How to Judge the Quality of a Sofa

Assessing the frame, seating and cushions

Young couple looking at sofa in furniture store
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If you want to judge the quality of a sofa, go beyond what it looks like. Quality goes deeper than looks, and that is why two identical-looking sofas can vary so much in price. What lies inside determines how your sofa rates for quality.

The frame, seating support and filling not only determine your sofa’s level of comfort but also its ability to retain its shape and stability in the years to come.

Here's a closer look:

The Frame

How long a sofa will last and retain its shape depends largely on the frame, and a high-quality sofa always has a strong, sturdy one.

  • The best frame is made out of kiln-dried hardwood. The process of kiln drying removes all moisture from the wood, enabling it to retain its shape and stability over a long period of time. A frame made of green wood can shrink or crack as it dries. Soft wood can bend and break easily, while knotted wood is prone to cracks.
  • In a good-quality frame, the joints get special attention. They are glued, dowelled, and screwed. The corners are further strengthened by the addition of reinforcing blocks for extra support and strength.
  • Generally speaking, plywood and particleboard frames are inferior, especially if they are held together with staples. However, additional layers of plywood can help reinforce the frame, so as you can see, construction matters as much as material. If you must choose a sofa with a plywood frame, make sure it has at least 11 to 13 layers of plywood.

    Seating Support

    The seating support is also an important component in determining the quality of a sofa. It works in tandem with the frame and the filling. A sturdy frame provides an anchor for good seating support and filling augments it. You should always test the quality of seating support by sitting on a sofa before you buy it.

    It shouldn't sag, and it should provide good support in the seat and in the back.

    • The eight-way hand tied springs system is one of the best support systems. The craftsman connects each spring to the adjoining one with a strong twine. The twine passes front to back, side to side and then diagonally in both directions, thus tying each spring securely.
    • Another method is sinuous spring construction. Sinuous springs are “S”-shaped and run from the front of the seat to the back. These springs are supported by additional wires that cross from side to side. This also makes for a strong seat, and it might be the preferred option in a sleeker style or smaller frame because it requires less space.
    • The third option is web suspension, in which bands of webbing cross the seat and back. These are then attached to the frame to make a platform for the cushions. Webbing can be made of either natural or man-made fibers, and if it is used alone doesn’t make for very strong support. However, in better-quality sofas, it is used with a tensioner that fastens the webbing securely to the frame. The web suspension is the least preferable of the seating support options.

      Cushion Filling

      Now that you have considered the frame and seating support, it is time to look at what kind of filling is used for the cushions.

      • The most common filling is high-density polyurethane. Obviously, the higher the density, the firmer the cushion will be. Foam can be wrapped in softer material or cotton to make it softer. Dacron-wrapped foam is the cheapest option, but it won’t last as long.
      • Make sure that you are getting high-density foam because lesser-quality foam can start breaking down pretty quickly, causing sags, and the fabric does not stay taut when that happens.
      • If you want a really soft seat, consider down cushions. These are considered to be the premium choice, and as you might imagine they are also among the most expensive. High-quality cushions have down-proof ticking under the upholstery fabric to prevent feathers from poking through. Cushions filled just with down are high-maintenance and can need daily attention.
      • Down used in combination with other materials is also a good option but also another expensive option. Pads made out of a Dacron polyester fiber and down, known as Blendown pads, are wrapped around high-density foam.
      • These pads can also be used with springs that have been wrapped up in foam. High-density foam surrounds the springs, which are then wrapped in down pads. The result is a soft surface with a strong, resilient support inside. This is a good option because the cushions do not lose their shape easily.

      Bottom line: Quality doesn’t come cheap, but a good-quality sofa will stay more comfortable and retain its looks for a long time. So consider buying the best quality that you can afford.