering. But by this time, I really had a sentimental attachment to the piece where I had sat with my sweetheart on my lap and eventually my baby girl in my arms. Also, from an environmental point of view, reupholstering saves perfectly good furniture from the landfill.

The best way to determine if a chair or other piece of furniture is worth reupholstering is to talk to a local upholsterer. That professional can best determine if the furniture is worth saving or if it’s time to replace it. Then, get a quote for reupholstering compared with buying new. When it’s cheaper to reupholster, it’s worth it. Even if it’s not cheaper, again the sentimental value may dictate reupholstering.

The best way to approach reupholstering is to do a search for “upholstery near me.” You will then find shops closest to you in your area.

This is also a time when you can modify the stuffing and decide whether you want firmer or softer cushions. When reupholstering furniture pieces that are already part of your decorating plan, everything fits as it always has, as opposed to the possibility of buying new and not having as great a fit.

When determining whether it’s best to reupholster, rather than buy new, cost is always a factor. And the range of costs is very broad, depending on the fabric and filling chosen, as well as the labor costs of the reupholster.

Sofas can run between $500 and $4,500 to reupholster, with the average cost being $1,800. Usually, fabric ranges from $10 to $70 a yard with labor costs varying from $40 to $100 per hour. So the final choice really depends on the buyer’s preferences.

As I write this, I am reminded that I have two wonderful easy chairs in my bedroom, purchased almost 50 years ago at the wonderful B. Altman store, which was one of my favorites in Manhattan. It’s now approaching the point where they need to be reupholstered for the second time, and it’s my pleasure to do so because they have a “history” with me and my family.

That’s probably the best benefit of reupholstering: You can rejuvenate a favored piece of furniture, maintaining its familiarity while accommodating the homeowner’s desire for refreshening.

Bill Primavera is a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

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