How to Upholster With Tacks

Written by f.r.r. mallory
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How to Upholster With Tacks
Leather couch with nail head tack strip detail at arms. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

There are a wide variety of upholstery tacks and nail heads. In general, a tack is a small sharp nail that is designed to nail through fabric into the wood frame of a furniture piece. The tack is hidden by fabric. A nail head-style tack is also used to attach fabric to furniture, but it is designed to be visible as part of the furniture design. Nail heads come individually or in strips on which actual nails are spaced among faux nail heads to give the appearance that each nail head is individual. There are also tack strips that help stretch fabric to the position the upholsterer desires. These are like nail tacks, designed to be hidden during the construction of the furniture.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Tacks
  • Tack hammer

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  1. 1

    Attach webbing to chair frames with tacks. The tacks are centred in the webbing and hammered through the heavy webbing fabric into the frame.

  2. 2

    Tack fabric to the back of covered seats. After the seat cushion has been covered in quilt batting, the finish fabric is placed over the quilt batting. The seat cushion is turned upside down and the fabric is stretched to the back underside of the seat. Tacks are driven into the fabric at the centre of the top, bottom and both sides while the fabric is being stretched. Tacks are then driven into the corners to hold them secure and tight. The remainder of the fabric is tacked into place.

  3. 3

    Tack along the sides of the lining fabric for chairs whose cushions are built over webbing directly on the chair frame. After the cushion is built, the lining is positioned and tacked into place. The side panel of parson-style chairs are tacked into place during construction. A finished piece of fabric is attached over the tacks to hide them.

  4. 4

    Tacks are driven into the side frames of larger chairs when the springs are tied. Twine or cording is attached to the tacks during the tying process. Tack strips are used to shape the finished lines of the upholstery. These strips can bend and hold a shape quite well with one or two tacks to hold the strips in place.

  5. 5

    Decorative tacks or nail heads are used to follow a seam line to create the appearance that the nail head is holding the fabric to the frame. It may be true in a few instances, but most often the nail head is decorative and only marginally functional. The hidden tack is far more functional and it does the heavy work of keeping the fabric firmly attached to the furniture.

Tips and warnings

  • Some tacks require speciality hammers. Different tack sizes offer varying degrees of strength and may be used in different areas of a furniture piece depending on how much stress that area endures during daily use.

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