What to Know about Church Pew Upholstery

Below is some great information on church pew upholstery

Holding a churchgoer's attention often starts at the bottom with church pew. A comfy seat can decrease distraction and increase your parishioners' ability to focus and participate during a worship service. But pew padding can wear thin over the years. Here's why, as your church pew show signs of age, you may want them reupholstered:

Savings. The cost of reupholstering is generally one-third to one-half what it would cost to purchase new church pews.

Appearance. Reupholstered church pew can improve the look of your church.

Maintenance. Many consider Scotch Guard®-treated fabric easier to maintain than finished wood.

Here are a few basics to keep in mind when considering your options for three kinds of pews.

Noncushioned If your old wooden church pews have enough depth to hold the required padding, you may want to upholster them. Caution: Smaller pews may lose their original roomy feel once padding and fabric have been installed. For best results, make sure the pews you want upholstered have at least a 15" seat and an 18" back.

A quick test can determine how much upholstery padding you'll need: Place on the church pew two pieces of polyfoam large enough for one person to sit on. Use 2"-thick polyfoam on the church pew seat and 1"-thick foam on the back. Sit on the polyfoam, evaluating the cushions for comfort. Do you feel pushed forward and crowded out of the pew? Try removing the back piece and testing again. If the seating space is still unpleasantly tight, you may need to consider purchasing new church pews.

Some reupholsterers may work out of their shops, constructing a 1/4" plywood layover to fit the dimensions of your church pew upholstery seats. They may attach 2"-thick polyfoam to the plywood, for instance, and wrap the board with church pew upholstery fabric. At your church site, the plywood sections will be fastened to your pews with paneling nails or Velcro®. Reupholsterers also can install the foam and fabric directly to your pews on-site. Note: The acoustics of your room will change when uncovered wooden pews are upholstered.

Seat-Cushioned Only If the pews you want to upgrade are already cushioned, you'll want your reupholsterer to check the condition of the existing polyfoam. If the foam is in good shape but the fabric is worn, the reupholsterer will need only to cover the seat with new fabric, though some refurbishers believe it's best never to install new foam on top of old fabric or foam. It won't even be necessary to disassemble the pew for recovering as long as the existing seat cushion tapers down toward the anchoring area near the bottom of the interior side of the pew back.

You may, however, wish to increase the comfort of your cushioned pews even if the existing foam is in good shape. Ask to have a new layer of 1" cushioning added over your existing fabric before covering with the new fabric. Caution: Make sure the new fabric is anchored well. Many worshipers have a tendency to slide forward when sitting on the pew, loosening the fabric and foam in the process.

A pew with deteriorated foam cushions calls for a bit more work. Before adding new foam and fabric as described above, your reupholsterer will have to remove the old cushioning and fabric, taking care to remove the fabric from the seat ends as well. If you're lucky, you may have cushioned pews with lift-out seats that can be removed by unscrewing them from the bottom of the pew.

Seat- and Back-Cushioned These fully cushioned pews (foam padded seats and backs—with fabric that also covers the back exterior facing the pew to the rear) require greater disassembly. You'll need to have book racks, card and cup holders, all molding strips, and the middle legs removed. Typically, the old fabric is cut away with a carpet knife, the deteriorated padding is removed, and then new foam and fabric is attached before the pew is reassembled.

If worn fabric and sagging cushions tell you it's time to improve the look and the feel of your church seating, reupholstering may be the way to go. Remember, the ear can only hear what the rear can endure.

John Hawkins is owner of Mid-South Church Furnishings and writes from Greenwell Springs, Louisiana.

Reupholstering Hints Several checkpoints will insure that your refurbished pews will satisfy your needs.

1. Before having your pews refurbished professionally, check the prices, references, and experience of the upholsterer. Find out about the quality of the material the upholsterer will be using. Insist on stretchable yet strong fabrics that will not wrinkle. Recommended: 100 percent nylon fabric protected with Scotch Guard® (rated WS), which can be cleaned with any water- or solvent-based cleaner. Olefin, though less expensive, is harder to clean. Note: Scotch Guard's effectiveness decreases after cleaning the fabric. Use spray-on Scotch Guard to retreat the fabric.

2. Ask the upholsterer to finish a single pew. Then, before allowing the project to continue, test for fabric elasticity and susceptibility to wrinkling. Simply apply pressure with your knee to the pew seat, releasing the pressure quickly. No wrinkles should appear.

3. If the handrails along the tops of your pew backs are worn, ask to have them covered with your new fabric. The fabric can be securely fastened to the rear of the pew back, underneath the handrail. Some reupholsterers recommend refinishing worn rails instead, observing that oils from hands are easier to clean off finished wood than fabric. Handrails in good condition should be removed and replaced over new fabric.

4. Ask about the density of polyfoam your upholsterer uses. High-density polyfoam is always preferred—the firmer, the better. Recommended: 45 lbs. compression.

5. Brass upholstery tacks or covered piping are not usually found on new upholstered pews and therefore are not recommended for reupholstery.

6. Another church pew upholstery option: high-density, lay-on cushions, which usually include fabric-covered buttons and piping. Since they tend to slide off finished surfaces, it's a good idea to attach them to wooden pews using Velcro® or other fasteners.

7. Color coordinate your new fabric with your carpeting. Solid colors usually work best.

8. Keep fabric remnants on hand for quick repairs.

9. Removing and transporting pews elsewhere is usually unnecessary and hard on the furniture. Ask to have your pews reupholstered on-site. Many reupholsterers build cushioned church pew upholstery insets in their shops, which can then be installed to your pews in a single day.

Hopefully this will help make up your mind on church pew upholstery.

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