It’s spring, finally!  Time to start puttering in the yard and doing some spring- cleaning.


Maybe you have buying a new sofa or chair on your list of springtime chores.  The emphasis is on chores, here.  To accomplish the successful purchase of upholstered living room  furniture, you must spend significant time doing research, deciding on style, size and shape and going to countless stores. When you are ready,Find Furniture and Home Furnishings Stores here.

Another important consideration is your budget.  Only you can determine how much money may be devoted to this project.  Please allow me to shed some light on what your hard earned cash will get you.  Since it is impossible to see what is under the upholstery of your living room furniture, I will give you some general rules to go by.

If your budget will be severely stretched by this purchase, you should consider spending at the top end of your capability.  The two most important parts of an upholstered piece of furniture in your living room are the frame and the seat suspension.  To become knowledgeable about these features, go online.  Sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, and Wikipedia will be very helpful.  Read the consumer reviews of specific stores and, where available, manufacturers.  Look for trends in reviews to determine if the ratings seem to be accurate reflections of the product.  Doing your homework should give you a picture of what is under the upholstery. Learn about Furniture Manufacturers here.

 Budget furniture is usually the lowest priced furniture for a reason.  That reason is that the sofa or chair has been produced using the least expensive material and construction techniques.  Much of what you will want to know can only be supplied by the salesperson, but there are ways to verify what that salesperson tells you.

The first step is to find a piece that appeals to your taste and is within your budget.  Sit on it the way you would at home.  Stay seated for at least ten to fifteen minutes.  In furniture, first impressions may be wrong.  Do not allow yourself to be rushed.  If you will be lying on the sofa at home, lie on it in the showroom.  Then, consider, does this piece of living room furniture feel solid.  There should be no racking (twisting) of the frame when one end is lifted off the floor.  There should also be no noticeable sag under the cushions after you have get up.

A frame should be made from clear hardwood.  Clear refers to being knot free.  A knot in the middle of the front rail could cause the rail to break when somebody sits on the sofa.  Hardwood will also hold a screw better than other materials will.  It is common for manufacturers to use plywood or MDF (medium density fiber) in nonbearing parts of the frame.  This is not usually a problem. Learn more about wood used ind furniture.

The joints in the frame should be dowelled, screwed and glued.  This means that holes are drilled in both faces of joints and that a short wooden rod (dowel) is glued and inserted into both holes.  There will usually be two dowels per joint. The joint is then held tight by screwing the boards together.  When this process is completed properly the sofa or chair should last for a very long time.  Well-assembled frames may be found at most price points but the lower the price, the more likely the frame will be made of soft knotty pine and that corners will have been cut in the assembly process. Read more about how long furniture should last.

Failure to plan is the most common furniture mistake. Be sure to check out the  wide selection of furniture space planners, color wheels and furniture templates available from Furniche.com

Our next focal point is the seat suspension.  There are three basic systems of support for the seat cushions.  Like the frame, these will not be visible, but you can usually figure out what method of construction has been used.

The most commonly used suspension system is sinuous springs.  These are mounted in the frame horizontally to the floor.  They may be screwed or stapled in, or they may be part of a pre-made drop in system.  Sinuous suspension will give good support to the cushions for a reasonably long time if it has been done properly.  If the cushions in the sofa that you are interested in are removable, you will be able to feel the sinuous (curvy) wires running under the seat deck.

Web support is becoming more popular because it is easy to install and will last for a fair amount of time. Web suspension, in my opinion, is prone to stretching and sagging.  The companies that make and use webbing would disagree.  If the cushion support is not fairly rigid, it will make the cushions lie unevenly making the seat uncomfortable and leading to the premature breakdown of the core of the cushion, which is usually foam.  The consumer may also feel the webbing through the deck beneath the cushions.  The longer the span of the webbing, the more likely it is to stretch.  Webbing is best used in dining chairs and other relatively small pieces.

The final support system for the cushions is eight way hand tied.  This method is done, as the name infers, by hand.  The individual springs are tied with heavy twine to the surrounding springs and the frame. This technique will often last for generations.  Because of the time and effort involved in hand tying, this is the most expensive method and the least common.   

In summary, I would suggest that the lowest end of the price range of upholstered furniture should be avoided.  It is likely that furniture at that price level won’t last as long as you would expect or want.  It may consist of a frame made of ponderosa pine put together with inferior methods.  In the least expensive category, you should expect to find web suspension.  This is likely not a problem since the webbing will probably out last the frame.

The top price range is where you are likely to find clear hardwood frames with eight way hand tied suspension.  Most of us dream of owning living room furniture this well made. 

The middle is where most of us live, and excellent furniture may be found at this level.  The old (and trite) Latin saying, caveat emptor (buyer beware), applies here.  Do your homework.  Don’t try to convince yourself that the cheap sofa is just as good as the mid-range sofa.  It isn’t.  Happy shopping.

By The "Furniture Professor"

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