Friday, August 10, 2012

Tricks of the trade — upholstery

Let's say you own a sofa or an armchair that you are considering replacing or re-upholstering.  If a new one will cost you about $3,000, plus the cost of fabric, there is every reason to compare the options.

Usually, when you buy an upholstered piece from a higher-end manufacturer (Robert Allen, Kravet, etc.) you can get a price for this piece with the fabric either included or COM (Customer's Own Material).  COM means that you will buy the fabric from a different manufacturer and have the sofa manufacturer put it on for you.  The labor cost for upholstering the sofa in this case is included in the COM price.  You will have the fabric manufacturer send the fabric to the sofa manufacturer, inspect it, make sure there are no problems and deliver the finished piece to you.

If you choose to pick your fabric from the selection offered by the sofa manufacturer, they will usually offer you several grades of fabric, at different prices.  Sometimes, they will discount the fabric if it's going on their own sofa, which makes even more sense.  The process then is less cumbersome because everything is happening within the same company.

But what if you are considering re-upholstering the existing sofa?  The cost, surprisingly enough, ends up being a wash or even higher than the new piece.  I am now talking about re-upholstering in the same fabric as would go on a new piece.  Here are the contributing factors:
  • Charges for picking up and delivering your sofa to and from the upholsterer's shop
  • Potential hidden cost: springs that came loose and will need to be re-tied (you won't know about this until they've taken your sofa apart)
  • A good upholsterer will re-stuff all the cushions and offer you a choice of fillings — from softer to firmer, natural versus synthetic.  In either case, your old cushion filling will be thrown away
  • If there's damage to the exposed wood parts of the sofa, that will need to be addressed as well
At the end of the day all these items add up making the re-upholstery of an existing piece often more expensive than purchasing a new one.


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