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Environmentally Friendly Furniture - Re-Upholstery

5 December 2018  |  Admin

We want to help customers make the best choices in terms of sustainability & environmental impact.

When it comes to upholstery and durability, you're essentially fighting a losing battle as fabrics should always wear out faster than other furniture components.  If you want a seat to last forever, you shouldn't have upholstery at all.  However, if you can't imagine curling up on a wooden bench, there are still ways in which you can minimise your impact on the environment - so long as you're starting from a solid base.

The chances are that, as you're reading this, you already have a solid piece of furniture that you want to re-upholster.  A well made sofa frame should last for decades and should outlive the upholstery; if your furniture joints don't flex or bend, you're probably off to a good start.  If your furniture is even slightly wobbly, it may not be worth re-upholstering; that doesn't mean you need to visit Ikea just yet.

You can usually find a genuine old Chesterfield or similarly solid furniture design on eBay or Gumtree.  These are often sold at relatively low prices because many people assume that once the upholstery is gone the furniture is finished.  If you do manage to find something second-hand, you must check the furniture for any movement in the frame; if it creaks or wobbles anywhere at all, it's probably best left.  However, if only the upholstery is worn, you should have a solid frame to work with. 

Once you've found an item you think might be suitable, you should forward photos to an upholsterer and ask them for an estimate.  You could ask them to have a look at it before you buy and they might also collect it as they should have a van.


Worn upholstery, collapsed foams.
Solid frame no longer in production.

New foams and contract fabric.
Customer also recoated frame.

You may find that the cost of having your old furniture upholstered is about the same as buying a cheap new replacement, however, it is far more sustainable to renew a well made original.  Some of the benefits of re-upholstery are that comparatively little energy will be used in the process; a solid frame can be upholstered repeatedly and you will never have to pay for your old furniture to be sent to landfill.

Local upholsterers are plentiful and they are a fantastic resource.  Going local saves a lot of fuel and associated transport costs.  If your furniture has particularly special shapes, or if you want to use a complicated pattern, then you need a skilled upholsterer; you might even ask for photos of their previous work.  In our experience, most will be able to do a good job.

Your local upholsterer will probably have a few domestic fabric books for you to look through, however you can also order contract quality fabric from Kirkhouse, at lower cost.  We send fabric cards in the post and supply at discounted prices.  We also use different types of fabrics that local upholsterers might not have access to.  Simply ask your upholsterer how any metres of fabric are needed, place your order with Kirkhouse and we can deliver to you or the upholsterer direct.  It's worth noting that our contract fabrics generally have a higher fire rating and better durability.  We're very happy to discuss our range of options where required.

Lastly, you should also consider the foam quality, which affects durability & comfort.  Foams are available in Hard and Soft categories, with a number rating system for both.  Contract quality foams are typically rated 40H or 50H, which provides a firm seat; the harder the foam, the greater the durability.  Customers sometimes prefer a soft seat, however this will degrade much faster.  Domestic foams are typically quite soft; we suggest you ask your upholsterer for a harder, more durable foam.

In some cases you might be able to request a 'recon' or 'chip' foam that is made from recycled foam chips.  Recon foams are very firm and provide an excellent base on which to put a 'topper' foam.  The topper foam is much thinner and offers better cushioning than the hard recon foam.  Please note, recon foams are not always suitable - your upholsterer should be able to advise further.

We're pleased you're looking into re-upholstery as an option - it may not save you much money, but it is far more sustainable.

We welcome input from both suppliers and customers to further reduce the environmental impact of our industry. 

Please contact Kirkhouse with any queries.

We're here to help: 01670 81 00 44