So I just started here at (insert large IT company) and I was lucky enough to join a team moving into the new buildings on campus. I really wasn't feeling the plain gray and white cube walls in my part of the bullpen, at all. We decided to have a cube decorating contest amongst my team, so I took that opportunity to reupholster my cube walls. Looking around on the internet, I couldn't find any kind of guides or anything for taking apart cube walls or reupholstering them.. so I thought I'd make one, for all those of you out there wanting to know you're not alone in wanting to recover your walls.
The tools are common and easy to find in an office environment. Basic phillips-head screw driver (I found having two of these and a bored co-worker really helps), and a set of alan wrenches. Different cubicals require different tools.. but those are the only two I needed for taking mine apart. As far as the reupholstering goes: masking tape, fabric pins, scissors, and the fabric(s) of your choice. I also got fake grass, butterflies and some river rocks for my "atrium".
Step 1: Take It All Apart
So this is probably the quickest and most fun step. Take apart the cubical!! Each cubical set is different, so because of that, I don't really see the point of describing it in detail. The first wall that you take apart will probably take you awhile to do, discovering all the tricks and what-not. But by the time you move on the second, it should just take a couple of seconds.
With my wall set, there were two screws in the top bar of each cube section. Once I removed those and the bar, taking the panels off was as simple as lifting them up a bit, tilting the bottom out towards me, and then lifting them all the way off. You have to remove the panels top to bottom, and the lowest panel is actually attached to the frame. I haven't figured out a way to remove it on purpose (one fell off on me when I knocked it on accident.. now I can't get it back on), but I found they don't really need to come off to reupholster them. The black cross bars are removed easily by removing two screws, and the vertical bars are just held in by a clip (no screwing required). If you're going to remove an entire cube section, you'll need the alan wrench to loosen four or so clips, which you can then twist up and slide the section out. I only removed a quarter wall from behind me so I can see my coworkers more easily, which just required removing a cross bar and two vertical bars. We did however remove an entire wall section across from us so we'd have a shortcut to our other coworkers.
Step 2: Get Fabric, Make Push-pin Friendly Panels
Fabric time!! I got mine from IKEA, hidden back in pillow covers and the like. It's very thick, kinda expensive, but totally worth it for getting only a couple of yards. The thicker fabric is best for the metal panels, while cheap stuff from Walmart works fine on the cloth ones. I bought two patterns for the four mid-panels I had, getting 2 yards of each fabric. I bought 6 yards of cheap black fabric from Walmart for the big lower panels. Overall I spent about $35 on all my fabrics, and still had enough to cover the cushion top on my file cabinet, and a pillow or two. If you get cheaper fabric, or something on sale, you could probably do this for under $20 very easily.
I also decided that I was going to make my metal panels push-pin friendly. I only have one cloth mid-panel and the big, heavy metal isn't magnetic, which made it annoying even before I covered it in thick material.. so I decided I'd take advantage of the groves. I found a roll of plastic grip stuff at IKEA for $2 and decided that'd be perfect. I was planning on using cardboard until I found that stuff. I cut the plastic into strips just wide enough to cover one or two of the slits, then used masking tape to secure them. Nothing too complicated, right? And it works great!
Step 3: Get Your Upholster On
So this is pretty self-explanatory, but takes a long time. Reupholstering the panels.
The cloth panels are very simple and don't really need much explanation. Just make sure that you keep the pattern straight (if that's what you want) and you pull the fabric tight. I used fabric pins to pin the fabric (funny that, right?) and just pinned the top first, stretched it tight and pinned the other three sides. Remember not to cover the hooks.
The metals ones were a little more annoying. I used masking tape to hold the fabric on and double covered the corners so the fabric doesn't rip. The bottom of the panels had a rubber strip on them to make a "seal" against the panel below them, so I have to keep the fabric loose enough to take that into consideration. Lots of tape. Lots and lots of tape. I ended up using almost an entire roll of masking tape, but that's alright. By taping you don't ruin the panels, it's easy to remove and makes the fabric reusable.
Make sure you don't make the hooks unusable! I found that with my panels, taping them doesn't make the useless, as long as you make sure the tape fits them exactly.
Step 4: Reassembly & Final Touches
Putting the cube panels back together is just slightly more difficult then taking them apart. I have to cut slits in the fabric of the metal panels on the back because I accidently covered where the clips on the crossbars hold onto it. Other than that, it was simple enough to just angle the panel, put the drop hooks in, angle it down so the bottom hooks get in place and then drop it down so it's held strong. The glass panels were the trickiest part, mainly because I was trying not to knock down the grass or lose the rocks.
I bought the grass, rocks, and butterflies at Michelle's, probably all for $10. The butterflies that had wires on the back that I scotched tape to the glass. The big leaves I got from the IKEA kids section for $15 a piece and the various other toys and things I've had for years.
I actually didn't rescrew the top rails on.. just put the screws in a drawer for later. I didn't see the point of rescrewing (they're long screws) if there was a chance management or something would tell me the take it all down. So yeah. I guess that's it. Please let me know if I left anything out or if you have any questions.