Ask an Upholsterer: Tips for Buying a Sofa

Let’s face it; sofas aren’t cheap.  When I purchase one, I definitely think of it as an investment and want to feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.  I want my sofa to both look good and feel comfortable for years to come.  Not too much to ask, right? 

The key is just to know what to look for. 

As I’ve previously mentioned, my husband, Gary, is an upholsterer with 35 years of experience.  Over the years, he’s learned that the following elements really make a difference in the life of a sofa:

A solid frame is the foundation of any quality sofa.

In particular, a hardwood frame (with dowelled and glued joints and screwed and glued corner blocks) is best. But don’t forget about the springs.  Generally speaking there are two types of springs:  8-way hand-tied springs and no-sag springs. 

For high quality and comfort, look for an 8-way hand-tied coil spring seat deck

While no-sag springs are good for the back part of the sofa, these springs are considered to be of lesser quality than the 8-way hand-tied coil springs when used as a seat deck.

Sounds like a lot of technical jargon, huh?  Well, just remember: hardwood frame and 8-way hand-tied springs and you should be good to go.

Layers are essential when it comes to frame padding. 

The first layer of frame padding should be synthetic fabric.  Synthetic fabric will cover the springs and any other part of the sofa frame where upholstery fabric will eventually be applied.  The second, third, and fourth layers of frame padding should be: cotton, foam, and dacron, respectively.  In Gary’s opinion, this four-layer process to padding a sofa frame provides the best support and shape for the sofa before upholstery fabric is applied. 

A sofa will lose its shape more quickly when less and inferior types of padding are used.

Choose seat cushions and pillow backs wisely. 

Seat cushions should be filled with a good quality foam, wrapped with dacron.  Foam is available in different thickness and density for your comfort, so keep this in mind when shopping around.  

Loose pillow backs should be filled with a foam core, again for comfort and also to hold shape.  Some loose pillow backs are filled with just dacron.  These pillow backs will not hold shape as well as pillow backs with a foam core. 

Fabric content matters—don’t just pick something because it’s pretty!

Unless of course, you plan to look at your sofa more than sit on it (hey, we all have rooms like that).  So if this is you, then by all means just go for looks because fabric content won’t matter so much for your purposes. 

On the other hand, if you plan to use your sofa daily and you want it to last; you’ll want a sofa that is upholstered with fabric that is very durable.  For example, polyester fabric is a good choice because it wears well. Cotton fabric does not.  However, a blended fabric of both polyester and cotton fibers is a good choice also.

In conclusion…

A quality sofa should have a good frame, good springs, good foam, and good craftsmanship.



Filed under Ask an Upholsterer

2 responses to “Ask an Upholsterer: Tips for Buying a Sofa

  1. Pingback: Ask an Upholsterer: Think Twice Before You Trash Grandma’s Sofa « Fabulous Interiors, LLC

  2. Nice sofa. White never fails!

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