How to Replace a Jean or Pant Zipper

You know it’s time to replace a zipper when the teeth are missing or the zipper tab has pulled away from the teeth, like this one:

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It’s almost impossible to put the tab back on the track.

(But if the slide has broken off and the zipper is still intact, you can always just replace the slide. You can find replacements at most large fabric stores or online.)

This method works on jeans, slacks and skirts.

Here’s a post on how to replace a zipper in a jacket or coat.

Before you begin, measure the length of the existing zipper.


As you can see, I’ll need at least a 6 ” zipper for this pair of slacks. If you only have a longer zipper, go ahead and use it. Later, I will show you what to do with a zipper that is longer than the measured area.

If you can, ask your customer to measure the zipper, buy the one they like and bring it with them to the first appointment. I don’t like to have inventory of these on hand because I never know what size or color the customer would like, or if their first choice is even available. It’s much easier and less stressful to have them buy the one they’d like. That saves you time and hassle and you’ll have the one they like.

The zipper color does not have to match the fabric since it won’t be seen, once the garment is worn.

Once you have your zipper in hand, take it out of the package and set it aside.


Start taking out the old zipper using a seam ripper., paying close attention to how it was installed.

You’ll want to make mental notes of each step so that you can insert the new zipper in the same way the old one was put in.

This area at the bottom of the zipper (where my seam ripper is pointing to) is usually sewn in with a tight zig zag stitch or bar tack stitch. Be careful when removing these stitches as they are sewn in very tightly:


You can see that the top of the original zipper was cut off by the manufacturer:


Next, rip out the area of zipper where the pull tab is now in this photo:


Notice there is a double row of stitching here.


This photo below, shows how I’m almost finished ripping out both sides of the zipper:


Once you have the old zipper removed from the pants, insert the new zipper and begin to pin the left side as shown below:


Make sure you tuck the top of the zipper between the waistband and the front of the slacks. If it is too long, you can cut it, leaving an inch or so above the top of the zipper teeth (just like the manufacturer’s zipper had)

Next, I fit the front of the slacks over the pinning I just did, pulling out the pins as you sew. You can line up the zipper with the stitching holes left behind by the old zipper. Stitch right over the same holes where the original zipper was sewn. Use a denim or heavy duty needle, if you have one. Here’s a post about how to choose the right sewing machine needle for your project.


Continue stitching to the bottom of that section, pulling the top fabric until it meets about 1/8″ from the zipper teeth as you sew. You’ll know when to stop.

Now turn the pants upside down like in the photo below. This just makes it easier to pin the next section.


Now, flip just the left side of the zipper tape over to the right side, like this below:


Line up the zipper tape with the old sewing holes on the right side and pin. Stitch it in place, sewing over the old holes, or if you can’t see those, stitch about 1/4″ away from the zipper teeth being careful to remove the pins, but don’t move the zipper tape as you sew.

On the outside (right side) of the pants, stitch along the curve edge. You should be able to see the original stitching line. Stop sewing after about 3″ and backstitch to lock in your stitches. See photo below.

If you were to stitch all the way up to the waistband, you would sew the pants shut and you wouldn’t be able to put the slacks on! So, just sew about three inches. When you took the old zipper out, you probably noticed how they were done that way originally.


Once you backstitch and trim off your threads, pull the pants away from your machine and fold under the right side of the zipper, so that the right side doesn’t get caught up in the remainder of your stitching and continue stitching up to the waistband. This keeps that “fly” piece out of the way.

I forgot to take a photo of this step, but you can look at the very last photo and see what the stitching line should look like.

At this point, your waistband is still loose and open on each side.

If you have jeans, you can topstitch the waistband on in a matter of seconds.

Notice that on these slacks, the waistband is not topstitched down. Some of you will want to topstitch it because it is fast to do so, but I don’t like the look of a partially topstitched waistband. You could topstitch all around the whole waistband, but I like to match whatever the original finish was on the garment. In this case, I hand stitch the opening:


Then I stitch in the “ditch” where the two fabrics meet, as in the photo below. I went ahead and stitched it so you can see the stitches out in front of the needle. Those stitches will basically be hidden. You won’t notice them if you stitch as shown below:


Do the same on both sides of the waistband.

Many times the button is loose even before you start working on the zipper. I like to tighten that up or resew it as a courtesy to the customer.


There you have it….a new zipper easily installed!





How To Replace a Zipper in a Jacket or Coat

If you read my last post on How Much To Charge To Replace a Zipper, I promised I’d be back to show you how to put in a new zipper.

Here’s the jacket with the broken zipper:

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The zipper teeth didn’t hold together when the jacket was zipped:

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Before you begin, be sure and choose a zipper that is long enough for the jacket opening.

Try to buy a zipper that is the same length as the current zipper.

If that is not possible, get one that is longer.

You can always shorten the top of the zipper.

Here are two different types of jacket zippers:

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The zipper on the left is a heavy duty silver metal zipper.

The one on the right is made of durable nylon.

For this jacket, the metal zipper was chosen.

Before you buy the zipper, zip it up and down several times to make sure it doesn’t stick and that it actually works.

You’d hate to sew it in and find out it was defective.

You’d only do that once!

If your zipper tape is wrinkled, you could iron it, but be careful that you don’t hit the teeth on the nylon zippers with the hot iron.

I don’t usually have that problem with jacket zippers.

But occasionally, a dress or pant zipper is wrinkled.

Let’s begin.

I start by grabbing my seam ripper and beginning just below the zipper, start taking out the stitches:

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Pull out all of the stitches on both sides of the jacket.

As you can see, in this jacket, there is another row of stitching right next to the zipper tape.

It needs to come out too:

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Here is what this jacket looks like as the zipper is being taken out.

I think it’s funny that the manufacturer used pink thread:

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Here’s another look… near a snap:

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I’ll show you how to deal with the snap in a moment.

Before I take the zipper out of the top edge of the jacket, I pay attention to any detail I need to, so that I can put the new zipper back in the same way, if possible.

The zipper tape at the top is usually folded back inside the jacket so it doesn’t show from the outside.

You can’t see it very well on this jacket, but just take mental notes of your jacket as you disassemble the area:

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Once you take out the entire zipper, be sure to take out all the loose little threads.

Sometimes, a lint roller is very helpful with this:

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I insert the new zipper making sure the correct side of the zipper is on the corresponding correct side of the jacket and pin it every couple of inches:

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I like to pin because it anchors the zipper down enough so it doesn’t move as I sew.

If you are uncomfortable doing this, you can always hand baste the zipper in place.

Be sure to pin or baste the zipper so that the zipper slide won’t get caught in the fabric edge when you zip it.

I don’t measure this. I just eyeball it and give it about an eighth of an inch clearance.

Make sure that the lining of the jacket is lined up correctly to before you pin or baste.

You don’t want that bunched up on the back side at all.

Now, let’s talk about the snaps, if you have them.

When you get to a snap, you may notice that the zipper tape doesn’t fit down into the “hole” too well.

The snap is in the way.

Do you see how the zipper tape rises too high because of the snap?

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I place a pin right next to the snap on the zipper tape (see photo below).

It doesn’t have to be perfect placement as you’ll see in a moment.

You just want a visual marker:

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Next, with a pair of scissors, notch out a little semi circle on the zipper tape just below your pin, like this:

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That semi circle is going to fit around the snap.

Now, remove that “marker” pin.

It has done its job.

Place the zipper tape back in the “hole” and continue pinning:

See how slick that looks?

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Your zipper will not pull out because you have that notch. Your stitches will hold it in place.

Trust me on this!

Once the entire zipper is pinned in, put your zipper foot onto your sewing machine.

I also use a denim weight needle.

They are better suited for a jacket, than an all purpose needle.

Begin stitching and be sure to back stitch so your stitches don’t come out later.

Stitch on the stitching line where the original zipper was, being careful not to run over your pins.

Take them out just before you get to them:

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When you get to a snap, just stay on course.

You shouldn’t have any trouble staying on the original stitching line.

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You might think from the photo above that there would be a small pucker.

To avoid that, I just make sure to hold it tightly as I sew.

Let’s look at how that stitching line looks near the snap:

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When you reach the bottom of the zipper, you’ll notice that the zipper tape has a thick, stiff area about one inch long.

I go slowly over this area.

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Sometimes, I may even “walk” my needle over the stiff area so that I don’t break my needle.

You may have noticed that the original zipper ended a few inches above the bottom edge of the jacket:

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The new zipper was longer and it fit perfectly into the bottom of the jacket:

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If your zipper is too long, just fold the excess under at the top of the jacket before you stitch it in.

If it is several inches too long, cut the excess leaving about an inch or more so you can fold it under at the top.

Some people don’t like any bulk from the zipper, so they cut it off.

If you do that, just make sure you have some extra so you don’t have a raw edge at the top.

You may need to satin stitch the top zipper teeth so that the zipper slide (or pull) doesn’t come off. To do that, set your stitch width to the widest setting you have on your sewing machine. Then, set your stitch length to zero. You don’t want your needle to move forward while you stitch this wide stitching in place.

Remember that second line of stitching that was next to the zipper tape? You don’t need to worry about that.

This one row will hold your zipper in tightly.

Here is the finished zipper:

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It’s easy to replace a zipper. It just takes a little time, but the effort is so worth it!




How Much Do You Charge To Replace a Zipper?

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I get this question all the time.

The short answer: “It depends.”

The long answer:  “It depends, and here’s why….”

First, make sure the zipper needs replacing.

You wouldn’t believe how many customers I’ve had over the years,  who just need a new zipper slide (also called a pull).

So, ask a few key questions while you have them on the phone before you take on the job.

Otherwise, you schedule them in, they come over and you figure out that may not be what they needed.

It’s a waste of their time and yours.

If the zipper slide is broken, they can go to JoAnn’s and buy a new one. They can also buy them online.

The customer can do the replacement themselves and it saves them alot of money and you alot of time.

I’ve found that my customers really appreciate the honesty and the fact that they didn’t have to replace a zipper (which is much more costly than replacing the slide). I find they’ll come back to you in the future for other alterations and they’ll recommend you to others.

If your customer doesn’t want to replace the slide, you could do that for a small fee.

We have a canvas store in town that will replace them for you for about a dollar!

They have all sorts of zipper slides and parts and the tools to make the job easy.

But, let’s say that the customer really does need a new zipper….

Rule #1…always, always, have the customer go and buy the replacement zipper for you and bring it to you.

(Have I preached that lesson too many times?)

Two reasons why: first, they get what they like (You don’t have to guess) and second, you don’t have to spend that time shopping. Remember, time is money (or lost money).

Now, are you sitting down?

For the most part, I don’t replace zippers anymore!

Yes, you heard me right.

Crazy, huh?

Generally, and I repeat, generally, the cost to replace them is more than the customer wants to spend on the replacement.

However, if they love their jacket or coat, they are willing to spend the money to get it replaced.

You will learn that some are easier and faster to remove than others.

It’s the removal that takes the majority of your time.

If your customer wants to save money, you could have them take the old zipper out and you just charge them to put the new one in.

I’ve offered that many times.

A few of you use the scalpel type seam ripper, because you say that it is much faster than conventional ripping, but it is something I have not dared to try on my customers items. You are brave!

Since I am used to sewing mostly bridal wear, I am conditioned to think that the garment is expensive and I need to be careful.

So, I use a regular seam ripper.

There are other things to consider as well.

The length of the zipper is a consideration for tearing out and replacing. Denim jeans zippers are only 7-9 inches in length, but getting the new one back in can be quite difficult on certain brands.


Your machine may not be sturdy enough to handle a thick section of the jeans or jacket.

That being said, here is a post on how to replace a zipper on a jacket..the jacket pictured above.

And here is a post on how to replace a jean or pant zipper.

Sleeping bags have enormous zippers.

Jackets and dresses have medium length zippers.

January 2, 2018 Update: There are so many facets to zippers and zipper replacement that it is difficult to give you a flat rate. In fact, there are many considerations when setting your rate for doing all sorts of sewing and alterations. That is why I’ve written a comprehensive e-book with all those details. It is packed full of every kind of pricing scenario you can think of for all of your sewing…and it’s only $4.99! I think you’ll agree its the best $4.99 you’ll ever spend. You’ll get your money’s worth in the first half hour you use it!

Here is the link to the Pricing e-book:

Pricing Strategies for Your Sewing or Alterations Business

If you’d like to know all the facets of starting your own business, check out this e-book:

A Jump Start Guide to Starting Your Own Sewing or Alteration Business