May 2, 2013

Need a new sofa? Here's how to select one!

Do you need a new sofa? Style and scale are very important but durability is critical. An investment in a piece of furniture you sit in daily should be well-thought out. Don't opt for throwaway pieces that last 2-8 years and then wear out or collapse.  Make a one-time purchase that will last 20 years. Know the details and why one style is better; If you have children a tight back will be easier to maintain than one with multiple cushions and pillows.  If you love modern style, stay away from rolled arms and camel backs and opt for a sofa with straight lines and less detail. As for the 'guts', here are five tips for you to test the piece:

A sectional should be sized correctly for your space.

    1) Check the Frame
     A sturdy frame means a long-lasting sofa. Soft wood, like pine, is low-cost, but it can warp or wobble after just five years. Hardwood (kiln-dried oak, ash, or beech) is more durable. Avoid frames made of particleboard, plastic, or metal; they will warp and crack. Legs should be part of the frame or held on with screws or dowels (pegs) — not with glue alone. To test frame strength, lift one front corner or leg of the sofa off the floor. There should be no 'give' or bending in the frame and it should feel heavy. 
    2) Ask About Joinery A frame with joints connected by any of the following means is solidly constructed: wooden dowels, double wooden dowels, wooden corner blocks (the tag might read corner blocks glued and screwed), or metal screws and brackets. Staples or nails may be used for extra reinforcement, but never buy a sofa that's held together solely by staples, nails, or glue. Ask for written manufacturer information on frame joinery. 
Traditional roll-arm sofa and chair with modern legs.
    3) Test the Springs: Most sofas have sinuous or serpentine springs. They're supportive but can press on the frame & sag over time if the metal isn't heavy. The gold standard is 8-way hand-tied springs which are very comfortable and durable but a bit more expensive. Feel the springs through the upholstery - they should be close together and firm. Beware of sofas without springs; webbing or mesh are uncomfortable and flimsy. Sit down firmly on a corner or outside edge of a sofa you're considering. Squeaks and creaks suggest that springs are incorrectly placed or hitting the frame. 
    4) Check the Fillings:  Unzip the cushions and look inside. Polyurethane foam is a low-cost, easy-care cushion filling. The more durable, high-density type feels firmer. Softer, low-density foam deteriorates more rapidly with constant use. High-resilient (HR) foam is slightly more expensive but more comfortable and long-lasting. Polyester fiber is inexpensive but it flattens quickly. Goose and duck feather fillings are comfy, but they can clump so cushions need frequent fluffing. A down-poly fiber blend is cheaper but also flattens fast. Two good options that are comfortable and reasonably priced: HR foam in a layer of down and conventional foam wrapped in polyester batting or a down envelope. The best: A series of springs encased in high density foam and then wrapped in a channeled bag with a mixture of feathers and down.
    5) Select the RIGHT Fabric: Sofas for everyday use need durable fabric. Where the sofa will be used should be your guide for fabric selection. Cotton and linen are good choices but watch out for loose weaves since they can snag. Synthetic microfibers are fabulous, washable and stain resistant. Cotton and linen can be treated for stain resistance, but even then they aren't as easy to clean, or as durable. Blends of natural and synthetic fibers tend to pill so beware. Wool and leather are beautiful and strong but more expensive. Silk is sleek but fragile. Fabrics with patterns woven in tend to wear better than those with printed patterns.