You Get What You Pay For
In the end, the price of a sofa is a reflection of the quality of its parts. “Think about how long you expect your sofa to last, and that will help you decide how much you want to invest in it,” says Lael Thompson, chief operations officer of Broyhill Home Collections. “If you spend $499 on a sofa, then you can expect it to last about four years, whereas an $800-$900 sofa will last you 8-10 years. Basically, for every additional $100 you spend, you’ll get another year out of it. So, adjust your price expectations before you start shopping.”
Overall, the thing to remember is that good quality isn’t going to be found in the cheapest sofa available. However, if you invest in a well-made sofa, it will be more comfortable and look great for a long time.
Is the Price Right?
Sofa prices are often a measure of quality, so know what you’re getting.
- by Trisha Kemerly
Price is one of the biggest considerations people have when shopping for a new sofa. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most confusing. Sofa prices can run from $199 to $10,000! So how much is a good quality sofa worth?
“You spend some of your most cherished moments—moments entertaining family and friends—in your living room,” explains Alex Shuford III, vice president of upholstery at Century Furniture. “The sofa is literally the center of that space, and the quality of that sofa determines its comfort and appearance both on the first day you own it, but also years later. Make your purchase with both fashion and long-term pride of ownership as determining factors.” Here are a few quick tips on how to judge the quality of the furniture you want to buy.
Look Past First Impressions
You know the saying, “Beauty is only skin deep”? The same really applies to upholstery, too. The comfort and quality of a sofa (or other upholstered piece) is based on the things that you can’t see—the frame, springs and padding. Learn more about how these things factor into the quality of a sofa:
- Kiln-dried, hardwood frames (such as oak, maple or ash) are a must for ensuring long-term durability and shape retention. Soft woods (such as pine), green wood or knotted wood are rarely used as they are more likely to warp or split.
- Quality frames are secured with some combination of dowels, screws, glue, staples and corner blocks (ideally a combination of these).
- Plywood and particleboard frames are not preferable, especially if they are held together with staples.
- Eight-way hand-tied springs are used in the base of better quality pieces of upholstered furniture. This construction consists of a series of coils which are attached to webbing on the bottom of the sofa or chair and tied with twine at the top to each of the eight adjacent coils to prevent them from shifting. This system creates an even seating level and prevents “give” in the frame, offering more and longer-lasting comfort.
- Sinuous springs are heavy-gauge, steel wires that are “S” shaped or zig-zagged. This system offers a somewhat softer seat. Sinuous springs are typically less expensive and should not be expected to last as long as coil springs, but they are still a good option.
- “Drop-in” machine-tied: A pre-assembled, machine-made coil system designed to simulate the hand-tied version. Generally considered to be of lower quality than sinuous springs.
- Web suspension: features bands of webbing cross the seat and back. These are then attached to the frame to make a platform for the cushions. This is the least durable, and therefore preferable, of the seating support options.
Cushioning and Padding
- The premium choice for comfortable seats are down cushions. High-quality cushions will also feature down-proof ticking under the upholstery fabric to prevent feathers from poking through.
- Down-blend wraps are another high-quality option. Cushions consist of a pad made out of Dacron (a synthetic, polyester fiber) and down (known as Blendown).
- Spring-down cushions consist of innerspring coils that are surrounded by high-density foam then wrapped in down pads, creating a soft surface with a strong, resilient support inside—a good option for its support and ability to retain its shape more easily.
- A common (and the least expensive) option is high-density, polyurethane foam wrapped in Dacron. It’s the cheapest option, but it also won’t last as long.
Fabrics and Leather
- Today, upholstery coverings include cloth, leather and many new high-tech synthetics. Typically, fabrics are labeled by “grades,” which range from “A” on the less expensive end to “F” on the pricey side. Grades are based on variables such as intricacy of the weave, fiber content, construction and performance characteristics—all factors that affect the overall cost.
- Keep in mind that grade is not an indication of quality or durability. It’s just an indicator of how expensive the fabric was to make. Read the details on the fabric card attached to the swatch in the store and make your decision accordingly.
- Leather is another option, and it is divided into four types: aniline, semi-aniline nubuck and pigmented leathers. Similar to fabrics, leathers are given grades, with lower grades typically beginning at “A” or “1.” The highest quality leathers are “full grain,” followed by “top grain,” “split grain” and “bonded leather.”