LazyBoy Recliner: Switching the Handle to the Left Side

I recently had a request (see first message at the bottom of this page) asking if it was possible to change the handle to the left side of the chair. This is the reply to that message.

(Note: since the time I wrote this article, I had a Lazyboy tech tell me that it is possible, but is very difficult. See his comment here. So I would caution anyone to really think this out before trying it.)

(Note 2: On Jan 15, 2013 I heard from a reader who said that he and his wife followed the instructions to change the handle from one side to the other. It took him and his wife about 3 hours, they had to drill 4 holes, and it worked like a charm.)

 Although I've recovered countless Lazyboy recliners I have never changed the handle from one side to the other. I am very familiar with Lazy boys though and I do have an older lazyboy at home. I turned it upside down and thoroughly investigated the mechanisms, the handle and the other parts of the underneath. It seems to me that it might be possible to change the handle to the left side, but I have a DISCLAMER: unless a person is mechanically inclined and used to figuring things out, I would caution a person from trying it himself. You could very easily ruin your recliner, such as taking it all apart and then not being able to get it back together. Also, Although I know Lazyboys fairly well, and I think that this will work, I have no guarantees that it will actually work. But I have an idea that it might work.
 
Note: since writing this article I went to the La-Z-Boy website FAQ page and found this Question and Answer:
"Q: When ordering a recliner, may I request to have the handle located on the left side instead of on the right? 
A: Many of our recliners can be ordered with the handle on the left side. This option would have to be special ordered, since all of our recliners are manufactured with the handles on the right."
I also found this info on a La-Z-Boy tear sheet. (click on picture to see the pdf file.)
This seems to indicate that the option for having the handle on either side might be built into the design of the La-Z-Boy frame.
 
With that said, if you, or someone you know is wanting to try it, this is how I would suggest. (A MUST DO: Take LOTS Of pictures all the way through this job! When you have the recliner all taken apart you will be glad to have the pictures to guide you in putting everything back together. Among the other pictures, make sure you get pictures of the side of the chair with the handle, both when the footstool is up and when it is down. You will need these pictures when you put the chair back together.) Use my instructions as an APPROXIMATE guide, realize that what you actually will need to do may at times be different than the instructions.
 
  1. SUMMARY: This is what needs to be done. There is a square rod that runs underneath the recliner from one side of the recliner to the other. The handle is attached to this rod, which also connects and controls the operation of the recliner mechanisms. This rod needs to be taken completely out of the chair on right side and turned around so that it comes in from the left side of the chair.
  2. BEFORE YOU START, read through these entire instructions. As you read each step, look at each step of the instructions that corresponds with the actual chair. See if you understand what needs to be done at each step. If any of the instructions are unclear, post a message at the bottom of this page.
  3. First, get a flashlight , turn the chair on its back and thoroughly look the chair mechanism over. Trace out where the handle is attached to the square metal rod. Trace out that rod as it goes clear across the bottom of the chair. Notice how the rod runs through a number of braces, brackets, etc. Also notice the cotter pins that go through holes in the square rod. Move the handle up a number of times and down, and watch how that square metal rod controls the movements of the other mechanisms.
  4. Follow the instructions on these links to take the recliner apart and take the backrest off the recliner.
  5. Turn the chair frame on its back or upside down so that you can see all the mechanisms.
  6. Mark where the rod that holds the handle on the left side of the chair will go. Use some type of erasable chalk, just in case this doesn't work. Take a close look at where the rod ends, and the direction of the rod to estimate where to mark where to drill the hole. (Don't drill the hole yet; wait until step 19 below.)
  7. Leave the handle and large wood or plastic washer on the end of square rod. NOTE: Notice what position the handle is pointing when you pull the rod out. You will want to put the handle in the same position when you put the rod back in on the left side. Also, take measure how far the handle is from the chair, so you will know how far to push the rod in from the left side.
    1. A Lazy Boy Tech had this suggestion "The one trick that I have used when pulling a drive shaft is to mark the pins and drive shaft with a sharpie so you get the drive shaft back in with the proper rotation. 1/4 of a turn in the wrong direction will lead to hours of head scratching. Take pictures print them out and put them beside your chair." [west coast at Upholster.com]
  8. Take all the cotter pins out of the square rod.
  9. Remove the spring(s) that is/are attached to a curved metal piece that is at one or both end(s) of the rod.
  10. Remove or unscrew any brackets that may be attached to the rod.
  11. The goal is to free up the square rod so that you can pull it out from the side of the chair. If for some reason you can pull it out, carefully inspect the full length of the rod to see if anything is still attached to it. If needed, have a friend help you look. Once all the pins and any other attaching things have been loosened, that rod should just pull out. If for any reason the rod doesn't come out, stop here. Don't do the following steps until or unless the rod comes out.
    1. Alternatively, (I'm not sure this is any easier) instead of taking the metal rod all the way out, you may be able to just push the rod through to the other side.
    2. Then remove the set screw that holds the handle to the rod.
    3. Cut the fabric and drill the hole in the side as explained in #12 below.
    4. Push the rod through to the left side so that it protrudes out the same distance as it was on the right side.
    5. Measure the distance between the existing cotter pin holes and mark the same distance from the other side. and redrill the holes for the cotter pins.
    6. Continue with # 15 below.
  12. Assuming that the rod came out, now you need to cut and/or drill a hole in the left side of the chair. Look at the side of the chair that had the handle. See how the fabric is cut and see the size and appearance of the hole. Do the same on the left side. When you cut/drill the new hole on the left side of the chair, take great care to line up the hole, as described in #5 above. DO NOT drill through the fabric. Use a single edge razor or a pair of scissors, etc. to cut a hole in the fabric (and any pasdding) that is just a little larger than the hole to be drilled.
  13. After the holes have been cut and drilled, push the rod back through the new hole into the middle of the chair. Be careful to line up the position of the handle the same as it was taken out from the right side.
  14. Carefully and slowly push the square rod back through the same bracket that it was removed from. This may be a slow tedious job, but keep at it, work it through one bracket at a time.
  15. After you have the rod and handle put back in place, use your pictures as a guide and reattach any brackets or springs that were removed.
  16. Put all the pins back into the rod.
  17. When you have all this part put back together, stand the chair frame up on its feet and operate the handle. When you move the handle it should raise the footrest. When the footrest is all the way up, the chair should be locked to prevent it from rocking.
  18. When you have the chair mechanisms put back in place, go back to step 4 and follow the instructions in reverse.
  19. You still have the hole in the fabric where the handle used to be. If you might switch the handle back to its original location some day, then you only need a temporary covering. You can use a wooden medallion to cover the hole and use finishing nails to hold the medallion in place. OR, you can find some material that matches the old fabric and hand sew a patch over the hole. OR, if you can get some more of the fabric that is on the recliner, you can also replace the fabric on the outside of the arm.

If you follow these instructions, please send us a note and let us know how it went.

Comments

We received the following comments from someone who used the above instructions to switch sides on the handle."

"Thank you so much for the great info.  I needed to change a Lazy Boy Right Left because of an extended wrist injury (for my Mom).  As you emphasized "Take lots of pictures"  VERY TRUE.  The parts do seem to come (or fall) apart as the square shaft is removed! Mine didn't require any new holes to be added - the hole patterns were symmetrical - looks as though it was designed to be assembled either way.  Thanks, again!"

"Additional info about the procedure might be to watch for spacers at the ends of the square shaft that may not be noticed until they fall out.

On your website, it seems that there are 10 pages of repeats of the first page.  I was looking through the pages to see if there was anything else to learn about the "fix", but it all was identical. (note from Stephen, there seems to be a bug in my website software that cause the ONE COMMENT page to be duplicated.)

Anyways, my "Mom" (actually, my wife's mom) whom we love having with us, is VERY pleased with her "new" chair.

Also, on my Lazy Boy,  no hole needed to be drilled in the frame; (the frame had identical holes on both sides).  The fabric was merely slitted on the right side, so I poked a pointy thing through the hole on the left side (through the fabric) and added a slit there with a xacto knife for the square shaft to poke through.  The abandoned slit on the right side is barely visible, so we decided no repair of cover-up was even needed.

Thanks, again,
Bobby"

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