A while ago, we blogged about the many different sofa styles available (you can click here to read the post). But after being asked time and time again what clients should look for when buying a sofa, we thought it would be useful to put together our top 7 questions to ask when buying a sofa.
Please note, these questions are only relevant if you are purchasing mid to high end sofas. The salespeople at some of the more ‘bargain basement’ stores may be surprised if you start asking them about spring bases and hardwood frames.
1. Where is it manufactured?
The most common answer you’ll receive is ‘China’. While there are quality sofas being produced in Chinese factories, there is often a delivery schedule of up to 12 weeks. However, if you look around for sofas manufactured in Australia, you will get the benefit of our high standards of quality control as well as a shorter lead time. There is usually the flexibility of customizing your sofa, eg: narrower or wider arms, if you buy Aussie made.
European brand sofas are still considered to be quality. However, be aware that many are now also being manufactured in China and then shipped back to Europe for ‘finishing’. This often means the delivery timetable to your home can be horrendously long. I had a client whose Italian made sofa took 6 months to finally arrive.
2. What is the warranty?
If a sofa is well made from quality materials, there is no reason for it to have less than a 10 year warranty on all components.
3. What is the frame made from?
Beneath the surface, it is important for your sofa to be built to last with a strong frame. Kiln-dried hardwood frames can be excellent for longevity, as they won’t warp in extreme temperatures and humidity. You could also opt for a fully blocked-up softwood frame or a sturdy steel frame.
TIP: If you live by the ocean, choose a quality timber frame rather than a steel one as steel will eventually rust from contact with salt air.
4. Does it have a spring base?
There are two types of spring base for sofas – coil and sinuous (zig-zag) spring. These are responsible for keeping the seat and back of the sofa comfy and able to yield to your body shape while you’re seated. Coil springs are generally the most sturdy and least prone to breaking. Zig-zag springs can snap under pressure over time.
Many sofas will be constructed using webbing instead of springs. Webbing is straps of very strong elastic. If your chosen sofa uses webbing support it should have a minimum 10 year warranty, and be made from a highly reputable product such as Black Cat to ensure the webbing doesn’t lose elasticity before its time.
5. What are the seat and back cushions filled with?
The materials with which your seat and back cushions are filled can heavily impact the comfort and durability of your sofa.
Polyester fibre – Used in back cushions as it is soft and flexible. Quite sturdy, but may require ‘fluffing’ over time to maintain their shape.
Feather – Used in both seat and back cushions. It is very plush, but requires frequent ‘fluffing’ to maintain its shape and fullness. Beware of feathers protruding through the fabric… they can be a little scratchy and sharp!
Feather and foam combination – Used in both seat and back cushions. It offers the stability of foam and the plush look and comfort of feather.
Foam – Used predominantly in seat cushions, it is firm but comfy. Foam retains its shape over time. Foam such as Dunlop Enduro is particularly durable, but if you want your sofa a little less firm, memory foam such as Dunlop Luxura offers the look and feel of a feather and foam combination. Foam may also be wrapped in Dacron before upholstery to give extra comfort and plushness.
PET (Recycled) – Used in back cushions. For the environmentally conscious as it mimics the look and feel of polyester fibre, but is made from recycled PET bottles.
TIP: Always try sitting on a sofa before buying! You may think you prefer one type of fill, but upon sitting on it realise that it’s simply not for you. If it’s not comfortable, keep looking.
6. Are the sides and back lined?
This question is so often overlooked when purchasing a sofa. Check the sides and back of the sofa are lined to help prevent damage to the upholstery and give the sofa a more tailored look. If these are unlined, it becomes quite easy to puncture the taut fabric, ruining the look of your sofa.
7. What are the fabric options?
This is where it’s good to have options! Ideally, you’ll be able to choose from a wide selection of fabrics and leathers. Then it may come down to the age-old debate…which is best – leather or fabric?
Of course, a lot of this decision comes down to personal preference, but if you’re ‘on the fence’, there are a few considerations that may help you decide.
Kids – there is no use covering your sofa in an expensive linen if your children will be climbing on it with food, drink, sticky hands or dirty shoes. Leather can be easily wiped down with a damp cloth. If you choose fabric, it’s best to go with a dark colour in a texture or pattern that will disguise small marks.
Pets – if your pets are just as much a part of the family as your kids, they will probably spend time on the sofa with you. Leather is the best option for pets as any shedding hair can easily be wiped away and smells won’t penetrate it as much as fabric. Your cat is also far less likely to sharpen its claws on leather… they prefer tufted fabrics. :)
If you decide on fabric, remember to ask about fabric protection and whether it is suitable for your choice of fabric.
TIP: A fairly recent concept is to upholster your indoor sofa with an exterior grade fabric. Because these are inherently weatherproof and often stain resistant, they are ideal for regular use. Many of these fabrics look no different to those designed for indoor use, so no one will ever know!