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4 Ways to Spot a High Quality Sofa

Updated: Apr 7

The writing is on the wall (not really tho, the writing is actually just below this neat picture).

Mid-century modern illustration of a salmon sofa square bookcases,  lamp, and artwork
Buying for quality is important in order to avoid regular replacement of poorly crafted sofas.
While it's easy to purchase a sofa with a low upfront cost, it's important to factor the long term costs associated with a poorly manufactured sofa.


When evaluating the quality of a sofa, there are 4 main factors to take into consideration: the frame, cushions, upholstery, and suspension.

While each factor can truthfully warrant an article of its own, we felt it best to summarize each to provide a brief overview of the subject.

This overview will later be expanded on in future blog postings, but for now, here are the 4 things to look out for in a high quality sofa:

1. Frame

A well-made sofa will have a sturdy frame.

From our experience, there are two main frame types that we believe will result in longevity for your sofa: solid wood and furniture grade plywood.

While some manufacturers boast a solid wood frame, the truth is that a sofa made with furniture grade plywood is superior in the long term. This is due to the fact that solid woods are prone to warping depending on their environment. Warping can lead to instability in the sofa, and will possibly be needed to be repaired.

That said, you are far better off going with a well manufactured solid wood frame over a poorly manufactured plywood frame. But how can you tell the good from the bad?

The first thing you should do is ask a lot of questions to the salesperson selling you the sofa. A good salesperson selling a good piece will be proud to boast the joinery featured in their products. Keywords to look out for are the following:

  1. Finger jointed

  2. Dovetailed

  3. Dowelled

  4. Glued & Screwed

If your salesperson uses terms like this, it's a decent sign, but that isn't the only thing to pay attention to. You can also ask if there is any diagram of the internal components that you can see, or perhaps even a small cutout of the sofa for demonstration purposes.

Examining the frame is one component to getting a great piece of furniture, but while you are waiting for us to expand on the subject, make sure to keep your eyes open for quality in the following components as well.

2. Cushions

We can all relate to the corner seat on our childhood sofa having a big indent from it's frequent sitters. Many of us are conditioned to believe this is normal. But the reality is that the cushion quality plays a big part in preventing this cavernous foe, and cushions on a high quality sofa will resist indentation in high traffic areas.

But how do you tell the good from the bad? It's not always easy, but a reputable manufacturer will go to great lengths to demonstrate their cushion foam quality to you, as opposed to having a salesperson simply state "oh ya, trust us, this foam is pretty neat."

When looking at foam quality, some good signs to look out for are the following:

  1. Look to see if the sofa's foam manufacturer is listed. If you can research the foam manufacturer, that could help you determine the quality.

  2. Check the warranty of the sofa to see what coverage is provided specifically to the seat cushions. If the warranty for seat cushions is below 3 years, it best to avoid it. Some manufacturers go as far as to include a lifetime warranty on the cushions (see Norwalk Furniture as a perfect example).

While entire reports could be written on cushion quality, to simplify: the cushions should be firm and well-padded, but also comfortable to sit on. High-quality sofas will use foam that is high-density and wrapped in layers of soft material such as feathers, down, or polyester fiber.

3. Upholstery

There are two forms of upholstery; leather and fabric.

In fabric sofas, look for something that you feel confident will last you and your family for years. Pay attention to the seams to ensure they are well aligned with the edges of the cushions. If you see the seams are slipping away from the cushion edges even slightly, its quite possible it will get much worse with time. Ensure the fabric has a high enough double-rub count as well, and can resist stains if the sofa is highly trafficked.

As for leather, it's not quite as straight forward. There are quite a few factors to consider, and unlike fabric, spending more money on a leather sofa could result in a less durable product. Conversely, spending too little will also result in a poorly upholstered leather sofa.

The post you're reading now is too brief to go through the intricacies of leather sofas, so come back soon when we inevitably expand on the subject.

4. Suspension

When you're experts like us, identifying quality suspension (a.k.a the springs) is a pretty quick task. However, to those without experience in furniture manufacturing, suspension is undoubtedly going to be a difficult thing to evaluate, as there are countless factors to consider. Some of these factors are:

  1. Suspension type (a.k.a what kind of springs are in your sofa?)

  2. Materials (what the suspension is made of)

  3. Linking mechanisms (the way the suspension is interconnected)

While a small textbook could be written on suspension systems in sofas, the key things to look out for are the following:

  1. When you sit on the sofa, try to feel that it is firm enough to provide support, but also comfortable enough for long-term sitting.

  2. Evaluate how far down you sink when sitting on the sofa, especially in the corners by the armrests.

  3. Can you feel the frame of the sofa on your thighs when you're seated? This is usually a tell-tale sign that the suspension is sub-par.

Finally, when you remove the cushions and press down on the seat, what is your gut reaction in regards to the quality of the suspension? Do you feel that the suspension easily gives in to the pressure of your hand, or is there a resistance to it?

Think about the above, and pay attention to our blog for when we further write about properly evaluating sofa suspension.


In Conclusion

The fact of the matter is: while there are many materials, assembly techniques, and general craftsmanship strategies that can be evaluated objectively, a lot of sofa evaluation comes down to subjectivity. So forget the salespeople's advice. Heck... forget our advice too!! Just go, sit on some sofas, remember the research you did, and ask yourself...

"Do I feel supported? Do I feel this sofa will last the test of time? Do I feel this is the right sofa for me?"

Remember... this is a piece of furniture that will be a core part of the lives of you and your family. Make sure it will be supportive, durable, and contributes to a living space that is conducive to your well-being. If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact us.

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