Top 6 tips for buying a sofa

17 Jul 2013

Luxury, comfort and warmth are the skin-deep qualities that people expect from an upholstered lounge suite or sofa.

The filling used for sofa cushions determines the softness of the seat and whether it will retain its shape and density in the long run.

These features can often be determined within minutes of looking at or sitting on a sofa. However, buyers expect more from a lounge suite - often assuming that quality and durability are part of the package. However, for a sofa to keep its shape and be hard-wearing, what really matters are quality craftsmanship and good materials used.

Sue Scott from Grafton Everest explains that if the framework is not solid, the sofa won't be sturdy. She warns homeowners to be careful of budget buys from stores or brands that are not well established or well known and that can’t offer after sale care.

Scott shares some important points and pitfalls to be on the lookout for when hunting for your dream sofa. Ask instead of assume, is a golden rule to follow.

1. In between

The filling used for sofa cushions determines the softness of the seat and whether it will retain its shape and density in the long run. Scott suggests a high-density foam for the cushions as it keeps its shape, resulting in better back support and comfort.  She says that low-density foam will soon lose its bounce and look worn. High-density foam costs a bit more, but it is a non-negotiable for comfort and lasting good looks.

2. Sit back and relax

The seat of a couch is as important as the back when it comes to comfort. Luxurious couches will most likely use a spring system, because it gives the best seating support.

“Comfort is a fine balancing act between support and softness," says Scott. Grafton Everest has achieved ergonomic wellbeing by using tensioned back webbing. Bands of webbing are suspended across the wooden frame, making a platform for the back cushion to lean against. Scott says the webbing should stretch a little when you sit back, but still give enough resistance for back support. Good webbing should retain its elasticity for many years and will have the best results when used in conjunction with high tensile steel seat springs.

3. Spring seating

The seat of a couch is as important as the back when it comes to comfort. Luxurious couches will most likely use a spring system, because it gives the best seating support.There are various systems and some couches only make use of webbing.

4. A solid frame

Luxury and comfort will be short-lived without a reliable and robust frame. The strongest frame is made out of kiln-dried wood. Kiln drying removes humidity from timber, ensuring that your couch will keep its shape and solidity, instead of warping. A frame made of wet wood can shrink or crack. Solid wood is stronger than plywood and chipboard.

5. Joint success

Luxury and comfort will be short-lived without a reliable and robust frame. The strongest frame is made out of kiln-dried wood. Kiln drying removes humidity from timber, ensuring that your couch will keep its shape and solidity, instead of warping.

Quality furniture will always pay special attention to the joints. Scott says the tried and tested traditional manner are glued and dowelled but Grafton Everest use spiral grooved dowels on all the support rails to ensure strength and longevity.

She says the corners will also be blocked, which refers to the technique where a triangular block is wedged and secured inside the corners of the frame. This adds extra reinforcement and stability to the corners and prevents legs and frames from becoming skew.

6. Guaranteed quality

“Buy from a recognised brand that has been around many years and insist on a guarantee," she says. Well-made furniture will provide a guarantee with a smile, because it was built to last. Pursuing quality results is the best value for money in the long-term. 

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