Best Practices for Applying Upholstery Padding (13 Tips)

Upholstery padding is the unsung hero of your comfy couch and cozy chair. It’s what rounds out the edges, fills up the corners, and makes your furniture a pleasure to sink into after a long day. But how do you apply it correctly? That’s what I’m here to share.

Quick Summary: Here’s an overview of 13 essential upholstery tips to guide you through a successful furniture makeover.

1. 🧽 Choose the Right Padding MaterialSelect padding for comfort and durability
2. 🛠️ Use the Proper ToolsEssential tools: spray adhesive, foam cutter, stapler, and tape measure.
3. ➡️ Start in the MiddleBegin from the center for a wrinkle-free finish.
4. ✂️ Cut Straight Lines Without a Yard StickUse foam edges for straight cuts.
5. 📏 Measure Twice, Cut OnceEnsure accurate measurements to prevent mistakes.
6. 🧼 Clean and Prep the SurfaceClean and prepare the furniture for best results.
7. 🌬️ Apply Adhesive EvenlyApply adhesive uniformly for lasting upholstery.
8. 🌀 Smooth Out Air BubblesTechniques to eliminate air bubbles.
9. 🔪 Cut Notches for CurvesUse notches for precise upholstery on curves.
10. 🔐 Secure the PaddingSteps to secure upholstery padding tightly.
11. 📐 Trim Excess MaterialTrim overhangs for a neat look.
12. 🎨 Use Old Fabric As a PatternRepurpose old fabric for a perfect upholstery fit.

In this article, we will dive into the nitty-gritty of upholstery padding. We’ll explore different types of foam, discuss the benefits of 100% polyester padding, and even offer some advice for those worn-out cushions.

Tip # 1: Choose the Right Padding Material

A person applying upholstery padding
Video | Sailrite

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s dive into the meat of the matter: choosing the right padding material. It’s not just about comfort, you know. It’s about durability, support, and maintaining the shape of your furniture.

Foam padding is a popular choice for many, and for good reason. It’s affordable, easy to work with, and has various densities. Here are some examples:

  • High-Density Foam: High-density foam offers great support and durability, perfect for heavy-use furniture like your favorite reclining chair or that well-loved family couch.
  • Polyester Padding: But foam isn’t the only game in town. There’s also 100% polyester padding, a top pick for those who want a softer, cushier feel.
  • Hypoallergenic & Mildew-Resistant: It’s hypoallergenic, easy to care for, and resistant to mildew—making it a great choice for outdoor furniture.

Choosing the right padding material can make all the difference in your upholstery project. So take the time to consider your options, your needs, and the needs of your furniture. Trust me, your backside will thank you.

Tip# 2 Use the Proper Tools

When applying upholstery padding, the right tools are your best friends. They can distinguish between a project that’s a joy to work on and a real pain in the neck.

A person holding a can of scotch super glue
Video | E Gibbons

  • Spray Adhesive: A good quality spray adhesive is one tool you can’t do without. It keeps the padding in place during the upholstery process and prevents it from shifting or slipping. Remember, not all spray adhesives are created equal. You’ll want to use one specifically designed for upholstery projects to provide the best hold and not damage your materials.

  • Foam Cutter: Next up, you’ll need a foam cutter. This essential tool cuts the foam to the right size and shape, providing easier and more precise cuts than regular knives or scissors.

Two blue upholstery staplers sitting on top of a table
Video | Sailrite

  • Upholstery Stapler: Don’t forget about an upholstery stapler. This tool secures the fabric over the padding, ensuring easy use and a professional finish to your project.

A tape measure at the top of a red clothe table

  • Tape Measure: Last but not least, a tape measure is crucial. It’s vital for accurate dimensions, and trust me, you don’t want to rely on guesswork for measurements!

Now that your tools are lined up, you can tackle your upholstery project head-on. Just remember to take your time and don’t rush the process. Your furniture will thank you.

Tip# 3 Start in the Middle and Work Your Way to the Sides

So, your upholstery padding is picked out, and your tools are ready to go. Next up, you’re wondering, ‘Where do I start?’

Begin at the center of your furniture piece and work your way to the sides. It simplifies the process significantly. Why start from the center? It helps to prevent wrinkles and bulges in your padding, ensuring a smooth, professional finish.

Here’s the step-by-step:

  • Step 1: Measure and mark the center of your furniture piece.

  • Step 2: Apply your spray adhesive to the center of the padding and the furniture.

  • Step 3: Carefully line up the center of your padding with the center mark on your furniture.

  • Step 4: Press down firmly to secure the padding in place.

And there you have it! Starting from the center gives a strong foundation. Proceed by working your way outward, securing the padding gradually. Ensure even pressure to dodge any unwanted wrinkles or bulges.

Don’t rush – take your time. After all, as they say, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ Keep up the good work; before you know it, you’ll have a beautifully padded piece of furniture to show off.

Tip # 4 Easily Cut Straight Lines Without a Yard Stick

Here’s a DIY secret that’ll change your upholstery game: you don’t always need a yardstick to cut straight lines on your foam padding. I can hear you ask, how’s that possible? Well, let me spill the beans.

First up is the foam cutter. This tool is crucial for serious upholstery endeavors. Its precision in cutting foam is unmatched.

Want straight lines without a yardstick? Use the foam’s edges as your guide. Here’s the drill:

  • Step 1: Position the foam cutter flush with the foam’s edge.

  • Step 2: With a steady hand, initiate the cut, ensuring the cutter remains parallel to the foam’s edge.

  • Step 3: Focus on the cutter and the foam’s edge to ensure alignment.

And remember – Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same principle applies to upholstery. Take your time, and the end product will be worth the effort.

Tip # 5 Measure Twice, Cut Once

In the world of upholstery, “Measure twice, cut once” isn’t just a saying—it’s a golden rule. It’s all about accuracy, precision, and avoiding costly mistakes.

When working with materials like polyester padding or foam, a wrong cut can mean starting from scratch. So, getting your measurements right the first time is crucial.

  • Step 1: You’ll need a reliable tape measure. It’s your best friend when it comes to upholstery projects. Ensure it’s long enough for your furniture piece and easy to read.

  • Step 2: Next, remember that patience is key. Don’t rush the process. Take time to measure your furniture’s side, corner, and curve. You’ll want to note down each measurement accurately.

  • Step 3: When it comes to cutting, a foam cutter is an invaluable tool for a clean, smooth cut. It’s especially handy for cutting straight lines on foam padding without a yardstick. Always cut along the marked lines and keep the cutter perpendicular to the foam.

But remember, even with the best tools, upholstery is a craft that takes time to perfect. You might not get it right the first time, and that’s okay. What’s important is that you’re learning and improving with each project.

Tip # 6 Clean and Prep the Surface

Now that we’ve got our measurements in place and our upholstery padding cut to size, let’s move on to the next crucial step. Cleaning and prepping the surface. Yes, it might seem like a chore, but trust me, it’s worth it.

  • Step 1: Ensure you’re working on a clean, dust-free surface. Any dust or debris can cause bumps or irregularities in your upholstery job. So, remove any dust particles on the furniture from a vacuum cleaner or a lint roller.
  • Step 2: Grab some sandpaper and start smoothing out any rough areas. You don’t want your brand-new upholstery snagging on sharp corners or rough patches.

A man grabbing a sandpaper

  • Step 3: It’s time to apply any necessary sealants or primers. This step is often overlooked, but it’s vital for ensuring the longevity of your upholstery job.

A man applying a primer to sandpaper

There you have it. Following these steps will lay the groundwork for a successful upholstery project. It’ll not only look professional but also stand the test of time. Remember, a little preparation can go a long way.

Tip # 7 Apply Adhesive Evenly

Onto the next step. Applying adhesive evenly is crucial in upholstery and is not something to rush. You’ll want to apply a thin, even adhesive layer to the foam and the fabric. This is where a good-quality spray adhesive comes into play.

  • Tip 1: Choosing the right adhesive is key. It must be flexible and withstand the stretching and pulling of upholstery.

  • Tip 2: Hold the can about 12 inches away from the surface when spraying. This distance allows for a wide, even spray. Too close, and you’ll get a concentrated stream that’s harder to spread evenly. Too far, and you’re just wasting product.

  • Tip 3: Spray in a well-ventilated area. Safety first, folks! The fumes from most adhesives can be pretty strong, so ensure you’re in an area with good air circulation.

Let the adhesive get tacky before pressing the foam and fabric together. This helps create a stronger bond. Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait long. Most adhesives get tacky in about a minute or two.

Tip # 8 Smooth Out Air Bubbles

When applying upholstery padding, you’ll likely encounter a common issue – air bubbles. These pesky little things can create a bumpy, uneven surface that can ruin the look and feel of your newly upholstered furniture. Here’s a pro tip: don’t let air bubbles get the best of you.

  • Tip 1: You’ll want to smooth out the upholstery material using your hands gently. This allows you to feel for air pockets and apply pressure to release the trapped air. It’s not a race, so take your time.

A man with white glove on one hand smoothing gently the upholstered material
Video | pumarang20

  • Tip 2: Use a smoothing tool. This can be as simple as a plastic spatula, towel, or a specially designed upholstery smoothing tool. The idea is to apply even pressure across the surface to force out any remaining air bubbles. Remember, the aim here is precision, not speed.

A person cleaning the interior of a car with a yellow cloth
Video | RobertTV

Remember, perfection in upholstery doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience and practice. So, don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go perfectly the first time. Every bubble you smooth out is a step closer to becoming an upholstery pro.

Tip # 9 Cut Notches for Curves and Corners

Time to tackle those tricky curves and corners! It’s one of those things that can make or break your upholstery project. Getting it right really counts.

  • Step 1: After all measurements, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. I’d recommend using a foam cutter for clean, smooth cuts. But remember, always cut along the lines you’ve marked. That’s your roadmap to success.

A person cutting the foam as per the marking
Video | Sailrite

  • Step 2: Notches are your secret weapon for curves and corners. They make it easier to align your padding, giving you a smooth, professional finish.

A person with a piece of mark paper for padding cutting
Video | Sailrite

  • Step 3: Cut a small V-shaped notch in the padding at the curve or corner. This will allow the padding to fold neatly over the area. Don’t cut too deep, though! You don’t want to cut into the fabric or damage the foam.

A person cutting out the paper with markings
Video | Sailrite

  • Step 4: Apply your adhesive. I can’t stress enough how important it is to use a high-strength, durable adhesive. The right adhesive is the backbone of your upholstery project.

A man using S-18 all purpose adhesive
Video | Sailrite

  • Step 5: But it’s not just about slapping it on. You’ve got to apply it evenly. Too much and it gets messy; too little and it won’t hold. Getting the balance right is key.

A person applying the adhesive glue to the wood with padding
Video | Sailrite

  • Step 6: With your adhesive, smooth out any air bubbles. You can use your hands, a smoothing tool, or even a roller tool. It’s all about patience and practice.

A person pressing smoothly the furniture that has an applied adhesive into it
Video | Sailrite

So there you have it, folks! By notching your padding, using the right adhesive, and smoothing out any air bubbles, you’re on your way to a successful upholstery project.

Tip # 10 Secure the Padding

It’s showtime once you’ve cut your notches and smoothed out any pesky air bubbles! This is where your upholstery project starts to take shape. Now, you’re going to secure the padding to your furniture.

  • Tip 1: You will need a high-strength adhesive that can handle the weight of the padding and withstand daily wear and tear. But remember, it’s not just about slapping it on there. Applying it evenly is crucial. Too much can make a mess, while too little may not hold the padding.

  • Tip 2: A foam brush or roller tool can be your best friend here. They’ll help you spread that adhesive evenly, ensuring every inch of the padding is properly secured.

  • Tip 3: Don’t shy away from using a staple gun. It may seem intimidating initially, but trust me, it’s easier than you think. Always staple along the marked lines and pull the fabric tightly.

  • Step 4: Patience is key. This isn’t a process you can rush. Take your time; let the adhesive dry fully before moving on to the next step.

And there you have it! You’re one step closer to having a beautifully upholstered piece of furniture. But remember, practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. So, don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t turn out perfect the first time. Just keep going! You’ll get the hang of it in no time.

Tip # 11 Trim Excess Material

Once you’ve got the padding secured, it’s time to trim off the excess material. Now, don’t get hasty. You don’t want to cut too much and ruin your masterpiece.

  • Step 1: Take a step back and thoroughly inspect your work. Ensure the padding is evenly applied and there aren’t any loose ends.

  • Step 2: Once you’re satisfied, grab your upholstery scissors. They’re specially designed for this kind of work, and trust me, they make a world of difference.

  • Step 3: Start by cutting along the edges. Remember, always cut away from yourself, and keep your fingers out of the way. There’s no need to rush this. Patience is the key.

  • Step 4: As you trim, leave about half an inch of material beyond the staples. This will allow for any adjustments or corrections you may need to make because, let’s face it, nobody’s perfect.

  • Step 5: You’ll want to create notches in the corners and curves. This helps the material lay flat and smooth. Use your foam cutter for this part. The precision it offers is second to none.

  • Step 6: After you’ve trimmed the excess material and made your notches, take a moment to admire your work. Upholstery can be challenging, but you can achieve a professional finish with the right tools and patience.

Remember, practice makes perfect, and every project is a chance to learn and grow. So don’t get discouraged if things don’t go perfectly the first time. Just keep going, and soon you’ll be a master upholsterer.

Tip # 12 Use Your Old Fabric As a Pattern

Here’s a secret from the pros: repurpose your old fabric as a pattern. It’s like having a custom blueprint for your upholstery project.

  • Step 1: Gently remove the old fabric from your furniture. Be careful not to rip or damage it. This old fabric holds the key to a perfect fit for your new padding.

  • Step 2: Lay your old fabric out flat on your new padding. Trace around it with a marker. This gives you a cut line that matches your furniture’s unique shape. Remember, accuracy is key. You don’t want to be off by even a smidgen.

  • Step 3: Grab your trusty foam cutter or scissors. Follow the marked lines. Take your time. You don’t want to rush this step. The right cuts will make your padding fit like a glove.
  • Step 4: Don’t forget to mark and cut notches for corners and curves. These little touches make a big difference in the final look. Your padding should nestle into every curve and tuck into every corner. Just like it was made for it… because, well, it was!

  • Step 5: Finally, secure your cut padding with a high-strength adhesive. Smooth out any bubbles. Staples provide extra security. They’re like little insurance policies for your padding.

Remember, patience and practice are your best friends in upholstery projects. Take your time. Do it right. And always, always, always… use your old fabric as a pattern. You’ll thank yourself later.

Trim off any excess material. Inspect your work. Make adjustments as necessary. This is your masterpiece. Make it shine.

Tip # 13 Hire Professionals to Make Your Upholstered Buttons

A turquoise velvet headboard adorned with studs
Video | ArtCave

Here’s a pro tip for you. Professional button-making can make a huge difference in the final look of your upholstered furniture. It’s not that you can’t do it yourself, but professionals have years of experience and the right tools for the job.

Upholstered buttons can add a classy touch to your furniture, but only if done correctly. Otherwise, they look off. You don’t want your furniture to look like a DIY project gone wrong.

So, what’s the solution? Hire a professional. It might cost a little more, but it’s worth it for that perfect finish. Professionals know how to make perfectly round buttons that sit just right on the fabric. They have the right tools, and they know how to use them.

Maintenance Tips

Dive into these upholstery maintenance tips to ensure your favorite spots remain fresh, comfy, and ready for more memorable moments. Let’s get started!

  • Vacuum Regularly: Dust and dirt can wear down upholstery over time. Use the brush attachment on your vacuum and give your furniture a once-over weekly. It’s like giving your couch a mini spa day!
  • Flip and Rotate Cushions: Switch things up! Rotate and flip those cushions every few weeks. It evens out wear and can keep your favorite spot from sagging.
  • Immediate Spill Action: Accidents happen, especially on movie night. Blot, don’t rub, spills immediately. Rubbing pushes the spill deeper into the fabric.
  • Professional Cleaning: Every 12-24 months, treat your furniture to a professional deep clean. Think of it as a furniture health check-up!
  • Use Mild Soap and Water: Mix mild soap with cold water for minor spots and gently dab the stain. Test in an inconspicuous area first!
  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: The Sun can fade fabric over time. If your furniture’s catching rays daily, think about some stylish curtains or a strategic furniture shuffle.
  • Protect High-Traffic Areas: If you’ve got a favorite seat, consider using arm caps or covers on parts that get the most love.
  • Keep Pets in Check: We love our furry friends, but their claws can be tough on furniture. Consider a throw or blanket for them to lounge on.
  • Refresh with Baking Soda: Sprinkle baking soda on your upholstery, wait 15 minutes, then vacuum. It’s a quick way to freshen up!
  • Check Manufacturer’s Instructions: Check those tags or booklets before the cleaning spree. They’re your furniture’s personal care guide.

Remember, your furniture is like a member of the family. Give it some TLC, and it’ll serve you well for years!




  • “The Complete Guide to Upholstery” by Cherry Dobson
  • “Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design” by Amanda Brown
  • “The Upholstery Bible: Complete Step-by-Step Techniques for Professional Results” by Cherry Dobson

Website Resources:

Video References:


E Gibbons

ALO Upholstery


Sailrite Workbench





Premier Upholstery

StudioR12 Stencils

Abbotts At Home – DIY

A Square Pillow Isn’t Square!



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About Shelly

ShellyShelly Harrison is a renowned upholstery expert and a key content contributor for ToolsWeek. With over twenty years in the upholstery industry, she has become an essential source of knowledge for furniture restoration. Shelly excels in transforming complicated techniques into accessible, step-by-step guides. Her insightful articles and tutorials are highly valued by both professional upholsterers and DIY enthusiasts.

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