Insider's Guide to Furniture & the Home Furnishings Industry

Jeff Frank is a 40 year veteran of the furniture industry who is happy to answer your questions about furniture! Ask your question today!

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How do I find a long lasting sofa or couch?

High end interior designers, manufacturers and retailers usually begin their answers to this question by listing expensive high quality frame construction features.

These features may include solid hardwood frames that are screwed, glued, corner blocked and double doweled. 8 way hand tied spring foundations are also frequently cited.

Sofa with Chaise/Sectional

Although these answers are not wrong, they actually apply primarily to very expensive upholstered furniture that can be expected to last for 20 years or more.

A recent furniture industry survey indicated that most consumers currently expect their new sofas to last only 3–5 years.

That is a pretty accurate assessment for most mid-priced mass produced couches and sofas.

Many of these mass produced sofas are made with cheap plywood frames and extremely cheap no-sag spring foundations.

These frame and foundation components, however, are not the biggest limitation on your sofa’s expected lifespan.

Ashton-Mid-Size-Leather-Sofa

Even inexpensive frames and foundations often hold up for 10 years or more.

Seat cushions will usually fail long before the frame and foundation.

The expected lifespan of a foam cushion is primarily dependent on the density and thickness of the foam.

1.8 density foam is by far the most commonly used for mid-priced residential furniture seat cushions.

These 1.8 density cushions will typically begin to lose their shape and comfort within 1 - 3 years and will need replacement within 3-5 years.

There are many couches sold with cheaper (and lighter weight) 1.5 density foam that will deteriorate even more rapidly, sometimes within one year of purchase.

Not all manufacturers or retailers will list foam densities. Foam that is described as "high density" without any specific number usually has a density of 1.8.

Higher densities (2.0 - 2.5) can be found on more expensive residential furniture that can be expected to last longer than 5 years.

Furniture designed for heavy commercial or institutional use may use foam with densities of 3.0 or higher.

Another important factor is whether the foam is HR (High Resiliency) which recovers its shape better after being compressed.

Uneducated consumers frequently confuse “firmness” and “density.” They mistakenly think that “firmer” cushions are more durable.

The higher the foam density (and the heavier the weight of the cushion) the more it will cost. Variations in firmness do not affect cost, weight or density.

Cushions made with coil springs are usually (but not always) more durable than the standard 1.8 density foam cushions.

These coil springs are surrounded by a foam border and then padded on the top and bottom with additional soft padding.

Down/feathers are often used as the padding in combination with coil springs. A down/feather "jacket" is used as a layer of padding on the top and bottom to soften the feel of the cushion.

When shopping for a couch always test the cushions by picking them up. As a general rule if the seat cushions feel “light” you are looking at a couch with a very short expected lifespan.

As a general rule, the heavier a seat cushion is the longer your sofa will last.

Lifespans of 5+ years are also helped by using durable “heavy-duty” fabrics with high stain resistance.

Synthetic fibers such as polyesters and olefins generally provide the best combination of durability, stain resistance and price for mid-priced furniture.

Natural fibers such as cotton, linen and wool are generally (but not always) less durable and less stain resistant.

Heavy weight fabrics can be more durable, but there are also many lighter weight synthetic fabrics that will give you 5–10 years of use.

Long lasting sofas can be found from many sources. If you are willing to pay $3000 or more for a sofa (in a reasonably priced fabric) you have many choices.

It will be very difficult finding a sofa for less than $1000 that will last longer than 5 years (and still look good.)

Between those two price points concentrate on the best possible seat cushions you can get and choose a durable stain-resistant fabric.

There are many other styling, construction and tailoring features that will also affect cost, but seat cushions and fabric are the two most important individual factors for maximizing the expected lifespan of your sofa.

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