December 10, 2008

Shopping For A Sofa

While most sofas last at least a decade, a top quality couch can handle wear and tear for up to 25 years. Since you’ll likely be living with your sofa for many years to come, here are some important tips for making an informed purchase:


A high-quality sofa frame will be made of 100% hardwood, such as oak, ash, birch or maple. A lower-quality sofa will typically be made with a light-weight particle board or pine, which won’t last as long.

When shopping for sofas, you’ll come across the term “kiln-dried frame.” This is a mark of quality and means that the frame has been oven-dried and contains little moisture so it won’t warp over time.

The construction of the sofa’s frame is another important consideration. Top quality sofa construction means corners are re-enforced with blocks and joints are double-doweled or mortise-and-tenon, screwed and glued.

For the best support, look for a sofa with a centre leg and that doesn’t squeak or wobble when you sit on it. Be sure to squeeze the arms and back of the sofa — a good quality piece should have lots of thick padding covering these areas.


The best and most expensive sofas have an 8-way hand-tied coil spring system. This type of system consists of heavy-gauge vertical coil springs that are set into the base’s jute webbing with steel clips and then attached to each other with waxed twine using eight knots on each spring. This type of system should offer the most comfort over the longest period of time. More affordable sofas will have a sinuous or zig-zag spring system consisting of “S” shaped wires that are attached to the frame at the front and back and then covered with padding and upholstery. This type is also found in more modern sofa designs that don’t have the depth required for vertical coils.

The Cushions

Top quality sofa cushions are typically made up of high-density polyurethane foam wrapped in a thick layer of down or cotton batting. While soft and luxurious (and more expensive), 100% down cushions require more fluffing after someone sits on them; foam-core down cushions offer softness but are more firm. Good quality foam cushions should have extra padding and a Dacron barrier between the foam and upholstery layer (check by unzipping the cushions in the store). Foam density is another consideration: a rating of 1.8 to 2.5 lb. per cubic ft. is ideal.

The Fabric

Most major retail furniture stores offer a selection of fabrics to choose from or may allow you to provide your own (this option is referred to as C.O.M. or customer’s own material). When selecting a fabric, consider your lifestyle and how the sofa will be used: Do you have kids or pets? Will this sofa be used daily or just on occasion? The fabric choice will have a significant impact on the total price of the sofa, how it looks and feels and how much wear and tear it will be able to withstand over time. Highly durable fabrics include twill, ultra suede and leather.

The Cost

A good quality sofa with solid construction, suspension and cushions will typically start around $2,000 and can run as high as $6,000. If you want an investment piece that you can enjoy for decades to come, be sure to select a classic design with timeless appeal.

If you’re looking for a more trendy model that you’ll likely replace in a couple of years, a lower-end sofa with a plywood frame and zig-zag springs should do the trick and will cost between $500 and $1,000.