Evaluating Existing Church Seating for Refinishing, Re-upholstery or Replacement
Artech Church Interiors offers a wide variety of church pew bench upgrade options to fit the needs of your Church or Synagogue. We can either refurbish your existing church pews or offer new church pews in quantity that are custom made to exact specifications and permanently installed in your house of worship.
Is Updating Existing Church Pews Recommended?
When it is time to refresh your wooden church pews, there are several factors to consider. Evaluating existing church seating for refinishing, re-upholstery and repairing as necessary versus replacement will take into consideration the type and style of pews, how old they are, the material of construction, and their general condition along with your worship style and needs.
Specifically, do your church pews need:
- Light refinishing of the wood performed on site?
- Full stripping and refinishing of the wood performed off site?
- Do your pews need significant alterations or repairs?
- Addition or replacement of loose church pew cushions?
- Addition or replacement of upholstery attached to the pew?
- Addition or replacement of kneelers?
- Addition or replacement of bookracks?
- Full replacement with new pews or wood chairs?
Are You Looking For New Wooden Church Pews
Pews are manufactured in a variety of styles and methods. When considering new pews, options are:
- Solid wood, non-cushioned pews
- Upholstered pew seats with wood backs
- Upholstered pew seats and backs
- Fully upholstered pew seats, backs, and fabric applied to the rear backs
- Loose cushions added to solid wood pews
- If your worship style or needs have changed, wood chairs may be a good option for replacing old church pews.
Updating Your Wood Church Pews
On-Site Refurbishment of Existing Church Pew Bench Versus Full Refinishing
A complete stripping to bare wood and refinishing of pews is performed off site whereas a cosmetic refresh or refurbishment is conducted on site with the pew benches remaining in place on-site.
On-Site Church Pew Refurbishment
Artech’s crew would refurbish pews on-site if the existing stain is in an overall good condition, but may need minor cosmetic work such as filling in a few scratches and touch-ups. Pews would be commercially cleaned, touch-ups performed, and then polyurethane top coats applied to seal the finish. Note: The stain color many not be changed in on-site work; crews work to blend to the existing finish color.
Minor repairs such as fixing damaged or missing decorative moldings and seat end caps or updates such as replacing or adding kneelers and hymn book racks can be performed at this time.
Off-Site Complete Refinishing of Solid Wood Church Pews
Solid wood Oak church pews with no existing upholstery are the best candidates for a full strip and refinishing of the wood, especially if a change of color is desired or if the existing finish is significantly worn or major repairs are required. A floorplan will be sketched, pews will be numbered and methodically removed from the sanctuary/nave, transported to our shop for refinishing, and then returned and reinstalled to their original locations.
Off-site refinishing can also be beneficial if there is other renovation work taking place or new floors are being installed under the pew field. This is an ideal time to remove the pews for full refinishing and returning them when the new flooring work is completed. There may also be a scenario where renovators cannot utilize lifts and/or scaffolding with the pews in place, or when the floor needs to be leveled. In these situations, the pews would need to be removed, so refinishing the pews offsite is recommended.
Refinishing Historic, Vintage, Antique, Outdated, and/or Uncomfortable Pews
If the existing solid wood pews are historic and/or have a body with a narrow front to back seat dimension (12” - 13” or less) and little or no back recline, they may be uncomfortable for today’s parishioners. You may want to consider adding a loose seat cushion or attached seat upholstery prior to refinishing the wood if you plan to keep the pews rather than replacing them. Similarly, if the pew style is outdated and/or of a poor quality, replacement with new seating may be warranted. If your historic, vintage or antique pews are in need of a refinish, we are able to refinish on-site, or change the finish color off-site.
If pews have upholstered seats, but solid wood backs and rears that need refinishing, you may elect on-site refurbishment or off-site refinishing.
Updating Your Upholstered Church Pews
On-Site Upgrading of Upholstered Church Pew Benches
An upholstered church pew bench has permanently affixed cushioning and fabric on the pew to make seating more comfortable. The upholstered cushion may be on the seat, and optionally on the back. A fully upholstered pew includes fabric on the rear side of the back, which is nailed on without a foam underlayment. Generally, church pews which have always been upholstered have either a plywood or particle board foundation and often veneered wood supports and end panels. For this reason, this type of pew may be reupholstered, but may not be able to be refinished or cost-effectively repaired.
A fully upholstered pew or one with seat and back upholstery is not recommended for full refinishing due to the limited amount of exposed wood that needs to be stripped and refinished. In this case, on-site refurbishment is recommended as the most cost-effective solution to improving the finish.
Refurbishing Fully Upholstered Church Pews On-Site
Since there is very little exposed wood on a fully upholstered church pew, the recommended course of action is to reupholster and refurbish them on site. This is a more cost-effective solution than removing them for an off-site full stripping and refinishing.
Church Pews Requiring Repairs or Alterations
Replacing Pew Ends
When pew ends are severely damaged, we can offer custom pew ends. Custom pew ends can be manufactured in virtually any wood species including Red Oak, Maple, Cherry, Sapele Mahogany, European Beech, White Oak, and many more. All our solid wood ends can be routed with custom symbols or designs to match your individual requirements of your antique and vintage church pews. We use wear-resistant AWI (Architectural Woodwork Institute) premium conversion varnish finish system.
Church Pews with Peeling Veneers
If the existing pew ends have peeling veneers there is not a cost-effective way to repair or replace those ends because each pew manufacturer has different methods of styling and fabricating their end panels and it is nearly impossible to match old veneers.
If new pews are not in the Church’s budget, the particle board could be stained to blend into the existing veneers and hide the damage as best as possible, but this is a temporary solution and eventually new pews would be recommended.
To make pews more comfortable, new foam and fabric can be put in the seats and back, and the pews can be reupholstered with a new color. We would only recommend this when budgets are very tight, as the pews would show additional wear in a few years.
Repairing Upholstered Pews with a Split Seat
Occasionally, when the old foam and fabric of the church pew cushion is removed from the seats, we will find the plywood has cracked. Another layer of plywood can be put on top before putting on the new foam and fabric, thereby reinforcing the seats. However, this is only in the scenario when the cracked seats are few or new pews are not financially feasible for a client.
Church Pews that Require Extensive Repairs or Alterations
Solid wood pews that need extensive repairs should be removed from the church for repairs and full refinishing or may be recommended for replacement with new pews if repair costs would approach a similar investment as new pews. Desired alterations may include cutting pews down to allow for disability accessibility, eliminating pews, or re-spacing rows to allow for changes to worship services. If refurbishment of existing pews is 80% to 90% the cost of new pews, it may be worthwhile to opt for new pews in lieu of reworking the existing pews.
Updating Used or Reclaimed Church Pews
Generally, we will refurbish or refinished used pews that a Church has purchased from another Church, but we do not typically buy or resell the used pews themselves. if you are purchasing new pews, we can help coordinate the sale of your existing pews.
Cosmetic Church Pew Upgrades and Accessories
Loose Church Pew Cushions
If you have solid wood pews and are seeking cushions to make them more comfortable, loose cushions may be your most affordable option. Our church pew cushions are custom made to fit each pew without sliding around on the seat. Cushions come standard in 2’’ thickness, which is optimal for comfort. Reversible pew cushions are a great value as they can be flipped over and reused on both sides. For a more traditional appearance and enhanced comfort, your congregation may want to consider adding Dacron batting wrapped around the foam core, which adds a soft, fluffy appearance to the finished cushion while the foam core offers firmness.
Addition of Custom Pew-Form or Flat-based Pew Cushions
An alternative to loose pew cushions or attached upholstery is pew-form or flat-based cushions that are fabricated to the exact dimensions and contour of your existing pew seats. A plywood base is made in our shop, covered with foam and fabric and finished with cord-welting on the front edges. Non-skid foam keeps the cushions from shifting, and the finished product is a cushion that appears built-on, but is not permanently attached. It is an ideal solution for all wood pews that need enhanced comfort without the on-site installation labor and staples that are required from affixed upholstery.
Addition or Replacement of Pew Bookracks
As part of Artech’s refurbishment and refinishing services, we can supply new bookracks to replace missing or damaged racks in a style similar to the existing and/or create custom bookracks upon request if matching to historic pews.
Contact us to discuss your bookrack needs in more detail.
Addition or Replacement of Church Pew Kneelers
Artech can help refurbish your existing church pew kneelers, kneeler pads, or provide new or replacement kneelers to fit your existing pews.
New Church Pews and Chairs
Are New Church Pews the Best Option for your Worship Space?
Today’s pews are engineered to have a deep seat and a nicely reclined seat back which are significantly more comfortable to sit on compared to older pew styles. If you are looking for increased comfort in your seating, replacing your existing pews with new pews may be your best option.
Historic pews were designed for style more than comfort and often built on-site and while assembled from solid wood, there were no industry standards to dictate pew dimensions or spacing. Your congregation must evaluate whether the investment in refurbishing, refinishing, and/or modifying historic pews is worth the investment versus replacing them with new seating that is designed specifically for your worship space and the comfort of your parishioners.
Many fixed-upholstery pews fabricated since the 1970’s were made particle board to keep costs down. Over time, particle board seats and backs will start falling apart. The seats can fail at the splice joints just below the foam where there are no supports. Therefore, the pews can be falling down, and churches will prop them back up with plywood, reinforcing it. The supports that go to the floor and up the back are also made of particle board, with veneer strips that can peel off so the particle board can be seen at the edges. It’s important to note that pews in this condition cannot be cost-effectively repaired. If your existing pews were built with particle board, then replacing them with new pews is the best decision.
Advantages of New Church Pews
Older pews often have a body style with a 12” or 13” seat with and little or no back recline that is very uncomfortable to sit on and often the rows are very tightly spaced back to back making entry and egress a challenge. New church pews will have a nice 16” front to back seat depth with a 5 inch back recline which is significantly more comfortable. People have asked about using reclaimed church pews instead of building new pews, but the cost to refinish and refurbish the pew, plus transportation and storage, with the lack of comfort that older church pews provide, really make purchasing new pews the best solution. New church pew dimensions are typically 24" front to back, rather than the 20" of older church pews. If there is a concern that new pews may reduce the existing seating capacity the church pews specifications of seat depth and back pitch of the new pews can be modified to minimize any loss of seating.
New Church Pew Dimensions
New church pews do not require the seat dividers that are present in many historic pews. Older pew dimensions would often only be a maximum of 8 feet in length, and a joiner needed to be used to connect the pews together. This joiner divides the seating area and causes a loss of several inches of seating per pew. New church pews can be much longer, and do not need to have the seat divider so their dimensions are custom to fit the needs of the church. Artech will work to maximize the seating capacity with your new church pew order..
Another technique to increase seating capacity or changes the aesthetic of the pew field is to replace straight pews with curved pews. Artech can provide a radius pew layout for you to compare with your existing pew plan so you can determine which is right for your congregation.
When we supply church pews, we use only the highest quality, premium natural hardwoods, plywood, and engineered wood core. No particle board is used. Every component is hand-sanded and handcrafted with superior attention to detail backed up by an industry leading warranty.
New Church Pew Styles
There are several different styles of pews that can complement the look of your church:
- Contemporary / Modern
- Curved / Radius pews
New pew styles can be all wood, have permanently affixed upholstery or be fitted with loose cushions after production.
Frequently Asked Questions About New Church Pews
What do church pews cost?
New wood church pews typically range between $80-$125 per foot delivered and installed. This price range is based on the Pew body Style, Pew End Style and accessories such as bookracks or kneelers. Special wood species, custom pew ends or bodies can be incorporated at an additional charge. Additional factors such as the overall footage of the project and whether the pews are straight or radius or mitered will also affect the price.
Artech will work with you to develop and maintain a budget for your pew project based on your exact specifications and desired options.
How long is a typical church pew?
There is no typical length pew, all pews are custom made to fit each church. Layout is dependent on local building codes for entry, egress, and aisles. Artech will work with you to maximize the seating capacity with your new pew order.
How many people can fit in a church pew?
You can estimate seating capacity by allocating an average 20" of pew width per person. For example: If you have a 10’-0” Pew x 12” = 120” and divided it by the 20” per person = 6 people per pew.
How wide should a church aisle be?
A typical center aisle is between 4’-0” to 6’-0” wide and side aisles (if present) should be a minimum of 3’0” wide. Local building codes will specify exact minimums in your area. When planning your aisle widths, take worship activities and special events such as weddings, funerals, and holiday services into consideration to ensure clergy and parishioners can move comfortably through the space. With new pew orders, Artech will provide a CAD drawing of the pew layout and take field measurements prior to production and installation to ensure local building codes are met.
Chairs to Replace Pews
If your worship services have changed over time or you no longer have a need or desire for a church pew bench, wood chairs may be the best option for your congregation. Artech can budget for chairs based on your existing seating capacity and then customize the layout based on your needs.
Summary of Pew Recommendations
- New pews are an excellent choice for increased comfort with a larger seat, removal of the seat dividers, improved back recline, if particleboard was used in construction or if the veneers on existing pews are peeling or chipped.
- Solid wood pews can be spot refurbished onsite, but if they are in poor condition, or if changing colors, the recommendation is to send them off-site to be fully stripped and refinished.
- Upholstered pews with solid wood ends, caps and supports can be refinished onsite, while replacing the foam and upholstery. Minor repairs to the seats can also be made for splits and sagging.
- Upholstered pews that have veneered ends and caps that are damaged, it may be possible to spot-stain areas, but the recommendation is to replace with new pews with solid wood ends, caps, and supports.
Artech will assist you in evaluating your options and making an educated decision on refurbishment versus refinishing versus new pews or wood chairs based on your specific situation and needs.