Insider's Guide to Furniture & the Home Furnishings Industry

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What are the most important things to consider when buying a couch?

Cushion construction is the single most important factor in the lifespan (and comfort) of your sofa,couch or chair.


A recent furniture industry study indicates that the majority of consumers expect their new couches to last only 3–5 years.

Ten years ago the expected lifespan of a couch was 5–10 years.

A couch with an expected lifespan of only 3–5 years can also be expected to begin wearing out (losing its shape and resilience) within 1–3 years of purchase.

Most frames and fabrics can be expected to last at least five years, even when they are extremely inexpensive. Cushions are not so forgiving.

By far the most commonly sold cushion construction for couches manufactured over the past decade uses a 1.8 density foam core.

This foam core is usually anywhere from 4″ - 6″ thick and is typically wrapped in a dacron polyester fiber.

A 4″ thick 1.8 density HR (High Resiliency) foam cushion can be expected to last about 2 years with average use before the foam begins to lose its ability to bounce back and keep its shape .

A 5″ thick 1.8 density HR (High Resiliency) foam cushion can be expected to last about 3 years with average use before the foam begins to lose its ability to bounce back and keep its shape . (It will still be “usable” for another couple of years before needing to be replaced.)

Foams that are not High Resiliency will deteriorate more rapidly.

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.

The overall thickness of the cushion may or may not be an indication of a cushion’s durability. “Value priced” couches will often have cushions that are bulked up with several inches of polyester fiber around the foam core.

That polyester fiber will rapidly compress causing the cushion to lose its shape. Better quality sofas typically use 1″ - 1.5″ of fiber on each side of the cushion.

Lower quality couches may use up to 3″ of fiber on each side. Thick layers of fiber are a cheap way to bulk up a cushion, ignoring the fact that it will also hasten the cushion’s deterioration.

Warranties (including extended warranties) are worded so that this is considered “normal wear.” Retailers almost never replace “worn out” cushions under a warranty.

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.

If you want to get more than 5 years of use from your couch you will need to find a couch with a better quality cushion.

Higher priced couches generally use thick higher density foams with at least a 2.0 density but preferably higher.

Many higher end couches will also be available with cushions fabricated with coil springs inside. This construction will generally last considerably longer than the 1.8 density foams.

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