Were you ever a fan of the television series that began in the early 2000’s called, How it’s Made? It’s a documentary type show that explores how typical everyday objects or products we seldom stop to think about are made. For example, enjoying a good book while lounging on a sofa is something people often do and enjoy, but have you ever stopped to think about how traditional book binding happens with the very book you’re holding in your hand? Or how the sofa you’re sitting is constructed? There’s an intricate process, skill, and sometimes a great amount of tradition behind what seems to be simple everyday products. Which is why the television series continues to be a popular show today, people divulge in understanding what happens behind the scenes, what’s on the inside, and why it really matters.
When you’re out shopping for new furnishings for your home and you see something you like, it’s usually based on how the item looks at first sight, the colour, shape, and style. For smaller purchases like photo frames and other decorative accents, it wouldn’t take a lot of research for you to determine whether or not it’s a “good quality” product before you decide to buy it however, for larger purchases like a set of new couches for example, it would be beneficial to learn more about what’s under the surface, especially if you want to enjoy your purchase for years to come.
Inside a Couch’s Construction
When it comes down to judging the quality of a sofa, go beyond the price tag and how it looks. You could find identical sofas in two separate stores at completely different costs because quality goes much deeper than appearance. You wouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, right? And you wouldn’t buy a car without looking under the hood, well at least we hope you wouldn’t! Well, the same rule of thumb applies to purchasing couches. The quality is determined from the inside out. Don’t just sit on the showroom model for a couple minutes, snap your fingers, and exclaim “I’ll take it!” without understanding these fundamentals of a couch:
Think of the frame as the shoes you would wear to take you thousands of miles. The longevity of a couch largely depends on the quality of the frame. With that being said, the best way to determine the quality of the frame is to know your woods. Soft wood, such as pine, is low-cost, but it may warp or wobble after five years. The best frames are made out of hardwood such as kiln-dried oak, ash, or beech. They are more durable and would have a higher price tag.
Check the joints of the frame, good-quality frames are put together with dowels, screws, glued, and reinforced with blocks for added support as opposed to plywood frames which are stapled.
Tip: Want to test drive the frame? Lift one front corner or leg of the sofa off the floor. By the time you’ve raised it six inches, the other front leg should have risen too. If it’s still touching the floor, the frame has too much give; it’s weak.
You’re probably lifting your couch off the floor right now, aren’t you?
The cushion filling is what determines the overall comfort of the couch and it’s ability to retain it’s shape over the years to come. First things first, look for a couch that has high-density foam to lessen the breakdown after so much use to avoid cushions that will become saggy and deflated. The higher the density, the more firm the couch cushions will feel initially so, if you sit on a cushion and it feels too firm to begin with, remember that it still needs to get “broken into”. The most common filling is high-density polyurethane, while dacron-wrapped foam is a cheaper alternative, but it is not usually long-lasting.
The seating support works in tandem with the frame in a way that a sturdy frame will provide a good foundation the seating support. This may just sound like a bunch of the same words jumbled up into a fancy explanation but, here’s the simplest way to test the seating support: Sit down on sofa. I bet you’ve been waiting for this part after all that lifting and filling! The seat should not sag inwards and you should feel strong support in the back sitting comfortably upright.
Test the springs: Most sofas have what is called, serpentine springs which are shaped like a snake in a repetitive ‘S’ shaped pattern. These provide nice support but are also the type that is likely to sink over time and press against the frame if the spring isn’t made of heavy metal. Just to ensure the serpentine springs are made of durable, strong metal before purchasing a couch built with this type of seating support.
High-quality sofas are often made with “eight-way hand-tied springs.” They are noticeably comfortable right off the bat however, tend to be on the more expensive side. Feel the springs through the upholstery — they should be close together and firm. Sofas that have no springs and are supported with merely webbing or mesh, are uncomfortable and flimsy.
Tip: Sit down firmly on a corner or outside edge of a sofa you’re considering. If you’re hearing squeaks or creaks than it may suggest that springs are incorrectly placed or hitting the frame. Steer clear of a couch like this!