The upside of the upholstery option

Harlequin's  Akin  fabric from the Folia collection.
Harlequin's Akin fabric from the Folia collection.
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We are always being asked if it’s worth re-upholstering a sofa, suite or chair or, indeed, whether it’s cheaper to buy new.

The simple answer is that it may cost you as much as buying new but it is worth doing if it was a decent quality to start with, you like it and you find it comfortable.

It is certainly a greener option. I’m having a sofa re-upholstered at the moment because it has a good frame, I like the style, it’s comfortable and it’s the right size.

There are two main costs when re-upholstering – the labour and the fabric.

Clearly, the more work that needs to be done, the higher the labour costs.

A traditionally sprung antique sofa with individual eight way hand-tied springs is going to be a costly job if every spring needs re-doing.

However, we do them all the time because they are a work of art and can look stunning when brought back to life ( a word of caution – if you have antique pieces, make sure the upholsterer you choose is up to the job).

The fabric cost can make a huge difference to the final price; 15m of fabric at £20 per metre is £300, whereas 15m at £50 per metre is £750, which is quite a difference.

The choice and range of suitable upholstery fabric is not the same as for curtains, the reason being that proper upholstery fabric needs to be heavier and more durable and meet fire regulations.

Upholstery fabrics have to, by law, be fire retardant (FR) or be suitable for use with an FR barrier cloth.

You also need to choose a fabric with an appropriate Martindale test result for your usage.

The Martindale test, or rub test as it is often called, is a test of the abrasion resistance of a fabric.

Under controlled conditions, a fabric is rubbed until two threads break, which then determines its Martindale rating.

A General Domestic Rating is 20,000 rubs, Heavy Domestic 25,000 rubs and Severe Domestic 30,000 rubs.

It doesn’t necessarily follow that the more expensive a fabric is the higher its Martindale rating.

One of our upholstery chenilles called Modena is only £20 a metre but has a rub test of 80,000.

It is man-made, makes up beautifully and comes in 60 colour options.

It is machine washable with a stain repellent finish and the upholstery industry loves it!

Like everything in life, it’s worth taking advice on whether your upholstery is worth doing and on the most suitable fabric.

Your sofa could look like new once done but you need to be sure you still like it enough to have it done.

Top Tip: the range and breadth of plain upholstery fabrics in every type of weave and every imaginable colour is vast. Choose something plain and dress it with stylish scatter cushions.

The pictures show Harlequin Folia check Akin which has a 20,000 Martindale rating.

· Simone runs The Interior Trading Co in Marmion Road, Southsea. For information visit