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Old 11-22-2008, 05:35 AM   #1
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Default DIY upholstery (foam, fabric, etc)??

I was curious as to WHAT exactly most vehicle seating is made out of... whether it's the front (driver's/passenger's) seats, minivan rear seats, RV dinettes, RV bunk beds, RV sleeper sofas, and RV "gaucho" seats/beds.... Just what exactly is used to make it so comfortable and durable?

I know there are many different types of foam out there. What kind of foam is inside these seats?

Is it simply a certain thickness (one layer) of foam covered with a fabric?

I've also read that sometimes two different kinds of foam are used: a stiffer "base layer" that's put down first, then covered with a softer foam for comfort....

Then, what sort of fabric is used to cover the foam?

And how is the whole thing attached to the structure (plywood probably)? Adhesive of some sort? Mechanical fasteners?

I'm curious because I'm considering making my own bed platform for not only my minivan-to-RV project, but possibly changing the seating in my minivan in a way, and also (when the time is right) doing a few things myself for my Class B van conversion (Sportsmobile).

Has anyone done their own upholstery project for their RV? Where'd you get the materials? More importantly, WHAT kind of foam and fabric did you get? Why did you choose that?

Thanks for any input!


Current Project: Design Phase of a DIY "Sportsmobile" in Ford E-350 EB, to include: L-shaped sofa/bed, Storage cabinets, Sink, water heater, porta-potti, 2 AGM, solar, hydronic heat, attic fan, propane, portable frig...
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Old 11-22-2008, 04:40 PM   #2
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Default Re: DIY upholstery (foam, fabric, etc)??

I had the foam in my dinette seat cushions replaced at a foam shop. The original foam was too soft. Your bottom "bottomed" right to the plywood base. The new foam is much better for sitting but perhaps too firm for sleeping. I use memory foam on top of it.

The foam shop wrapped the foam in a batting to help it breathe. They have the tools to be able to insert the foam into tight fitting covers. Sometimes they use a vacuum apparatus.

Lately I've been surmising that my ideal foam bed/sitting combo would be 3" softer foam + 3" firmer foam. Flip it to your preference.


Originally Posted by Wendell
............. The original owner removed the sofa bed behind the drivers seat and had a two piece innerspring mattress custom made; one piece is the seat cushion,the other is the backrest...................

I might install this unit in place of my jackknife sofa:

If I were making a do-it-yourself gaucho bed then I would certainly consider a futon mattress.

Two bikes on sliding cargo box: & 1997 GMC Savana 6.5L Turbo Diesel Custom Camper Van Specifications:
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Old 01-08-2009, 12:31 PM   #3
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Default Re: DIY upholstery (foam, fabric, etc)??

I have also been looking a stuff like that.
Got mattress foam for a buddy that is in the mattress business - if you can find a mattress manufacturer around.
I covered the foam with a waterproof material tbecause the foam guy suggested it That is to keep it from getting wet and absorbing odors (I have a big dog that likes to swim and someday she may jump on the bed) - and then a removable cover of polarguard fleece - it is washable.

The headliner material is actually carried by some regular fabric shops - surprised me -
One is Jo-Ann Fabric shops - a chain in the states. They had a variety of colors.

Amazon also carries their products - search Jo-Ann Fabrics and then headliner
It is quite a bit cheaper in the store - they have a lot of 40% off coupons.
Good luck
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Old 01-08-2009, 08:16 PM   #4
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Default Re: DIY upholstery (foam, fabric, etc)??

Many moons ago (197 , I had a full sized Econoline van that came with a 351 V8, 4 tilt/swivel captain's chairs, cruise control, power windows, and A/C.
To "complete" this first camper, I added a 100W stereo system, curtains on the side and back windows, and a sleeping surface which was custom made of 6 inch foam wrapped in a washable synthetic (maybe polyester?) slip on cover. I had the foam and the cover made at a local furniture upholstery shop for around $100. I just slid it in the back of the van and added sleeping bags and pillows.
So, I'd look in the Yellow Pages (or Google) for an upholstery place and ask for a quote on custom work. It might be worth the price to have it made for you. They can suggest construction materials, depending on what sort of use it will get. I don't imagine you'll get anything for around a hundred bucks, but there's no harm in asking. Of course, you'll have to build your frame first, to get the measurements for the bedding.

Hope this helps,
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Old 01-10-2009, 11:55 PM   #5
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Default Re: DIY upholstery (foam, fabric, etc)??

Knoxfoam out of knoxville TN have a great site that explains all you need to know about foam for seats /mattresses etc. good prices and fast delivery.Had a couple of things done by them and more than satisfied with the results,Barry Nashville TN.
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Old 04-06-2009, 11:21 PM   #6
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Default Re: DIY upholstery (foam, fabric, etc)??

DIY recovering sounds easy enough but the number 1 item is a really good sewing machine (lots of good needles) that can handle the layers of fabric. You'll also need a good fitting hat to prevent you from pulling all your hair out. Let the process begin!

Most upolstery shops are glad to offer both tricks of the trade and supplies. Think about the color and patterns that fit your lifestyle (multicolor patterns hide spills better than solids). You also need to consider the type of fabric, is it waterproof, is it air proof? Designing the cushions may require air-gromits or other breathing areas to allow for some air flow so sitting on them is comfortable (otherwise it's like being on an air mattress). Width of fabric may prevent wasted leftover pieces. It's a puzzle that requires thought and planning. My project was for a dinette turned queen bed, so there were lots of cushions.

I used a really good quality foam wrapped in poly batten to help smooth the fabric as the covers need to be very tightly fit (to prevent bagging and wrinkling)and a good foam prevents the cushions from becoming prematurely mis-shapened over time, particularly when you're sleeping on them. A 1 mil plastic wrap around the foam also makes sliding the covers on the foam easier especially if you're using a rubber backed upolstery material. You can use the old cushion covers as a pattern template for the new ones which will also show you where the zippers go. If you're starting fresh, the foam pieces are larger than the space they are occupying to allow for cover shrinkage (ask at the foam shop). Better to tightly fit together than too loose.

When you're finished and can live with the small imperfections, don't forget to stain guard your hard work. It is certain, that while showing it off, someone is going to bump the table and spill coffee (or red wine) all over it!

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