Through the course of daily use, the couches we love to relax on take quite the beating. Over time, their cushions become much less… cushiony. At a certain point, all foam seating materials will lose their resiliency, and couches are no different. Ordering replacement cushions is a simple and easy process, as companies take old, potato-sack-looking cushions and return to you supportive, full cushions in a week or two. But for people who enjoy the challenge of a do-it-yourself project or are trying to save a few dollars, creating your own cushions is also surprisingly doable when armed with the right materials and a little bit of information. Before you let the specter of a fabrication project intimidate you, know that if you've ever used a ruler, performed simple addition or sliced a loaf of bread, you already have all the skills you need to create your own cushion.
The first step in DIY home projects is gathering materials, and for making your own cushions this means ordering the foam. To do that, you'll need to measure the greatest length and width across the empty cushion cover, seam to seam, with an extra inch added to each. This will provide leeway when ordering and trimming your foam without leaving you with tons of scrap. To measure thickness of a foam-only cushion, measure the edge seam when stretched taut, from top to bottom. If the measurement exceeds a whole inch increment by 1/4 of an inch or less, round your thickness down to the closest whole inch. If it is more than 1/4 of an inch over, round up. This will be the final thickness of your cushion, so make sure to measure carefully. Armed with these measurements and the number of cushions you plan to make, contact a foam supplier or upholstery shop and they should be able to help you figure out just how much foam you need for your order and which foam type is best for you.
Before getting your sofa foam, you should assemble your supplies. This will include a tape measure, straight edge, permanent marker, serrated knife or electric knife and scissors. If the foam was mailed to you, unpack it and give it time to expand, as most companies vacuum pack materials for shipping. A rule of thumb to ensure you'll be working with a full-size product is to allow a whole day for it to expand. Picking up foam in person cuts out this wait in most cases since it won't need to be vacuum packed. At this point, it's time to record a second set of measurements; these will represent the final dimensions of your new cushions. Measure every edge of your cushion, this time rounding up to the nearest 1/4 of an inch to provide a margin for error. With those rounded figures, add an extra 1/2 inch to each. This will give the cushion fullness when packed into the cover. A quick and easy way to keep track of measurements is to sketch the cushion on scratch paper, labeling every side and pairing each with its measurement. This way, when you transfer dimensions to the foam, you won't have to re-measure to remember which length goes where.
With your measurements recorded and the foam ready, you're set to get your foam cut to size and see your new cushions come to life – exciting, huh? But before getting out your knife, roughly figure out where each cushion will be cut from the foam sheet. Most cushions will need to be placed side-by-side on the sheet rather than “stacked” on top of each other to keep from running out of material.
From there, situate the longest edge of the cushion along the back edge of the foam, so you have one side already cut for you. If possible, arrange the cushion's design at the corner of the foam sheet so you have two sides pre-cut. Do not, however, make two cushions share a cutting edge. A mistake in cutting can ruin two cushions instead of leaving a manageable mistake on one. Plot your cushion's dimensions on the foam with dots and after double-checking measurements, connect them* using your straight edge. Repeat this process for each cushion on the foam before beginning to cut to ensure they're aligned properly and at that point, you should see the outlines of your future cushions – progress!
With your cushions drawn, it's finally time to cut. Whether you use a serrated knife or an electric carving knife, be sure that the blade is longer than the foam is thick. Foam shouldn't be compressed when cut and if your knife can't pass all the way through the cushion, the cut foam will wind up with jagged edges from having to finish the cut from the other side. A gentle sawing motion will let the blade pass through the foam smoothly. When you begin your cut, start at the edge of the foam and use a sawing motion instead of stabbing into the foam. Imagine you're slicing a loaf of warm, freshly-baked bread; just let the blade do the cutting. If the layout of your cushion permits, try to make full-length, cross-sheet cuts so you can start new cuts from edges and reduce the size of material you have to work with. Taking your time will help you end up with much cleaner edges and a better end-product. Also, be sure to take precautions such as safety glasses and using a sturdy cutting surface that won't be damaged.
Once your cutting is finished, stuffing the couch cushion replacement back into its cover is the final step. While it may seem simple, carelessness can rip and tear the foam, placing you back at square one. The easiest way to stuff the cover is to gently fold the foam cushion in half long-ways and slide it into the cover. When you release it, it should flatten and only require minor manipulation to get it into place. This is much easier than tugging back and forth like you would a pillow in a pillow case. Be careful not to grab handfuls of the foam or pinch at the edges however, as it can tear the foam. Gently push and pull the cover and foam until the seams align along the edges of the foam evenly.** Then gently press the foam into the case as you zip over it and when it's shut, you'll have a comfortable, brand-new, custom-cut foam cushion!
It may seem like a lot of work, but in truth, DIY furniture cushion replacement consists of only five steps: measure, plot, re-measure, cut and stuff. By taking your time, you can have cushions as good as any you could buy or order, along with the satisfaction of knowing it was you who turned your old couch into a brand-new one!
*Note: If you use a grease pen, markings may rub off on the cover's interior. A permanent marker is suggested to prevent staining thin or lightly colored covering materials.
** Note: If you have older or thin covers, be careful when inserting the new foam. The stress of a new, full cushion may be enough to damage the fabric. Be sure your cover is strong enough to withstand the pressure of a new cushion.