What to Look for in an Upholstery Service

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated January 31, 2022
A vintage living room
Photo: nicolamargaret / E+ / Getty Images

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Reupholstery can turn your treasured heirloom furniture or thrift store finds into statement decor that suits your style. And while hiring an upholstery service is often less expensive than purchasing new furniture, it’s still an investment. Plus, you want to make sure your most sentimental and unique items are handled with care. 

If you’re considering hiring someone to handle your reupholstery projects, here’s everything to look for when hiring an upholstery service.

How to Find an Upholstery Service

When you decide you’re ready to launch into an upholstery project, you can start by asking friends and family for upholstery service recommendations. Maybe your sister worked with someone who turned a worn, crackling leather chair into a piece that looks brand new. Word-of-mouth recommendations are a great way to find a service that worked for the people you trust most.

You can also look around online to find upholstery services near you. Check out the company’s website and look at their galleries or portfolios for an idea of their sense of style and craftsmanship. Look at customer reviews on the website, on Google, and on third-party services to get a full picture of how happy customers are with the company.

Before Hiring an Upholstery Service

You’ve talked to loved ones and started doing some online research, and you have a handful of companies that you’re interested in hiring. Before you sign a contract or hand over your generation-to-generation set of dining room chairs, you should do more digging to find the best upholstery service for you. Be sure to get at least three quotes from different companies.

Plan Your Upholstery Project for Accurate Quotes

You’ll need to share more details about the project to get the most accurate quotes. Measure the furniture you’re looking to reupholster as well as the type of product. If you know its age, share that, too. Older items may be more delicate and could require more time, care, or special tools and fabrics. 

Finally, where will this renewed item live? Will it go inside by a sunny window, is it going to be a well-used item in your living room, or could it be going outside on your porch? These details can help upholstery get an idea of the best types of fabric to use.

Check for Qualifications and References

When you hire a contractor to renovate your bathroom or build an extension on your home, they must have proper licensing and certifications to perform these dangerous jobs. With upholstery services, there aren’t strict licensing requirements, although many upholstery pros have spent years honing their skills with sewing classes and undergoing upholstery apprenticeships.

To get an idea of how the upholstery service works, ask to talk to past client references. You’ll want to talk to about three references per company you are considering. There are many questions to ask contractor references, such as what type of work the company completed for the client, whether or not they stayed on schedule and budget, and how satisfied the client was at the end of the project.

Questions to Ask Your Upholstery Service Company

In addition to asking references questions about their projects and satisfaction, there are some questions to ask your upholstery service as well.

  • Fabric: What type of fabrics do they use? Where do they source fabrics?

  • Frame repairs: Does the service offer frame repairs? What is the added charge for furniture frames that are worse for wear?

  • Timeline: Based on the information given during the quote process, how long will your project take?

  • Furniture pick-up: Does the company offer pick-up and drop-off, or are you responsible for hauling the furniture to the store and away?

Tips for Hiring an Upholstery Service

A man cutting a piece of fabric with scissors
Photo: Djordje / Adobe Stock

Now that you’ve narrowed down your list of top upholstery services, you can start preparing to formally hire the company and get to the exciting part: customizing your project and seeing the team breathe new life into your cherished furnishings.

Interviewing the Shortlist

Interviewing the companies on your shortlist is a great way to determine if this will be a good working relationship for both parties. It also gives you a chance to ask those important questions, like how the company sources fabric and whether or not they offer extensive repairs for frames that are in rough shape.

Get a Contract with Your Upholstery Service

Any time you hire someone, you should establish a written contract to protect both parties. In the contract, there are several components to outline:

  • Payment structure: The contract should outline the payment structure, method, and timeline.

  • Down payment: You may be required to pay a down payment or part of the project fee upfront.

  • Final payment: Note how you’ll make the final payment and when it is due.

  • Project expectations: The contract should include exactly what you’re looking for. You may want just a seat cushion upholstered, or perhaps you both agree to frame repairs as well.

  • Timeline: The contract should specify the estimated length of the project and about when you can expect it to be finished.

Keep Records on Your Upholstery Project

With the contract in place, the project is ready to begin. While you can trust most upholstery services to give their all to your project, you should still keep records, such as emails or tracked hours, about how the work is progressing. The company could get busy, causing your timeline to be extended, and you’ll want to keep note of that in case it takes far longer than the contract specifies.

Look for Red Flags and Prepare to Troubleshoot

By tracking down multiple quotes and interviews and checking licenses and other qualifications, you are more likely to have a pleasant experience with your hired upholstery service. But if something does throw the timeline off track or there’s a breach of contract, you should know what steps to take to keep your project on the path to completion.

  • Cutting corners: A good upholstery service will ideally strip the old fabric and damaged parts, rather than just putting new fabric over old fabric.

  • Low prices: While you want to find a price in your budget, be wary of the lowest prices. This could mean the company is cutting corners.

  • Poor communication: Whether you’re trying to get a quote or track progress on your project, the company should be quick to answer or at least return your calls or emails.

  • Major delays: Minor delays can happen, but the company shouldn’t leave you hanging on reuniting with your favorite chair.

If you are unhappy with the company’s service, start by calmly explaining your concerns and referring to the contract. Ideally, work out issues in-person with the upholstery service, then follow-up in an email to keep a written record.

Talking things out is usually enough to make amends, but if things escalate, be sure to take photos of your returned project, especially if you notice new damage or the fresh fabric is fraying at the ends.

Finally, you may need to take legal action if you face excessive fees, uncompleted work, deception, theft, or financial loss. Legal action can look different from state to state, but talk to an attorney about your situation to find the best route.

After the Upholstery Service is Finished

Your antique leather chair looks and feels as good as new, and your kids are fighting over who gets to sit in it first. When you’re happy with your upholstery project, it’s time to sew up any loose ends.

  • Final payment: Make your final payment to the upholstery service according to the agreed-upon terms and dates laid out in your contract.

  • Reviews: If you love the finished product, consider leaving a review to help other customers find and hire the upholstery service that you trusted.

  • References: Just as you may have checked the service’s past client references, you could offer to be a reference if you felt the company went above and beyond.

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