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How to Calculate Upholstery Yardage

how to calculate upholstery yardage

Want to know how much fabric you need to upholster a chair or sofa? Here, we explain how to accurately calculate upholstery yardage, plus a yardage chart for upholstery for various furniture items.

When it comes to reupholstering any form of furniture, whether for your home or boat, it is important to properly calculate your upholstery yardage before actually purchasing the material.

By accurately calculating the needed yardage, you can save money, reduce the impact on the environment, save time, and create a more professional finish. This is even more important when dealing with patterned fabrics, as you’ll need to purchase additional material to ensure that the patterns align once the furniture has been completely upholstered.

In this article, we explain how to accurately calculate upholstery yardage, so you can purchase just the right amount of upholstery fabric for your project. Let’s begin.

Why Calculate Upholstery Yardage Accurately?

Cost-Efficiency

It can be expensive and wasteful to purchase way too much fabric for your next upholstery project. At the same time, if you purchase too little, this can delay your project, or cause frustration. One of the easiest ways to save money on your next project is to purchase just the right amount of fabric you need to cover your piece.

Professional Finish

When you are able to accurately calculate the needed upholstery yardage, the fabric will fit better. This will result in a more polished and professional finish. When calculations are not done accurately, you can end up with too much material, which may result in the appearance of unsightly wrinkles, and seams.

Environmental Impact

It is wasteful to purchase too much material for your next project. Some studies have found that the process needed to produce 2 square yards of polyester fabric produces as much CO2 as driving 20 miles. Accurate calculations cannot only help to reduce fabric waste, but they will actually make your project eco-friendly and reduce the carbon footprint.

Time Savings

Oftentimes, we end up purchasing too little fabric for our particular needs. When you purchase too little fabric, you will need to take more than one trip to the fabric store. This can result in a waste of valuable time and effort. By calculating your upholstery yardage correctly, you can save yourself a lot of time.

calculate yardage for upholstery irregular shapes
When calculating upholstery yardage for irregular shapes, create a template on paper or cardboard first.

How to Calculate Upholstery Yardage

Step 1: Measure Furniture Upholstery

Before we can calculate any upholstery yardage, we need to take the time to measure the furniture that will be upholstered.

Gather Your Tools

In order to measure your furniture, you’ll need the following tools.

  • Measuring Tape
  • Pencil and Paper
  • Calculator
  • Straightedge or Ruler
  • Tracing Paper (for irregularly shaped furniture)

Remove Existing Upholstery (if applicable)

To start the measuring process, you will need to remove any existing upholstery. Older fabric tends to rip easily, so make sure that you take the time to carefully remove it. Keep in mind that the foam may also have degraded substantially, and there may be a lot of dust particles underneath. Keep your shop vac handy for this step to make cleanup a cinch.

Measure the Dimensions

Next you need to measure the furniture’s key dimensions. Start by measuring the width at the widest point of the furniture, from one side to the other. Next, measure the depth from the front of the piece to the back. You will also need to measure the height of the piece, especially if it will be covered from the floor to its highest point.

Repeating Patterns (if applicable)

if you plan on using a fabric that has a repeating pattern, you will need to take this into consideration when you make your final calculations. Depending on the pattern of fabric that you will be using, you may need to add additional amounts in both directions to compensate for the distance between the repeating portions of the pattern.

Step 2: Calculate the Surface Area

Lastly, you will need to calculate the surface area. This calculation is quite simple when dealing with a rectangular or square area, but when dealing with irregular shapes, this can be more difficult. Keep in mind, that you will also need to add to your calculations to compensate for repeating patterns.

In order to get the right amount of upholstery for your next project, below are some easy-to-follow formulas.

yardage formulas for upholstery
Yardage formulas make calculating fabric needs much easier.

Formulas to Calculate Upholstery Yardage

For Rectangular or Square Pieces

Squares and rectangles are perhaps the easiest shapes to calculate. In order to calculate the upholstery yardage, you will need to add the seam allowance to the width and multiply that by the seam allowance added to the depth. Then multiply this by the total number of pieces that you will need.

Upholstery Yardage = (Width + Seam Allowance) x (Depth + Seam Allowance) x Number of Pieces

As for the seam allowance, make sure to add an additional 1 to 2 inches depending on your personal preferences.

For Irregularly Shaped Pieces

Irregular shapes can be a little bit more difficult to calculate. In order to calculate for irregularly shaped pieces, you will need to create templates and calculate the maximum height and width of each piece, before adding an additional 10%.

Upholstery Yardage = Total Surface Area x 1.10

How to Calculate Upholstery Yardage with Patterns

When dealing with patterns, calculating your upholstery yardage can be an even more difficult process. You’ll need to take into consideration the distance between the repeating patterns in both directions to ensure that the patterns align on all of the pieces once reassembled.

To calculate upholstery yardage for patterns, first figure out how much fabric you will need to cover the pieces if you are using fabric without patterns. Then, measure the distance between repeating points of the pattern, to determine how much more material you will need.

Tools to Calculate Upholstery Yardage Accurately

Here are some excellent tools to help ensure that you’re able to accurately calculate your upholstery yardage needs.

Online Upholstery Yardage Calculators

There are a number of different websites that offer online upholstery yardage calculators. Many fabric stores and suppliers have a calculator on their website. To use an online upholstery yardage calculator, simply input the dimensions of your furniture, and receive an estimate of the required yardage for your particular project. For this, you still need to measure the furniture using the methods in this article.

Yardage Chart for Upholstery

Upholstery charts are another way of estimating the amount of upholstery yardage needed for a particular project, especially when dealing with standard furniture pieces. Although the charts may not be as precise as measuring out the furniture by hand, they are a helpful starting point. Below are some example upholstery yardage charts to get you started.

Fabric Estimation Software

If you plan on starting your own business reupholstering furniture, then you might want to look into fabric estimation software. There are several different professional-grade programs such as Adobe Illustrator and CAD, that will allow you to accurately design a pattern and help you calculate the amount of yardage you need for just about any project.

Quilters’ Rulers and Templates

On a small scale, a quilters’ ruler and some templates are all you really need to get a quick and accurate measurement. Quilters’ rulers and templates are the best option for most DIYers.

Yardage Chart for Upholstery

Below is an example yardage chart for upholstery items in your home, using different fabrics. This is, however, just a general guide. The amount of fabric you actually require will change based on the individual size, dimensions and shape of the chair or other furniture item, as well as patterns on the fabric. The most reliable way to calculate upholstery yardage is to use the methods above to measure it.

FurnitureFabric WidthFabric Yardage
Dining Chair54 inches1 yard per chair
Armchair54 inches5-7 yards
Loveseat54 inches10-14 yards
Sofa54-60 inches14-18 yards
Sectional Sofa54-60 inches18-24 yards
Ottoman54 inches2-3 yards

This upholstery yardage chart is based on a standard fabric width of 54 inches, using upholstery-weight fabric. The same general measurements apply for vinyl and leather. When using a yardage chart for upholstery be mindful of the fabric quality. For example, leather is more stiff and doesn’t stretch the same as other material, so you may need to allow extra.

Final Tips to Calculate Upholstery Yardage

This brings us to the end of our article on how to calculate upholstery yardage for your furniture, whether for home or boat. Calculating your upholstery fabric needs isn’t the most creative or fun part of the project by any means, but if you want to ensure you have enough fabric and aren’t over-purchasing, then working out your fabric needs accurately is an essential skill to learn.

To recap, here is a summary:

  • For patterned fabric, measure the distance between the point where the fabric repeats. Add this additional to your measurements.
  • For irregularly shaped furniture, create a template from the old furniture upholstery, and use that as a guide for measuring. Allow an additional 10% in your measurements.
  • A yardage chart for upholstery is a useful guide, but the most accurate method is to measure your furniture.

If you are unsure that your measurements are enough, then purchase a little extra. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you have run out of fabric midway through a project, and the fabric you want is no longer available.

Excess upholstery fabric can be turned into matching cushions, simple stool or small ottoman. With some creativity, nothing goes to waste.

Happy upholstering!