Upholstery projects can transform tired, worn-looking furniture, especially when carefully selecting colors and fabric patterns. That said, 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, and stuffing. Here, I’ll talk about each of those materials’ roles in your furniture and how to select the right ones for your DIY furniture project.


    Batting provides a smooth padded layer over firmer foam stuffing in upholstered furniture. 

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

    Cotton batting is made from 100% layered cotton. There are two weights available. The weight depends on the project, but both are good for upholstery. 

    Cotton is a natural fiber that can poke through the fabric, making furniture uncomfortable to sit on. If you’re upholstering a headboard, this may not matter, but it could cause problems for sofas and chairs. If so, a polyester and cotton blend may work better. It’s durable and will make your furniture feel and look smooth.

    Wool batting is made from woven wool waste and comes in two types. 

    Needled Wool Batting is strong, durable, and commonly used to cover springs, though it can also stuff furniture. However, layered Wool Batting is not recommended for furniture, as it falls apart easily over time.

    cotton stuffing
    Image Credit: Canva

    Animal Hair and Feathers

    Long used in beautiful antique furniture, animal hair, and feathers offer natural stuffing options.

    The animal hair used is most often from the manes and tails of horses. 

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    When re-upholstering antiques, you can combine the existing horse hair with wool or cotton to add loft. Though not “hair,” feathers and down fill furniture for improved comfort.

    Types of Foam

    Depending on the furniture and desired comfort level, several foam types work for furniture stuffing projects. 

    Polyurethane foam is the most common type used in furniture today. It comes in various densities and firmness levels. A higher-density foam is more durable and holds its shape longer, while softer, low-density foams lose resiliency faster.

    Latex foam is made from rubber tree sap. While it is more expensive than polyurethane, it is durable, resilient, comfortable, and holds its shape well. In addition, latex foam is naturally antimicrobial and mold and mildew-resistant.

    Memory foam is another option originally used by NASA. It conforms to the body but regains shape, making it excellent for pressure point relief. However, memory foam retains heat, so it may not work for all upholstery.

    Choosing the Right Stuffing

    The type of stuffing material you choose will depend on how you use the upholstered furniture and the comfort level you want. Consider these factors when selecting stuffing:

    • Furniture use: Seats and high-traffic areas need durable stuffing that won’t collapse or lump. Softer foam or fill works for backs.
    • Desired comfort: Do you want soft and pillowy or firm support? Firmer, high-density foam provides structure. Low-density foam, down, and fill offer softness.
    • Climate: Natural fibers hold moisture and can develop mildew in humidity. Synthetics like polyurethane or latex may work better. Natural fibers get brittle and break down faster in dry climates — consider your environment as you make your choices, as each material has pros and cons. 
    • Budget: Consider longevity and durability when weighing costs. Higher prices often reflect longer-lasting materials that may save you money by avoiding frequent replacement. 
    • DIY skills: Working with high-density foam takes effort to cut and install correctly. Pre-cut foam is easier to work with. Batting and loose fill are simpler than large foam sheets. I recommend professional installation for complex upholstery work, especially with valuable antique pieces.

    So, Is Furniture Stuffing Important for Upholstery?

    Proper stuffing is crucial for the look and longevity of upholstered furniture. Choosing the right batting, foam, fibers, and fill for each furniture piece will ensure they retain shape and provide the desired comfort and support. With quality materials and careful installation, the “insides” of your upholstered furniture will last just as long as the beautiful exterior fabric.

    FAQs About Furniture Stuffing

    How much stuffing do I need?

    Measure your stuffing out carefully and add 10 to 20% for settling. It’s better to have too much than not enough.

    How do I attach stuffing to the frame?

    Use staples, heavy-duty glue, or both to adhere stuffing to the frame. I recommend a stapler or staple gun to make stapling go faster.

    Should I glue foam before batting?

    Yes, you should glue foam before batting. First, glue foams together and then to the frame for a smooth finish. Use latex adhesive on foam.

    Can I mix stuffing materials?

    Yes, combining materials is common. Use firm foam for seats and softer fibers for backs. Layer batting over foam for the best results.

    How do I prevent loose-fill shifting?

    You can prevent loose-fill shifting by placing loose fill-in muslin bags secured to the frame or cover with batting before adding fabric.

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    Elise LaChapelle


    Elise LaChapelle is a copywriter with over a decade's experience in the digital space. She specializes in blogging, website content, social media, and e-mail marketing across a diverse array of clients, helping them to connect with their target audience through concise, compelling messaging. When she's not crafting copy, Elise enjoys working out, cooking, and spending time with her husband and two daughters.

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    Amy DeYoung


    Amy DeYoung has a passion for educating and motivating homeowners to improve their lives through home improvement projects and preventative measures. She is a content writer and editor specializing in pest control, moving, window, and lawn/gardening content for Today’s Homeowner. Amy utilizes her own experience within the pest control and real estate industry to educate readers. She studied business, communications, and writing at Arizona State University.

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