A beautiful fabric and stylish frame may be the reasons you fall in love with sofas and lounge suites, but if you ignore what's inside, you may be disappointed in time.
To help you understand the variations in interior workmanship and materials that impact quality, durability and price, the Furnishing Industry Association Australia offers this checklist.
Frames are made of kiln-dried hardwood, hardwood plywood, softwood plywood, strand board or various combinations of these materials and others. Kiln-dried hardwood and hardwood plywood are noted for holding pegs, screws, staples and nails securely in place for a long time. Plantation hoop pine is another option that is a renewable resource which means it is friendly to the environment. It’s tight grain means is a strong product.
For durability, look for reinforcements that are glued and screwed into place at critical joints and stress points. Less durable pieces may only staple support blocks in place or have none at all. Make sure the frame feels sturdy, sits squarely on the floor, and doesn't creak or wobble.
Style and support together determine the type of foundation used in sofa and chair construction. Eight-way, hand-tied, coil spring construction was once considered the hallmark of quality upholstery. In this type of foundation, each coil spring is placed in the seat by hand and tied into place with twine in a series of interlocking knots. Today, other construction techniques, including new steel spring configurations, offer equal comfort and durability.
In general, the number of springs in the foundation and how they are reinforced determines cost and quality. Technological advancements in rubber manufacturing means modern webbing is an equally durable seating support system.
Furniture cushions may be constructed using springs, cotton fibre, polyester fibre, or even down, but most are made using some type of polyurethane foam. Density is used to gauge the durability of foam, and, generally, the higher the density the more durable (and more expensive) the cushion will be.
Better quality upholstered furniture uses foam with a density rating that meets Australian standards. Foam cushions should be wrapped or covered to protect the foam from direct contact with the upholstery fabric.
Options for the colour, pattern and texture of your upholstery are virtually unlimited, but cover components fall into just two basic categories: natural and synthetic. Natural components include cotton, linen, silk, wool and, of course, leather. Among the synthetics are acetate, acrylic, nylon, rayon and polypropylene. Many fabrics are woven with a combination of natural and synthetic fibres. Fabrics combining a tight weave and durable fibres like nylon or polypropylene are a good choice for active use. Leather is also a popular choice for durability.
For fire safety reasons, buyers must insist on fire retarded foam which is the Australian standard. This tells you the piece was manufactured according to fire safety standards developed by the Furnishing Industry Association Australia These standards reduce the likelihood of upholstered furniture catching fire from a smoldering cigarette, which is the leading cause of upholstery fires in the home.
Generally, only Enduro grade foam is fire retardant. In less expensive models you may need to upgrade the seat foam.