When you are reupholstering a furniture item, the padding you choose is vital to the quality of the finished project. As a regular furniture shopper, I know that the type of upholstery padding you use can make or break a design. Not all upholstery padding is made equal.
Next time you are in a large furniture store, take some time to really feel the difference between the many kinds of plush furnishings. Where one sofa has a resistant feeling due to harder padding to cover springs and carry a heavier load, another sofa may have soft, sink-into upholstery padding, which is comfy, but it may not last as long.
What kind of upholstery padding you use depends on your taste and budget. But let’s find out more.
5 Different Kinds of Upholstery Padding
Of the different kinds of upholstery padding, a particular project may use different types in combination. One area of the furniture item may need specific padding while other padding types may be needed for the rest of the furniture item. Using upholstery padding isn’t a choose-one-ideal-padding kind of situation. It’s the combinations that really work.
1. Foam Padding for Upholstery
Foam is available in many different types of qualities, thicknesses, and softness. The thicker foam tends to be harder, but the amount of “bubble” on the foam sheet will also influence the softness. The less aerated the foam is, the less softness to it.
Since you want to use a firmer foam for the seating area and perhaps a softer foam for a backrest, the wide range of foam qualities available is a blessing. For a seat cushion, a foam with a density of 50-55 will provide a very firm seat.
Choosing a slightly less firm foam at 40-50 density will give you a softer seat; however, this foam won’t last as long. The other alternative is to use the densest foam you can find, then cover that with a layer of thinner soft foam to help fluff the thicker foam.
The thickness of upholstery foam should be ⅜ inch for soft layering and up to 30 inches (before compression) for a thick solid foam seat or backrest.
Cheaper furniture items are manufactured with only foam fillings. This may take the form of solid foam sheets or foam sheets with shredded foam layered in between. Any foam will eventually start to lose its shape. The real question is how long you can help that foam retain shape.
Therefore, use foam sheets to pad over other upholstery filling options instead. Adding a layer of quality foam over a thicker fiber filling will help ensure comfort and softness, without the foam fully collapsing under your weight.
2. Latex Foam for Upholstery
Do you know what latex foam is? It’s the stuff you find in your bed. Latex foam is durable and hypoallergenic (unless you have an allergy to latex). The benefit of latex is that it is resilient and will bounce back to shape much more easily than regular foam padding.
Latex foam is somewhat more expensive than plain upholstery foam, which may limit the thickness you can afford when choosing it for your project. A workaround for this is to choose the latex foam you can afford, then layering regular foam over it.
When upholstering sofas, latex foam is an ideal choice.
Latex chips can also be used to fill scatter cushions, and if you sew baffles or pockets into the backrest of your project sofa or chair, you can fill these with shredded latex to add strength and softness.
3. Feathers or Down Filling
If you really enjoy your down comforter, you may want to have the same sink-into feeling on your wingback chair; however, this is not necessarily the best use of down for upholstery padding.
Since down is essentially small feathers, the reality is that these feathers will become compressed when you sit on them. This is also why you shouldn’t sit on your comforter as it will ruin the fill.
Instead of trying to fluff up a seat cushion with your old down comforter, rather use a firmer base padding for the seat, and if you want, you can create a set of baffles or pockets for the backrest where you can add the down to the pockets and then cover with a thin layer of foam for extra resilience.
4. Upholstery Batting
Batting is a thin fibrous layer that is added for extra fluffiness. Due to the flexible nature of batting, it also helps lessen the amount of rubbing between the upholstery fabric and the foam padding. Since batting is quite resilient, it bounces back into shape easily and can help lift the fabric to limit creases forming.
Batting can be polyester or natural wool fibers that are needled together. Needled wool batting is usually used to cover springs as it is dense and resistant to rust.
5. Alternative Padding for Upholstery
In years past, people used to rely on non-artificial methods to pad furniture and beds. Straw was used during pre-industrial times, and later, the leftover fabric was used to create heavy padded chairs and sofas.
Today, with the “green” revolution, there has been a return to natural eco-friendly materials that have been processed with advanced technology. There are upholstery padding materials available that are purely natural like horsehair sheets to replace batting, coconut fibers that are woven into mats to layer between genuine sheep’s wool tufts, and many more alternatives.
Using technology, these padding materials are aerated so they can be fluffy, soft, and light. With alternative padding materials, you can reduce your environmental impact each time you sit.
Applications of Upholstery Padding
When a furniture item is new, the upholsterer will have used their own selection of upholstery padding to build up the shape and feel of the item. However, if you are reupholstering your furniture, you need to consider the type of padding needed to make the furniture look new.
Sometimes, the only lift you need is a few layers of thin foam, while other repairs may require the replacement of the whole foam cushion. A good upholsterer will advise you on what is needed to give your furniture piece a professional and lasting finish.
Upholstery Padding FAQs
What padding do you use for upholstery?
The popular choice is bonded Dacron, which is heat bonded, so it provides durable and resilient padding for chairs, sofas, and other upholstered furniture.
What batting is used in upholstery?
Needled wool batting is mostly used to line the area between the chair cushion and the springs. However, it can also be used to make a durable layer around seat cushions. Polyester batting is added for softness and lift to straighten the fabric out.
What is the recommended thickness for upholstery batting?
Upholstery batting should be at least two inches thick to provide enough padding and resilience and avoid compression.
The Final Padding
Upholstery padding is as important as the fabric you choose. Great fabric can become absolutely tacky if you don’t have quality padding in place to carry that fabric.
Speak to the guys at Kovi Fabrics about excellent upholsterers in your area to consult with when choosing your next upholstery partner. While you’re at it, you can choose the best upholstery fabric from Kovi’s massive range.