Tips on using a heat gun to upholster vinyl material

With the progression of time, the things we own eventually start to show their age through the wear and tear that comes with repeated usage. Or, in some cases, we as consumers just crave change and decide to make an update to something we frequently see or use.

It's not difficult for a placement staple to fall loose and material to bunch up on things like seat covers – eventually they catch wrinkles from extended usage.

Vinyl is a very diverse material; it can come in a virtually endless array of gradients, thicknesses, colors and designs depending on its desired look and function. But regardless of what it's used for, upholstering it is primarily based on heating the material and pulling it taut, then stapling or adhering it into place. Applying heat is necessary to stretch the material around curves and corners. Using a heat gun like the Master Appliance Proheat 1400 with adjustable settings is recommended to make temperature adjustments if needed.

Running a DIY vinyl upholstery project to refurbish or renew the appearance of certain items is a task that may not require the work of a professional. Reupholstering the material on some household furniture like bar stools or dining room chairs, or working on one's car interior, can be accomplished with the proper tools and a few helpful tips.

Shaping the vinyl

Before beginning the project, find a piece of scrap vinyl identical or similar to the material you hope to manipulate and practice on that.

When working with raw, unattached vinyl, place the material on a flat surface with its underside up. Heat the vinyl by holding the gun 6 to 8 inches above the material and moving it along the section you wish to manipulate. For shaping larger pieces, move the gun in various "z" formations that cover a square foot of area surface.

The heavier the vinyl, the more heat will need to be applied to sufficiently stretch it.

After heating, place the material on the chair or seat and gently stretch the chosen corner down over the end. If the upholstery does not stretch enough, put on a pair of heat-resistant gloves and heat the material while stretching it further.

"The heavier the vinyl, the more heat will need to be applied to sufficiently stretch it."

When smoothing the wrinkles on a chair, heat the wrinkled portion and surrounding material, then using light pressure gently smooth out the crimp with a gloved hand or a soft towel.

Sometimes, wrinkles will not flatten out immediately. Let the vinyl rest and cool for five minutes, then assess the results. Repeating the process may be necessary for tougher material.

Ice can also aid you in this process. Use a bag of ice or a frozen gel pack to cool the heated area more quickly after stretching it. But be sure to use the side with no ink that could accidentally transfer to the vinyl.

Know when to turn off the heat

It's important to be aware of just how much heat you're applying when reupholstering vinyl because applying too much can have many negative effects. It can cause an area to burn or discolor and can make a shiny coat more dull, or vice versa. Texture gradients could distort or smooth out altogether and lose their prominence. It could shorten the material's longevity, degrading a section causing it to age and crack prematurely.

To avoid these situations, it's best to start with the heat gun at its lowest setting and increasing the temperature as needed. It's also recommended to waft the gun back and forth rather than keeping it stationary over one section for extended periods.

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