The frame, seating support and the filling all determine your sofa’s level of comfort, and its ability to retain its shape and stability in the years to come. Here are some tips to help you judge a sofa for quality.
- The best frame is made out of kiln-dried hardwood. The process of kiln drying removes all moisture from the wood, enabling it to retain its shape and stability over a long period of time. A frame made of green wood can shrink or crack. Knotted wood can also cause cracks.
- In a good quality frame, special attention is paid to the joints, which are glued, dowelled and screwed. The corners are further strengthened by the addition of reinforcing blocks. These provide extra support.
- Generally plywood and particleboard frames are inferior, especially if they are held together with staples. However, additional layers of plywood may help reinforce the frame, so construction matters as much as material. In case you have to choose a sofa with a plywood frame, make sure it has 11- 13 layers of plywood and not fewer.
A sturdy frame provides an anchor for good seating support, while filling augments it.
You should always test the quality of seating support by sitting on a sofa before you buy it. It shouldn’t sag, but provide good support in the seat and in the back.
- The best seating support is the eight-way hand tied springs system. The craftsman connects each spring to the adjoining one with a strong twine. The twine passes front to back, side to side and then diagonally in both directions thus tying each spring securely.
- Another method is sinuous spring construction. Sinuous springs are “S” shaped and run from the front of the seat to the back. These springs are supported by additional wires that cross from side to side. This also makes for a strong seat, and it might be the preferred option in a sleeker style as it requires less space.
- The third option is web suspension in which bands of webbing cross the seat and back. These are then attached to the frame to make a platform for the cushions. Webbing can be made of either natural or man-made fibers, and if used alone doesn’t make for very strong support. However, in better quality sofas, it used with a tensioner that fastens the webbing securely to the frame. The web suspension is the least preferable of the seating support options.
Now that you have considered the frame and seating support, it is time to look at what kind of filling is used for the cushions.
- If you want a really soft seat then consider down cushions. These are considered to be the premium choice, and as you might imagine they are also among the most expensive. High quality cushions will have down proof ticking under the upholstery fabric to prevent feathers from poking through. Be warned that cushions filled just with down are very high maintenance requiring daily attention.
- Down used in combination with other materials is also a good option, but also expensive. Pads made out of a Dacron® polyester fiber and down, known as Blendown pads, are wrapped around high density foam.
- These pads can also be used with springs that have been wrapped up in foam. High density foam surround the springs that are then wrapped in down pads. The result is a soft surface with a strong, resilient support inside. This is a good option as the cushions do not lose their shape easily.
- The most common filling is high density polyurethane. Obviously, the higher the density, the firmer the cushion will be. Foam can be wrapped in softer material or cotton to make it softer. Dacron wrapped foam is the cheapest option, but again it won’t last as long.
- Make sure that you are getting high density foam, as lower quality foam can start breaking down pretty quickly.
In the end, quality doesn’t come cheap, but a good quality sofa will stay more comfortable and retain its looks for a long time. So consider buying the best quality that you can afford.