Is This Chair Worth Recovering?

What do you do when you have taken in an upholstery job, taken a deposit, ordered and received the fabric, stripped the chair, and then you find out that the chair is a lot more work that you quoted. Will the client still want to proceed? If the client doesn't want to proceed, what do do about the client's deposit, the chair frame, etc.

I had another learning session. Sometimes when we start a job, we may find that the work will be more costly than the client is willing to pay. When working with clients, it is a good practice to help her decide what best fits her budget and her desires. It sometimes takes a lot of thinking and writing things out clearly to help the client decide what she wants to do. It is also extremely important to deal openly and honestly with the client, giving her all the facts she needs to make a meaningful decision.

Recently a client contracted with me to reupholster 3 pieces of antique type furniture. Since she lives almost an hour away from my shop, and didn't want to pay any additional trip fees, she paid a deposit on each piece and agreed to pay the balance for each piece as I finished it. I would send her pictures and she would send me a check.  I've finished two of them, and sent her pictures, and she has paid for them. All that has worked fine and she is real happy with what she has seen on the pictures.

On the last piece, the frame of this antique chair......
(Click Pictures to enlarge)
(Click here to see all the pictures OR click here to see the slideshow)

....... is a little wobbly, the finish is kind of beat up, and the back legs are about 1 1/2" to 2" shorter than normal, which tips the whole chair backwards instead of balancing the chair more evenly on all 4 legs.

After I finished the first two pieces and tore apart the last piece, I carefully inspect the frame. Then I made notes on a picture and made a video of the results of my inspection.

After reading and watching the video she had a better understanding of the condition of this last chair. She has decided not to have me do the chair and to use the fabric on another chair that she has (which matches the loveseat I just did for her.)

Here is what I wrote her in an email about the condition of her chair.

Quote from: Stephen to client

  I realize that you said that you didn’t want to spend any more money on the arm chair, that it was at your budget as it is. This leaves me with a struggle to figure out what to do. Whenever I upholster a chair, I like to have the frame be rock solid, so it will be a solid foundation for the springs, padding, and the fabric cover. However, the frame on your chair is a little wobbly, some parts of it are more wobbly than other parts. It’s not in real bad shape at the present. Of course, you could say that the frame is useable as it is. After all, you have had it in your house for years. The reality is that as a piece of furniture is used, any loose joints will get looser with time and usage. So, the question I ask myself (and you) is should I just cover the frame as it is, with it being a little loose, or should some parts of the frame be strengthened, or should I take it all apart, reglue and clamp the joints to make a very solid chair. But then again, we have the budget to work with. Since it’s your chair, and your budget, I decided to lay out the situation and the choices before you and let you decide what you’d like to do.

Here is a video showing  the frame joints of the your chair. Please watch the video so we can discuss what you’d like to do. In addition,  I’ve also attached pdf file with a picture of the frame of your chair, with the loose joints marked, and suggested blocks placement. The picture shows the maximum block placements. Of course, you can go with any amount that you’d liked, or none.
Attached to this email is a pdf file in which I’ve also included some comparison estimates to give you an idea of what the cost to do various repairs might look like.
I might suggest, that one possibility would be to reglue the arms, and perhaps put some blocks in to strengthen them. But you can decide what your budget is and what you’d like to do.

Another thing to consider is that the back legs are much shorter than the average chair. This tilts the whole chair backward (which makes it be more prone to tipping over backwards AND it puts more weight on the back legs (when someone sits on it) rather than distributing the weight over all 4 legs evenly. This was either a poor design when the chair was made OR the back legs were cut off at some time (which it is hard to figure out why someone would do that.)

Now,  I want to mention one other thing. The finish on the woodwork of the chair is kind of in rough shape. We don’t do refinishing, but I only mention this to say that if you had any thought of refinishing it, the best time to do that would be when the cover is off, and after any frame repairs have been finished. But, since you have a tight budget, I realize that you probably don’t want to think about  the extra cost or effort for doing that. And that’s OK. But I thought that I should at least mention that.

The client decided that she didn't want me to proceed with the job. She'd pay me for what I had done on the chair, but she wanted me to use the fabric on another chair. This other chair was a matching to the antique sofa that I had just finished.