Sunday, May 26, 2013

Upholstered Door: Challenging DIY Project Saves Money But Burns Time

My objective in upholstering some bi-fold closet doors was to update them more cheaply than buying new doors and to use creativity for something a little different than money can buy.

The doors had old-fashioned panels out-of-keeping with my own contemporary-eclectic tastes that tend to mid-century modern and Art Deco.

I considered a number of upholstery fabrics, including reed matting that was too expensive and grass wallpaper. I have used the latter on an old cedar trunk, and I don’t have the room to tackle that messy project in my apartment.

I settled on polished burlap for an early texture effect and the relatively cheap price at online fabric store. I also snagged a 2-pound box of round-headed brass look upholstery tacks for $20. At Jo-Ann Fabrics, 75 cost $21.

I started with one of the smaller doors. My first step was painting the door edges in high-gloss super-white.

My second step was padding the inset panels. I want a single upholstered panel for a sleek look.

I used two layers of polyester padding, fitting it into place with hot glue. That used up one of the 72"x90" rolls I bought at Jo-Ann Fabrics for about $15.

Right away, I came up against how hard it is to measure and cut large panels of cloth straight when I don’t have a large table for laying out fabric.

I also could see that a single door would easily use up two or more rolls of polyester batting. I wasn't even sure that four layers of batting would be enough.

I decided that old mattress pads would provide more opaque and firmer padding. I couldn’t find any at three local thrift shops. A white quilt for $4.50 might work in a pinch, but it had more loft than I want.

A king mattress pad that I’m not using anymore is taking up space in a closet – and who doesn’t need more space? – so padding problem solved at zero cost.

Total price for two bi-fold doors (second project not pictured) is $80.

Recycle – repurpose – reuse!

As I looked at the doors while cutting away the elastic edge of the mattress pad, I could see that the interior level of the panels was even deeper than the outer edge. So I cut some additional layers of batting to even out the depth. I secured these with a spray craft glue.

I was concerned that the batting was too porous for this, but it worked fine.

I measured the mattress padding strip, but that is not a guarantee when I am on the floor rolling the strip as I go. Plus, the edge of the mattress quilt was not completely straight either.

To cut plumb burlap panels, I used the technique of pulling a thread to create a runner or ladder down the fabric. When you pull a thread, do this carefully. You don’t want it to break, because you won’t be able to pick it up again.

The next step was nailing on, with upholstery decorative tacks, the final layer. If you live in a condo apartment, you have to wait for a reasonable time of day for this – because the nailing is going to go for hours and hours.

By the time I had one six-foot edge done, my knees and back hurt. I suggest you not tackle this if you have arthritis without a good-size, stable work table out in a garage.

I also learned that it is better to space the tacks. Photos of upholstered furniture show the tacks in a row. After placing 10 of them – three to anchor the top and seven down the side – I realized I would spend the rest of my life on the project if I continued.

If you are not practiced at tacks, you may find it challenging to place a tight row so it is perfectly straight. I was worried about how the final product would look.

I went to 2-inch gaps. These work out to about 1.75-inches in between, as the hobnail tops also take up space.

Leaving spaces between the tacks is more forgiving than creating a line of tacks, as you see in the corners of the finished door, last photo.

By the time I was done with one 6-foot length, I was dreading having to complete the rest of the job. I still have three 6-foot lengths to complete – plus a matching door next to this one that has to be done.

The final challenge: I am not strong enough to lift the door into its holders.

This project gave me a realistic perspective about tackling the super-tall bi-fold closet doors in the bedroom.

Then project is too expensive in terms of time and effort.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love your site and this great project. You could make the horrible nailing easier by using prefab nailhead tackstrips which come by the roll and have the look of individually hammered nails. It's what factories use. Sometimes on sale on ebay in 30 ft rolls. I know it's a budget buster, but maybe for another smaller project like an ottoman.

Use these search terms:

30 ft Upholstery NICKEL Tackstrips Roll Decorative Nail Strip Nailhead Trim