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Years ago, as newly graduated college students, we bought our first ‘new’ couch & loveseat set. They were cheap, faux-leather, but had clean, modern lines, which is what attracted me to them. That, and the price was $800 for both pieces! I should have known better, ha, ha!

Within a few years, the leather had peeled off of large swaths and they looked terrible! So we replaced them with something better, and stuck them in the basement and let the kids abuse them.

A couple of years later, we moved to our current, much larger house, and needed 4 living room furniture sets, because this house has a formal living room, a great room, an unfinished family room/theater in the basement, and a sitting room off of the master bedroom. So we moved this atrocious set with us.

It sat in our master suite for 2 years while we remodeled the house, and ended up covered in splatters of white ceiling paint, which looked like bird droppings. Really! I wish I had a picture of it right before upcycling it, with the bird-dropping-esque paint splatters! The leather had peeled off in swaths, and the cushions sagged so bad you had to literally climb out of it. It could hardly get worse, but I knew the wood frame was still decent, and figured I would reupholster it at some point. The loveseat looked just as bad.          


Finally, we finished the basement and the family room/theater needed a very specific size and shape of sectional. I wanted it to seat 10 comfortably, not be too deep, only have one arm, have unattached back pillows and a washable yellow-denim slipcover. That’s a pretty long laundry list! I knew it would have to be custom made and would cost an arm and a leg! I’m cheap, so I decided to build it myself from the frames of the junky old set upstairs in my sitting room! It turned out perfect and we LOVE it!

You should try this if you have a couch in need of some love. I won’t lie and tell you it was fast and easy, but it honestly wasn’t that hard! And since I already had all of the tools it only cost me $360, start to finish!

Tools and supplies you will need:

Pneumatic Brad Nailer
Pneumatic Stapler
(Or this 2 In 1 Brad Nailer and Stapler combo has good reviews and is a great price! I’ve never tried it…)
air compressor
SKIL Circular Saw
Sewing and upholstery supplies (outlined in detail below)
several lengths of 13″ wide plywood to build the boxes for the extensions.

First, draw out your vision

I drew out my vision, measuring the actual dimensions of the couch and loveseat, and then the dimensions I would like them to have and drawing it all out on graph paper. I redrew these for you so they would be tidy and legible.


Next, buy your supplies


  1. My couch cushions had piping around the top and bottom seams, which I liked, so I bought two 50′ rolls of new piping. Decide whether you also want to pipe the seat-back cushions (I did because I like a very square, tailored look) and measure and purchase accordingly. You will want 5/8″ piping for couch cushions, like this 5/32 Polyester Welt Cord Piping. You want stiff, substantial piping, not soft, clothing-type piping. Be sure to buy extra, because you will use more than you think! I only used about 55 yards for my very large sectional, but I was glad I had extra to make pillows afterward.                                           
  2. Springs. My old couch has sinuous springs. These steel wire springs snake in a continuous S-pattern from the front of the couch frame to the back and are typically joined together horizontally by a cord. These springs fail when the cord breaks and the springs separate, causing sagging cushions, which is what had happened to ours. I ‘fixed’ them by zip-tying the springs back together, but I ran out of zip ties and used baling twine from our hay bales to finish. I’m the ultimate upcycler, ha, ha! I didn’t want to add these springs to my homemade extensions because they are difficult to work with and they often fail, so I decided to use upholstery webbing on the extensions. The extensions are firmer to sit on and more comfortable, in our opinion (my kids concur) and the webbing was SO easy to install! I did a little research and decided to go with Elasbelt Webbing , because it surpasses all the others for longevity. An extra couple of dollars is SO worth not having to redo the job down the road! You will also want this Webbing Stretcher, as the webbing is stiff and hard to handle. A stretcher will help you create even tension and make your job easier. I didn’t bother with the metal ends. It worked fine to just staple the ends to the wood frame, though you will definitely need a pneumatic stapler if you want to try it that way because it’s pretty thick.
  3. Fabric. Dina at honey & fitz has created a very handy graphic to help you determine how much fabric you’ll need. I purchase most of my fabric online because it is so easy and convenient and I love that they list all the fabric details. Sometimes, at a fabric store, the end of the bolt will list details like fabric weight and durability, but usually not, so you have to call the manufacturer. My favorite place to purchase is www.onlinefabricstore.com. Add yourself to their mailing list and they will send you coupons, which really add up when you purchase large yardage for a big project like this. Be sure to check the fabric weight (you want 10 oz per square yard or heavier) and the durability (at least 15,000 double rubs). Purchase a yard or two extra, just in case you make a mistake cutting. I purchased 35 yards and ended up with about 1/4 yard left over. Whew–that was close! I chose this yellow-beige denim and it washes up marvellously–I never even need to iron it.
  4. You’ll need Dacron to wrap your cushions. It smooths everything out, softens corners, and makes your cushions look good and feel soft. If the ‘used couch’ you are re-making has lumpy-looking cushions, they can possibly be saved by just replacing the dacron. I use 3M adhesive spray to attach it, making it easier to stuff my cushions back into their covers. If you leave it loose, it bunches up. You’ll also need Dacron to cover the new cushions you will be making for the extensions you added to your couch.
  5. You will need zipper tape and zippers. Don’t buy packaged zippers like you would for clothing because they won’t be long enough or sturdy enough. Zipper tape comes on a roll, so you can cut off the exact length you need, add a pull, and use it for your project. Be sure your tape and pull are the same size, so you aren’t trying to fit a too-small zipper pull on too-large teeth! A good size for upholstery is #5. It is very strong but still easy to sew around the corners of a cushion and will stand up to lots of washings. These Zippers by the Yard are my favorite, and I like that the tape comes with coordinating pulls.  Pick a color that coordinates with your fabric, but it doesn’t have to match exactly, as your zippers will not show. You will need enough tape for each cushion to have a zipper along the back plus 3″ to each side. I use zippers in my seat-back cushions as well, because I like to be able to throw them in the washing machine.
  6. You will need high-density foam to fill your new cushions. I have found Home Depot to provide the cheapest, good quality 3″ foam. I glue together the 3″ foam, to create 6″ thick foam, which I then wrap with Dacron for seat cushions. I chose to make my seat-back cushions only 5″ thick, and they are comfier a little less dense, so I sandwich 3″ high-density foam (the stuff that is in the seat cushions) between 2 pieces of 1″ thick low-density foam, which I purchase here. Figure out how many new cushions you will need to make and what size, and order the foam so you will have it when you are ready to start sewing.
High density foam for upholstery from Home Depot
High density foam from Home Depot


Now build your frame (while waiting for your  supplies to arrive)

  1. I turned my couch over, so the legs were in the air. I removed the legs–they usually just un-screw–and saved them because I like their shape and finish. You will then want to remove enough staples that you will be able to get a corner of the fabric loose so you can pull it off.
  2. I pulled all of the ‘leather’ off of the frame, which was SO cathartic! Two of my kids helped me, and we yelled like cavemen while we did it. Watch out for the staples! I recommend wearing protective clothing and gloves. I saved some of the pieces so I could use them as a pattern and trace them onto the new fabric. Save the foam and batting padding. If it is adhered (stapled or glued) to the frame in a place you won’t be tearing off, just leave it there. If you have to tear it off, set it aside and save it for later. Look carefully at how it is applied and photograph it if you think that will help you remember. Once you see the naked frame you will be able to easily see how it was constructed, making it easier to reconfigure to your liking.
  3. Using a circular saw, I removed both of the arms of the loveseat and one of the arms of the sofa. I kept the hardwood boards to reuse. Also, just remove the part of the arm that is above the seating platform, rather than removing the entire arm vertically. You want to keep the structure that is attached to the seating platform to adhere your extension to.
  4. The couch and loveseat frames I was upcycling were about 6″ deeper than I liked, so I made them shallower by sawing the bottom pieces of the frame 6″ shorter and reattaching the upright back pieces with my pneumatic Brad Nailer. Because that changed the seat back angle, I had to reinforce the joints where the seat met the back as well. I had one of my kids hold things in place while I nailed away. Reuse the hardwood pieces you cut off earlier to build your new backs and to reinforce angles.
  5. I extended the couch by the length of one seat width, using extra plywood I had in the garage. I basically just nailed another box onto the already existing box and continued the back across the new extension by adding upright hardwood pieces and slanted pieces that match the slant of the original back. Be sure to use only hardwood and plywood and not mdf, as mdf is not structural and is very heavy. If I ever move again, I will probably want to take this couch with me, and they need to be strong and light, plus fit through the door, so as to be movable. ***IMPORTANT NOTE: Design your new sofa in a way that will be easy for to build AND for you to re-use the frame you already have. I extended the couch length by one seat, making the seat exactly the same dimensions as the other seats on the couch. That way, I could reuse the other cushions and it would all be aesthetically pleasing. A giant, or too-small, non-matching cushion would look out of place. I extended the loveseat by three full cushion-widths, one on the end going into the corner and two on the other end. 
    See how the sectional is built in two lightweight, easy to move and carry sections?
  6. I added ‘box’ extensions to both ends of the loveseat. The extension that ends up being the corner piece required two backs on adjacent sides, and the extension that ends up being the other end of the loveseat I just left open–no arm. I didn’t want an arm there and didn’t even extend the back all the way to the edge because I wanted it to be visually open and usable from both sides, since behind the couch there is a game table. You can better see what I mean in the picture below.             
  7. Be sure to add extra bracing where the back turns the corner, so it will be strong enough to support kids climbing over it or whatever else happens at your house. You also need extra bracing at the end without an arm. That is the very most susceptible part to damage.
  8. Once the frame is built, you need to add the springs or webbing, or whatever you have picked, to the extensions you added to your couch. They will become the platform for the cushion to rest on. I chose elastbelt webbing for the reasons outlined in number 2 of the supplies section. It doesn’t matter at all if your old couch and new sections have different styles of springs–no one will ever see them.
    This is the underside of one of the extension boxes I added to the loveseat. This extension is the corner piece. See how the extension uses elastbelt webbing and the old loveseat still has sinuous springs? No big deal if the platform-types are mismatched.


    This is a great tutorial for inserting webbing, and I like that she uses staples instead of metal clips, so you can see what I meant. I added elasbelt around the couch back, as well. The old webbing was loose and misshapen, so I added new elasbelt continuously around the backs–the part the seat-back-cushion rests against–of both the old parts and the new parts of the couches. I added three rows, 2″ from the top, 5″ from the top, and 15″ from the top, since where shoulders hit is under more pressure than the lumbar region.


Finally, add the upholstery

Hooray! Your frame is finished! Let’s start sewing (provided that your supplies have arrived):

  1. Preshrink your fabric by washing it in warm water if you plan for it to be washable, i. e. a slipcover.
  2. Start with the seat cushions.
  3. You will need to make new cushions for the extensions you added. They should match the size and thickness of your original cushions if you made your extensions that size (which you should, because it makes everything easier and more attractive). My original cushions were 6″ thick, so I glued (using 3M spray adhesive–make sure it will adhere to foam) two 3″ foam slabs together to match the thickness. Once I wrapped the new cushions in Dacron they looked just as great as my old cushions.
  4. If your old cushions are still in good shape, remove them from their covers and use the old covers as a pattern for the new. Mine had piping around the top and bottom seams, which I retained in my design. Seat cushion covers are designed to fit tight and will look best if you match the dimensions from your original cushion-covers, which may be slightly smaller, especially in the thickness dimension, than your cushion. You can see from this picture how I sewed the piping into both sides of the ‘thickness’ piece of the cover.

    I’ve found that is the easiest way to accomplish evenness. Add zippers only to the back. Really, the easiest way to do this is to copy the design of your old cushions, by carefully ripping the seams apart and using them as a pattern. Above is a picture of the zipper insertion.

  5. Decide how you want your seat-back cushions to look. They will look best if they match your seat cushions in width and should be slightly less thick. Again, I like a very tailored look and kept mine perfectly square and not “fluffy” or overstuffed. I hate that look, ha, ha! For seating to be comfortable, the back should be softer and less dense than the seat, (so you don’t bounce forward in your seat when you plop down on it) but it doesn’t have to look fluffy! I created the extra softness, by using only 1 piece of the 3″ thick high-density foam sandwiched between two 1″ pieces of lower-density foam, which will make the cushion feel softer.   Then wrap the whole thing in Dacron so the cushion cover looks nice and full. This way, your cushions will still look square and tailored, but will be very comfortable. The corner-piece will probably need two seat-backs with angles–not completely rectangular–because of the angle of the seat back. I just placed a rectangular cushion there, eyeballed how much further the top should extend, and cut a fabric piece that shape to make sure it would fit before making the whole cushion cover, because I didn’t want to mess it up. Can you see how both of these seat-back cushions in the corner piece are trapezoidal so they fit well together?

    Also, seat-back cushions are often shaped around an arm, which I accomplish the same way, by cutting and fitting, cutting and fitting. Hopefully, the pictures below will help you to see that process.

    How to build a couch
    Here is the finished insides of the cushion. It will be used as a pattern to create the cushion cover, then wrapped in Dacron and inserted into the cover.
  6. The final step is padding your frame and then wrapping it in fabric. First the padding. I’m sure you noticed when you were disassembling your couch earlier that all of the corners are padded, along with the armrests, the front, and any place a person would typically lean against. I hope you saved your padding like we discussed and can reattach it in a similar manner wherever you removed it. If you need to reattach it, it’s easy to just staple on. Be sure to staple near the edges, though, and make sure there are no bunches of padding sticking out, because you will see them through the fabric. You’ll need to pad all of the corners where you added extensions. Just copy the way it is attached elsewhere, using your staple gun and taking special care to cover the top edges where body parts might contact the frame, or where there will be tension on the fabric. You don’t want a frame rubbing through the fabric. Once it is fully padded, it’s time to add the fabric. I like to cut a full-width 60″ fabric panel to the length of the back of each piece, and lay it over the top of the frame so that it hangs to the floor over the back of the couch (and drags on the floor 3″ so you’ll have room to tuck it under the edge and staple it) and to the seat platform over the front of the back of the couch. I then cut the end panels to the right shape and sew it all together, as shown in the photo. I think it looks nicer.

    However, most upholsterers just tuck raw edges under and staple, which is easier. It will seem intimidating until you just start, and then you’ll get the hang of it. Once the frame is all covered, I like to hand-sew in a piece of drapery lining to cover the platform so it will look tidy even with the cushions off, and to keep paraphernalia from hiding inside the frame.

    You will notice that this fabric is non-removable and so cannot be thrown into your washing machine. However, these areas are the least likely to get dirty. You can sew a cover to fit over this fabric that is washable, but they have to be constantly adjusted to keep looking great, which is annoying, and it never looks really tight and secure, so I prefer to do it this way.

  7. Scotchguard your fabric for maximum durability. You will need to reapply the Scotchguard each time you wash your cushion covers, but if you have kids like mine, who eat where they have been told not to, it will prevent stains. You can buy an aerosol can of Scotchguard in the cleaning aisle at Walmart for less than $5.
  8. Reattach the feet. The front metal-machined screw holes should still be there, so just screw the feet back on. If you left your old couch the same width, you can just screw the feet back into the holes they came out of, too.   I reconfigured my couch to be less deep by cutting 6″ of width off of the bottom supports, which eliminated the rear metal-machined holes. So I drilled new holes, just smaller than the screw that is in the foot, and then force-screwed those feet in. They are very secure but are no longer removable. Which is okay, actually, because the front feet are still removable and the whole thing fits easily through a standard doorway.
  9. Because I extended my couch on one end and my loveseat on both ends, those extensions now overhang the feet, which still sit in the footprint of the original couch and loveseat. I’m not worried about the extension on the end of the loveseat because it’s smaller, but I added blocks of 2 x 4, cut to the same height as the feet, in inconspicuous places under the other extensions, especially the corner section, since it is the largest extension and I anticipate it seeing hard use.



Questions? I’ll happily answer them in the comments. If you follow this tutorial and make something wonderful, please post photos below and tell us about it. I’d love to see your projects!



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  1. Sarah Miller says:

    What kind/brand of sewing machine will I need to reupholster a sectional in our RV?

    1. Amy Saunders says:

      It depends on your fabric and how many layers of fabric you’ll be sewing at once. An industrial sewing machine would be nice, but I didn’t have one so I just used my daily Husqvarna. I was sewing on denim and I added piping to all of my edges, so I was sewing through four thicknesses of heavy denim at once. It wasn’t easy but it was doable. If you use leather or a heavier fabric, you might need the walking foot on an industrial machine. But I wouldn’t buy one for just one project because that kind of defeats the purpose.

  2. Christine Hilsendeger says:

    I have been wanting to change my 7 foot couch and my 5 foot loveseat into a sectional for a couple of years after moving into a smaller house. I can’t really afford a new thousand dollar sectional and I would have to give away my coach that I really think it’s comfortable and I wish I could keep. Maybe the idea of doing this isn’t such a bad idea after all after! I’m so glad you made this post!

    1. Amy Saunders says:

      Thanks, Christine! I’d love to see how it turns out!

  3. This looks AMAZING! You did a fantastic job. I have been toying around with the idea of reupholstering our basement couch for a couple of years now. I am curious about the total cost of the project. I would not have thought to turn two pieces into a sectional. I’ve been wanting a sectional for our basement living room. I am blown away by the end result!

    1. Amy Saunders says:

      Thank you, Kat! You should totally just dive right in. If you’re anything like me you’ll talk yourself out of it if you don’t just grab the skil saw and the scissors and go to town on it. I bought the fabric from onlinefabricstore for about $10 a yard. You’ll need high quality fabric so it will last, and they had a great price on the heavy-duty denim fabric I wanted. And I bought strapping/webbing from Amazon because my springs were saggy and because I built ends onto both the couch piece and the loveseat piece, to form the sectional, which needed seats. Oh, and I purchased zippers and cording for the cushions. Honestly, though, that was all I purchased. I’m thinking it was under $400 for all of that. Not bad for a brand new, high-quality, custom piece of furniture! I already had all of the tools, though. And the price depends on the fabric you end up choosing. Be sure to only buy fabric that will withstand 20k rubs or more if you want it to last. I also only buy washable fabric, and I make sure all of my cushion covers are removable and washable, because my kids aren’t as careful as I’d like them to be. Good luck! I’d love to see your finished project if you decide to undertake it. And don’t hesitate to ask questions if you need help!

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