DIY Upholstery: How to Cut and Shape Foam for Custom Furniture Projects


DIY Upholstery: How to Cut and Shape Foam for Custom Furniture Projects

Venturing into a DIY upholstery project can be a fascinating and satisfying experience, especially when you’re creating or revamping custom furniture pieces. One crucial aspect of this process is working with foam. In this guide, we will dive into the art of cutting and shaping foam to perfectly fit your unique furniture projects.

Understanding Upholstery Foam

Before embarking on your upholstery journey, it’s important to grasp the basics of foam. Furniture foam is predominantly made from polyurethane, and comes in a variety of densities and firmness levels. Each type is designed for specific uses, such as seating (high-density foam), back cushions (medium-density foam), and wrapping material (low-density foam). Understanding the foam type that fits your project requirements is a critical first step.

Acquiring the Right Tools

Next, you’ll need the right tools to cut and shape your foam. For basic DIY projects, these might include a simple foam cutter or a serrated knife, a permanent marker, measuring tape, straightedge, and an electric carving knife. For more advanced or larger projects, a foam cutting saw or hot wire cutter might be more efficient. Always remember, safety should be your priority when handling these tools.

Measuring Your Foam

Before you start cutting, accurate measurements are key. Measure the area of your furniture where the foam will be placed, and mark these measurements on your foam using a permanent marker. To ensure a perfect fit, it’s often better to cut a little larger than your exact measurement, you can always trim it down later.


Cutting Your Foam

For smaller DIY projects, an electric carving knife will do a great job. Simply guide the knife through the foam, following your marked lines. It’s recommended to make your cuts in a single pass for a smoother edge.

If you’re dealing with thicker foam or larger pieces, a foam cutting saw may be necessary. It’s advisable to cut slowly and steadily to ensure an even, straight cut. Be sure to wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from foam debris during this process.

Shaping Your Foam

After cutting the foam to the right size, you may need to shape it to fit the contours of your furniture. This is often the case for items like chair cushions, where a bit of a dome shape is desirable for comfort and appearance.

Start by deciding where the foam needs to be tapered, mark the areas, and use your electric knife to slowly carve off small layers until you achieve the desired shape. Remember, it’s easier to remove more foam later than to fix an over-cut.

Final Touches

Once the foam is cut and shaped, you can move on to the final steps of your DIY upholstery project. If the foam is for a cushion, you’ll need to sew or purchase a cover, stuff the foam inside, and close it up. For other furniture, you might need to adhere the foam to the surface, which can be done using spray adhesive designed for foam.


DIY upholstery projects can breathe new life into your furniture and allow you to customize pieces to your liking. With some understanding of foam types, the right tools, and a bit of patience, you’ll find that cutting and shaping foam is a task you can tackle yourself. Whether you’re reupholstering a beloved armchair or creating custom cushions for a DIY bench, the skills you learn will serve you well in all your future upholstery endeavors.

Remember that while DIY projects can be fun and fulfilling, they also demand responsibility. Always prioritize safety, take your time, and don’t be afraid to seek professional help if needed. Happy crafting.

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