Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

Homeowner’s Guide to Furniture Stuffing: Upholstery Foam, Batting, and Animal Hair

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Upholstery projects have the ability to transform tired, worn-looking spaces, especially when care is given to the selection of colors, fabric patterns, and the style you’re trying to achieve. However, the most important part of any upholstered item is what you don’t see.

Hidden beneath the fabric exterior are the “guts” of your furniture, including:

  • Webbing
  • Batting
  • Adhesives
  • Springs
  • Stuffing

The type of stuffing material will depend on how the upholstered furniture is to be used and the comfort level you are seeking.

Batting

In cushions and other upholstery, batting is applied over the foam to prevent slippage and provide a smooth appearance. The thickness (loft) of batting can range from very thin up to 1/4″ thick. Batting is available in cotton, wool, polyester or a blend.

Cotton Batting

Cotton batting is made from 100% cotton that has been layered. There are two weights available:

  • 26.5 oz. (thin)
  • 42.3 oz. (thick)

The weight is determined by the type of project you are working on, but both weights are suitable for upholstery.

Cotton is a natural fiber that can poke through the fabric covering, making the furniture uncomfortable to sit on. If you are upholstering a headboard, this may not be a concern; but it may cause problems on seating for sofas and chairs. If so, a combination poly/cotton batting may be the answer. It’s durable and will give your
furniture a smooth look and feel.

Wool Batting

Wool batting is made from wool waste that has been woven together and is available as:

  • Needled Wool Batting: Strong and durable and most commonly used to cover springs in upholstery, though it can be used for stuffing as well.
  • Layered Wool Batting: Not recommended for upholstery, as it falls apart easily, which can affect the appearance of the furniture over time.

Animal Hair and Feathers

The use of animal hair is one of the oldest types of upholstery stuffing. The hair used is most often from the manes and tails of horses and is often found in antique furniture. When re-upholstering antiques, the existing horse hair can be combined with wool or cotton to add additional loft to the piece.
While not actually “hair”, feather and down is often used in upscale furniture to provide the ultimate in comfort.

Upholstery Foam

Upholstery foam is the most common stuffing material used today. It’s available in several densities which determine the grade and quality of the foam. The higher the number, the better the quality.

Foam Quality

A quality, high density foam will not break apart or cause clumps. Choosing the highest density foam you can afford will improve the comfort level, appearance, and life of upholstered furniture.

Foam Durability

The resiliency or durability of your upholstery foam is important as it will determine how much wear and tear your furniture can withstand. Using foam labeled high resilient, or HR, will make cushions more comfortable and reduce sagging over time.

Foam Fire Resistance

All upholstery foam sold in the United States must be fire resistant. If the furniture you are purchasing does not indicate that the foam used is fire resistant you may want to reconsider. A label with the letters FR on it will confirm that the proper foam has been used.

Foam Firmness

The level of firmness of upholstered furniture is determined by the Indentation Force Deflection (ILD) number of the upholstery foam. This scale ranges between 6 and 45 with the lowest number representing the softest foam and the highest the firmest foam. How soft or firm you would like your upholstered piece to be is a personal decision, and knowing the ILD number of the foam you purchase allows you to determining it.

Pillow Forms

While not durable enough for padding the frames of furniture, pillow forms are used to stuff or restuff pillows that comprise part of many upholstery projects. Pillow forms are available in polyester, down, and feather/down fillings, with natural fillings generally considered best for serious upholstery projects.

Choosing Upholstery Stuffing

The particular upholstery project you are working on will often determine the type of stuffing material used. A lesser quality cushion foam or batting may be perfect for stuffing small accent pillows, headboards, footstools and furniture pieces that do not receive heavy use. Conversely, mattresses, seating, and furniture that are used frequently will benefit more from high quality stuffing to provide the ultimate in comfort and prolong the life of the furniture.

While quality stuffing materials cost more initially, they can save in the long run by making furniture last longer.

Indra Desigri thinks that even the most challenging home improvement projects can be made easy with the right materials, good information and a well-planned approach. For more from Indra, visit OnlineFabricStore.net



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22 Comments on “Homeowner’s Guide to Furniture Stuffing: Upholstery Foam, Batting, and Animal Hair”

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  1. Jean Glover Says:
    April 14th, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    I am attempting to re-make and upholster four seat cushions from an antique wicker furniture set of sofa and chair. the guts of the cushions have springs, set in a frame and wrapped in burlap. the old matting is ruined and i’m not sure if i should wrap it in foam or try to find thick batting. the owner wants to keep the original springs so foam replacement is out. Ideas? I’d appreciate your feed back. Jean

  2. toni ragg Says:
    January 24th, 2011 at 11:28 am

    would like to put in new batting for my foam sofa cushions which i want to keep. don’t want cotton just the type you normally put in cushions but the best thickest i can get. any suggestions. the cushions have flattened somewhat and i want to puff them up again.
    thanks for your help

  3. S. Vincent Cordaro Says:
    March 13th, 2011 at 8:41 am

    I would like to change the stuffing in my couch. I am looking for stuffing made with 50%poly fiber,45% goose feathers and 5% goose down. The size is 32X36. Can you tell me where I might be able to order stuffing like this and how much it would cost.

    Thanks Vince Cordaro

  4. Van Henshaw Says:
    March 13th, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I am in the process of reupholstering an antique love seat and 2 matching chairs which have been in my family since the mid 1800s. All three items are stuffed with horse hair and what appears to be shaved items of wood. Someone told me it is called excelsior however I can’t find anything by that name on line or anywhere else. Can you give me a clue as to what it is called and where I should look for it as I really want this set to be period correct. The stuffing taken out when dismantling the love seat/settee appears to be in pretty good shape and am also wondering if I can or should re use it. I’ve already put in brand new strapping and sewed the springs in to the strapping as well as tying in the tops of the springs as they were roiginally (8 way) and tacked in the burlap covering. Thanks for any advice you may have regarding this particular stuffing.

  5. Vivien Pond Says:
    March 20th, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Help please. I have bought some very nice William Morris patterned material to recover 2 semi circular bamboo conservatory chairs. Whilst unpicking the original covers, the stuffing turned out to be broken up and disintegrating foam bits which I threw away. I have very little idea of what to buy in the way of new stuffing.
    The main seat pads are 25 inches in diameter and 3inches deep. The back cushion circles the chair and is banana shaped. It is 51 inches long and approximately 26inches deep from the top of the back to where the material would finish if it was not a curved shape. Until I had a replacement double glazed conservatory installed in November the area was used as a seedling nursery and winter store, therefore the chairs where not used much, however it is now a nice place to sit so envisage heavier usage. Any advice would be much appreciated

  6. Melissa Says:
    March 27th, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Hi. Hope you can help… I have four vintage dining chairs with slip seats. I’ve re-webbed and attached hessian to three of the frames so far. I’d planned to use vegetable fiber stuffing under flax twine stuffing ties. Over this would go a piece of muslin, then upholstery batting and then the final fabric. Unfortunately, I can not find vegetable fiber stuffing anywhere on the web or at any craft or fabric store. If you know where I can purchase it, please let me know. If not, what is a good substitute? I would like to stay as close to whatever is considered traditional as possible. This is my first upholstery project, so all advice is greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Melissa

  7. David Hodgson Says:
    August 12th, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    I want to bolster the seat cushions in my couch but the seat cushions are not removable. I’m thinking about cutting an opening on the back top of the cushion and inserting either foam/batting. Not sure how to close the opening.
    Any suggestions about this project?

  8. Josh Says:
    October 22nd, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Made a bad online buy of a chair and need to add or totally replace batting want it to be as comfortable as possible maybe cotton or wool batting and maybe combo wool foam or sponge thin layer? I bought this chair it was the same style of a eames chair I sat in at a store but did not get info it was employees desk chair/lounge but not same quality made that I experienced. What is most comfortable batting or combo?

  9. Roxanne Cariadi-Kimbler Says:
    March 23rd, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    I would like to put in new batting for my sofa cushions. The cushions have flattened a lot and I want to puff them up again. I am looking for polyester fiber batting more exactly. Can you tell me where I might be able to buy or order stuffing like this? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you for your help

  10. Debbie Says:
    July 10th, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    I would like to completely do over an antique chair that I have…never done this before and I would like to know exactly what do I need to get. I believe it has horse hair in it but I may not use that to restuff. I plan on taking the chair apart soon. Help…any help or advice will be appreciated.

  11. Patricia Foster Says:
    July 29th, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    I want to replace the cushions on my sofa and loveseat I called several companies but only one replied and he said approx $2000 depending on the fabric. I don’t sew so I wanted to buy slipcovers. Question : There are L cushions on the seat and the back cushions. Many of the slip covers have separate covers for the seat but not the back. What can I do? Would it be better to cut one long T cover for the seat instead if two L on the seat? The only solution I could think of for the back cushion would be to buy another slipcover to cover the back cushion. Does anyone have a better solution?

  12. diana Says:
    December 9th, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Hi…making an upholstered headboard for my daughter. What would you recommend for foam and what type of batting?

    Thanks!!!

    Diana

  13. kathi corbett Says:
    December 24th, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I have a rattan sofa bed with the old worn out material.What is the best way to redo this couch?I know how to fix the rattan part but have no idea what to do with the material.Thank you

  14. James Says:
    January 24th, 2013 at 9:27 am

    I am reupholtering some antique dining room chairs. I have purchased some quality fabric but am not sure how much foam padding to use to keep the original antique feel and look. the original padding was not thick at all and 1″ foam seems to keep the original feel of the chair, but 2″ is more confortable. I want to keep the original antique look so do you think the 1″ foam is sufficient?

  15. Sandra Moore Says:
    January 26th, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I bought slipcovers for dining room chairs that have a wooden back with a slight curve. I was wanting to put batting around the wood so slipcover would fit better.

    Any suggestions??

    Thanks,

  16. Marilyn Says:
    July 4th, 2013 at 7:16 am

    Hi – I have 6 mid-century walnut dining chairs. I want to recover the seats. The chairs have cotton waste batting for padding. It looks fine; but I am wondering if it is loaded with dust mites and should be replaced with something more modern.
    Thanks

  17. Pam Says:
    August 12th, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Hi,
    I am in the process of recovering my vintage dining room chairs. I thought I would just be recovering them. But the webbing is bad. The burlap holding the stuffing needs to be replaced as well a the inner stuffing, not just the foam on top. What should I use for stuffing and to replace the burlap that is between the webbing and the stuffing? I feel a bit overwhelmed trying to find everything I need.
    Thanks for the help!

  18. Debbie Rodgers Says:
    December 8th, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    I have a leather couch, loveseat and chair. It is 11 years old. It is overstuffed padding on arms and back. none of the cushions are removable. Each piece is very worn mostly on one side wear my husband and I sit. I would love to restuff and get a few more years out of them. I am thinking I can cut at seam that arene’t visable and repair. I would appreciate your input, Thank you!

  19. Julie Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    I hope to add stuffing (wool or cotton as you advise) but im nervous to rip the upholstery. How does one go about adding the stuffing?

  20. Eilanwy Says:
    March 19th, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    I am looking for the perfect stuffing…toxicity free, renewable/sustainable (i.e. kapok, hemp), and cheap? Any ideas what would be best to use, and where to buy it in bulk?

  21. Sophia Liam Says:
    May 21st, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    This blog goes so much more in-depth than so many others! Do you have any specific tips for new upholstery for plain, wooden furniture? I’m not sure exactly which product would be the easiest to attach and properly pad these.
    Thanks!
    Sophia Liam

  22. Bebe Says:
    July 24th, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    I am interested in answers to those that asked questions about replacing or repairing the insides of vintage dining chairs. We bought ours from an estate sale. They were originally bought in 1921. Though we had them reupholstered the insides were not replaced. It looks as if there is a layer of wool?, a layer of horse hair, a layer of burlap, and strapping that looks like burlap, too. If the strapping had not broken on two of the chairs I would not have known we had the original padding. How do I replace or fix these chairs. Thank you.

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