Fixing up an old couch isn’t as expensive as you might think—and it’s not that hard to go beyond the standard “sprucing up” ideas (read: new accent pillows or a throw draped along the back).
In fact, refreshing a quality couch is often cheaper than replacing it, say the pros. A large sofa, particularly a three-seater or big sectional, is usually a sizable investment, so it’s worth it to put in a little elbow grease to improve its looks.
But before you leap into a couch intervention, be sure you’re starting with a clean slate. Begin by thoroughly vacuuming all the surfaces and then tackling stains with a bucket of water mixed with a tablespoon each of liquid cleanser and white vinegar. Moisten a cloth, and dab to remove spots.
“Steam cleaning is another option that can improve your couch’s look, especially one with light-colored fabric,” says Kristin McGrath, an editor and shopping expert at Offers.com.
Next up, check out these seven ways to rehab your sad old couch so you’ll be sitting pretty.
1. Replace or paint the legs
You can replace your couch legs with options from Amazon, Lowe’s, or Home Depot, which’ll run you about $15 to $30 for a set.
“Consider adding a bit of height with newly purchased legs to make your sofa look less clunky,” says McGrath.
Or you can paint the couch legs you already have—either the same color to hide scratches, or a bold new color to make them pop.
“I prefer chalk paint, which can be used over any surface and usually requires just two coats for the desired look,” says Jeanine Boiko, a home blogger at Okio B Designs.
2. Drape with slipcovers
In her own home, Boiko’s Ikea couch was refreshed with $150 slipcovers that have withstood 10 years of use by her two boys.
“Seat covers are often washable and can instantly update your look for far less than the price of a new couch,” adds McGrath. “Options for love seats start at $40 and go up to $150 for full-sized sofas.”
3. Stuff more stuffing
Have a sunken set of couch cushions? Restuffing them is a very economical way to reshape a saggy look.
“When the cushions of my couch start to droop, I just add some polyfill stuffing, which you can get from any crafts store, and bulk them back up,” says Boiko.
Watch: How to Wash Your Pillows (and Why You Really Should)
4. Insert upholstery foam
This type of foam will hold its shape longer than crafting foam or polyfill, says McGrath, and it’s easy to cut the shapes you need to fit your cushions.
“Take the old filling out, and use a strong adhesive spray to affix a layer of new foam to the old fill,” she explains.
An 18-by-72-inch piece of foam is about $30 from Amazon and is enough to handle cushions on a standard-sized couch.
5. Attach nailhead trim
Just about any upholstered couch or chair can be enhanced with new nailheads on the arms and trim, and you’re in luck, because nailheads can be bought from a big-box store. Simply arrange the upholstery nails in the design you’d like (or remove the old ones and replace with new), gently tap them in part way, and then check your work. If the nailheads are straight, pound them in completely.
6. Order new cushions
You might luck into cushions from Overstock or Wayfair that’ll fit your old frame, though know that most are of the indoor-outdoor variety and may sport rougher fabric, says McGrath.
Custom-made cushions might also be possible. (Check the prices, though, to determine whether it’s cheaper to just get a whole new sofa.)
Or you might reupholster just the parts that need it.
“Professional upholstery will probably cost a few hundred dollars to fix a cushion or two, which sounds pricey, but a high-quality sofa from a reputable store is going to cost you more,” notes McGrath.
7. Add tufting
If you’re handy with a needle and thread, it’s no big deal to add buttons in a tufting pattern that’s either square- or diamond-shaped. (Look for tufting materials at home stores and on Etsy.)
To tuft your cushions, mark off the spots for buttons with fabric chalk or straight pins, and then use an upholstery needle for the threading. (It’s longer and stronger than a regular sewing needle.) Push through the mark to the back of the cushion and then make a diagonal stitch on the return to the front. Thread the button on, and pierce the cushion again to the back and tie it off.