How To Judge A Sofa For Quality

The ideal way to check the quality of a sofa is to actually see the insides to scrutinize the engineering and construction aspects of it but unless you are able to find a furniture store that allows you to rip off the covers and it’s outer layers, you are pretty much limited to the touch and feel on the outside.

All hope is not lost though as we share the following tips to ensure that the sofa you are going to buy is not going to end up at the nearest recycling plant six months down the road.

The Frame

This is the most important component of the sofa as the type of wood used for the construction of the frame determines the lifetime of the sofa.

Sofa Frame

A good quality sofa uses kiln-dried hardwood, held together by industrial glue and nails, which lends to it’s sturdiness and durability, and can typically last more than 15 years! An example of hardwood are Birch, Maple, Oak, Ash, and Teak. Kiln-drying removes all moisture from the wood before construction as this helps guard against cracking. It also enables the frame to retain its shape and stability for a long time to come.

A lower quality sofa uses furniture-grade plywood several layers thick held together with staples. It’s a substitute for hardwood and costs lesser. This type of frame will typically last you at most two to three years. Some manufacturers will use plywood with a combination of other lower grade wood like Pine, which can last you about five years or less.

How to check:

  • Check what type of wood was the sofa frame constructed out of. If you’re in Singapore, the quality ones are usually North American Birch, and Oak wood.
  • Hold the sideframe of the sofa, and move it from side to side. Do the same for the backframe. A sturdy frame should not wobble or twist. If it does wobble, it usually means that the joints are not held firmly which can cause serious safety concerns in the future.
  • Lift up the sofa and feel the weight. It should feel heavy. How heavy? As a reference, our Griffith Sofa (Length at 190cm) requires two man (Avg. height:185cm / Avg. weight: 80kg) to lift it up vertically whilst a sofa at IKEA only required one man. In general, this should not be used a sole determinant of a good quality sofa as engineered wood or plywood can feel heavy as well.
  • Test the frame strength by lifting one corner or leg of the sofa up to about 15cm. If the other leg is still touching the floor, then it means the frame is weak.

Griffith Sofa

 The Griffith Sofa by Etch & Bolts

 

Filling

The type of filling used for the cushions determines how soft and plushy or how firm the seating comfort is.

If you like it soft and plushy, and that ‘sink-in’ feeling, consider going for 100% goose down and feather cushions. A goose down is a layer of fine feathers found under the tougher exterior feathers. Do note however, going for a full feather option is very high maintenance and requires daily attention. It is also considered a premium choice and is pricey.

Down Feather

Down Feather

An alternative combination that still provides you with that soft and plushy feeling but without the high costs and maintenance is the foam and feather mix which is commonly used by many designer furniture companies. The typical materials are high density/resilient polyurethane foam (35-42kg/cbm) wrapped in down feathers, cotton or polyester batting. The foam provides a bouncy feel and ‘push back’ against deformation. This makes the seating more supportive. For this combination, the more down feathers is used to wrapped the foam, the more cushy it feels.

Note: The higher the density of the foam, the firmer, and more lasting it is. Make sure you get the higher density foams as the lower density ones break down pretty quickly. Typical lifeline for the foams are:

25kg/cbm : 1 to 2 years
35kg/cbm : 3 to 4 years
42kg/cbm : 7 to 9 years

 How to check:

  • If you opt for a seating cushion that has the down feather material, make sure that you check the inner cover used to contain the feathers. The cover is called Down Proof Ticking and it prevents the feathers from poking through your upholstery. Check the quality as well by pulling the inner cover. If it tears easily, make a pass.
  • Ask for the foam density. If you like it soft but would like it to last, ask for 42kg/cbm wrapped with down feathers, cotton or polyester batting. These are reasonably priced and very comfy.

Foam Wrapped In Down & Feather

Foam Wrapped In Down & Feather

 

 

Upholstery (Fabric/Leather)

The type of upholstery used is equally important when determining the quality of the sofa. Fabrics like cotton and linen are ideal and holds out in tropical climates with high humidity as they do not trap as much heat. However, these fabrics can snag and wear off quickly without proper maintenance. A better alternative would be to go for polyester. It’s easier to maintain, durable, and lasts longer in temperate climate.

For leather options, if you are in an environment like Singapore with high humidity, forget about getting synthetic leather; these will flake after several months. Go for genuine leather but the costs are exorbitant and is approximately 60 to 80% higher than the cost of a fabric sofa.

How to check:

  • Check the piping and the seams of the sofa. They should be straight and stitched tight.
  • If you are buying a sofa for long term use, best to check if the sofa covers – including the side and back frames – are removable so that you can change to different color fabrics to match the yearly interior design themes you have planned. It is cost effective too!

Warranties

If you are going to invest long term in a good quality sofa, it is highly recommended that the sofa comes with a comprehensive warranty. The longer the warranty period, the more confidence there is from the retailer about the quality materials used. Most furniture companies offer 1 year, 15 years, to even limited lifetime warranty, subjected to conditions of normal wear.

In retrospect, if the warranty period is less than 5 years, it remains a cause for concern. It’s a narrow and cynical way to look at it but experience has taught us a thing or two about trusting furniture companies with fluffy marketing gimmicks and their ‘fine print’ legalese language that does not match up.

Now that you are armed with the knowledge on how to judge a sofa for the quality, you are better prepared to make your every dollar count. A well-informed customer acts as a deterrent against shoddy marketing gimmicks and hard selling tactics which are prevalent in many furniture companies.

If you are shopping for a good quality sofa in Singapore, feel free to browse through Etch & Bolts catalogue here. The material information is well detailed, backed by a comprehensive warranty policy that covers wear and tear – the first in Singapore. No marketing gimmicks there for sure!