How to Measure Dining Room Chairs for Upholstery Fabric

Dining room chairs are one of the most common pieces of furniture to reupholster. Many of us own that one chair, sofa, or bench seat that has been through it all, and needs a makeover. The first step is choosing an upholstery fabric and figuring out how much you need.

The first time I reupholstered anything was a set of dining room chairs from the early 1900’s. Talk about old, but honestly, it was easier than I thought and they came out great considering it was my first time. However, I chose a print fabric and quickly realized that I should have looked at the repeat of the pattern first. But then again, I over calculated my measurements and bought twice the amount than what I needed!

Whether it’s you reupholstering the chair or a professional you’ve hired, knowing your measurements will help determine the amount of yardage you will need. I’ve put together some tips on how to measure a dining room chair seat, and what to take into consideration when choosing an upholstery fabric.

Using an Existing Pattern

Some chairs are shaped uniquely (usually vintage chairs), and in that case it’s easier to use the current pattern rather than taking down measurements. The best way is to take the fabric off that is currently on the chair and use it as a pattern for the new fabric. This includes the number of times the fabric is folded over around the edges (usually twice) and ironing them out so you have a complete flat pattern. If the staples have ripped the fabric, preventing it from lying out evenly, add an extra inch around the entire pattern. For the average dining room chair (16″ x 18″), you can get two seats out of ¾ of a yard, of 54” wide fabric.


Measuring dining room chairs is pretty simple. It’s best to remove the seat from the chair to get the most accurate measurements. With a tape measure, measure the length of the seat from top to bottom from each bottom edge. Add another 3-4 inches to both sides to allow for a fold over finish and stapling underneath.

For non-standard sized seats or if your fabric width is not the standard 54″, see our Calculating Fabric Yardage for Your Project article to figure out how much fabric you need.

For the average chair (16” x 18”) you don’t need to measure the width because upholstery fabrics that are 54” wide will give you a sufficient amount of fabric to work with. If your chair is larger than average, measure the width the same way as you would measure the length at its widest point.

If you have more than one chair that you are reupholstering, multiply the number of chairs by 0.75 and divide by 2. This will give you the total amount of yardage you will need for your chairs.

If you choose a pattern with a repeat, allow yourself an extra 1/2 yard for matching the fabric. Also if it’s a large print, center the pattern in the middle of the seat, this way its not off centered. With repeats and large prints, consider an extra 1/2 yard to a yard for centering and matching the fabric.

Choosing Fabric

Check out our selection of décor fabric to find the perfect fabric for your dining chairs! You’re not limited to just heavy upholstery fabrics. Many drapery fabrics are also suitable for upholstering chairs. See our article on Drapery Fabric vs. Upholstery Fabric to find out more about what to look for when choosing a fabric for your project.

Ready to go? Click here to find out how to upholster your dining chairs.

Questions & Comments

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If the fabric i am buying is 54" by width. and I have 8 chairs in total. Based on the formula above, its 8 Chairs x 0.75 / 2 = 3 yards only. How does the width or length of the actual seat size play in this formula to determine how many yards I need? The seat size is standard 18" x 16"without the padding of the 3-4 inches each side.
tak w on Aug 6, 2018
BEST ANSWER: The formula is assuming the standard size of 16″ x 18″ and the standard fabric width of 54", so 3 yards is correct. If there is a pattern that you want to be placed a certain way, you may want to get more.

For anyone with non-standard chair sizes and/or fabric widths, see this article for more information on calculating how much fabric you need:
Chair has seat and back front and back how do you measure on repeat fabric?
A shopper on Sep 8, 2018
BEST ANSWER: 2 yards per chair should be enough in this case.
I have 9 chairs, each seat measures 38 x 41.5, I'm guessing max of 6 yards of standard 54 inch fabric, too much? Not enough?
A shopper on Jan 14, 2018
BEST ANSWER: It depends on if the fabric you're using has a pattern or not, or it you care about centering it. That along with the corresponding repeat can make the amount of yardage you need vary.
I have two armed dining chairs and need to upholster the seats and arm pads. How much 54" material will I need? 1 yard or 1 1/2 yds? Thanks
A shopper on Nov 27, 2018
BEST ANSWER: One yard will probably be enough if the two pieces for the seat will fit in the width of the fabric. There should be enough left over for the arm pads if they're the size I'm picturing!
If the material is 45” how much material will I need for a dining chair?
A shopper on Dec 13, 2017
BEST ANSWER: It depends on the style of chair. You can use this chart for help determining an estimate of how much fabric you'll need:
I have 4 dining chair seats that are 17" x18". How many yards of plastic do I need to cover the 4 seats?
Joan L on Jun 28, 2019
BEST ANSWER: 2 yards