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What Are Common Couch Buying Mistakes? And How Do You Avoid Them?

By Jeff Frank

Long term durability is one of the most important criteria for most people shopping for sofas.

15 years ago mid-priced couches could be counted on to last for 7 – 10 years. Today the average lifespan is only 3 – 5 years.

  • Most shoppers have no idea what to look for when searching for a long lasting, durable couch.

Shown above – Ashton sofa with 2.5 density Ultracel foam cushions by Simplicity Sofas
Uneducated consumers concerned about the durability of their furniture usually ask the wrong questions.

  • Mistake #1 – Believing that frames are the most important factor for determining sofa durability.
  • Frames are not the most important factor when long lasting
    • Top quality solid wood frames will last 50 years.
    • Good quality plywood frames can last 20 years or more.
    • Cheap plywood or engineered wood frames may squeak or bend, but they will usually still be usable 10 years later.
  • Mistake #2 – Thinking that more expensive foundations will last longer than cheap ones.
    • Different types of foundations can have widely varying costs.
      • Sinuous wire springs cost only a few dollars to buy and install.
      • The cost of materials and installation for an 8 way hand tied coil spring foundation is several hundred dollars.
    • Both of the sofa foundations listed above will last 20 years or more.
  • Mistake #3 – Upgrading to higher priced fabrics in the belief that they will last longer.
    • Higher fabric grades can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of a sofa.
    • The lowest grade fabrics can be just as durable (or more durable) than higher priced alternatives.
  • Mistake #4 can be found at the bottom of this article.

Cushion construction is the single most important factor in determining both the comfort and lifespan of your couch.

  • Seat cushions are almost always the first part of a sofa or couch that will wear out and need replacement.
  • Most cushions sold with low and mid-priced upholstered furniture will begin to lose their shape and comfort within 1 – 3 years and will need replacement within 3-5 years.
  • Replacement of worn out cushion cores is usually expensive.

The expected lifespan of a foam cushion is primarily dependent on the density and thickness of the foam.

  • Foams used in seat cushions for moderately priced residential furniture generally range from 1.5 through 2.0.
  • The most common density by far is 1.8.
  • Higher densities (2.0 – 2.5) can be found on more expensive residential furniture.
    • A 2.0 density foam can increase the lifespan of a sofa cushion by a year or more compared with the same cushion made with a 1.8 density foam.
    • 2.5 density foams can double or triple the lifespan compared with 1.8 density foams.
  • Furniture designed for heavy commercial or institutional use may use foam with densities of 3.0 or higher.

A foam cushion’s “firmness” has very little effect on the expected lifespan.

  • Since most consumers equate “firmness” with durability, cheap foams are often made “extra firm.”
  • That “extra firm” feeling will not last long with a low density foam.

The higher the foam density the more the cushion will cost. Variations in firmness usually do not affect cost. HR (High Resilience) foam is more expensive than non-HR foams.
Mistake #4 – Assuming that your warranty will cover cushions that need replacement.

  • Warranties do not cover sofa cushions.
    • The large bold print at the top of the warranty will clearly state that it covers cushion defects. The warranty period may be 1 year, 3 years, 5 years or more.
    • Despite the bold print, the warranty will also include exclusionary clauses that negate everything in the bold print.
    • “Normal wear” is excluded. This includes loss of resilience or shape.
      • Even if the cushion loses its resilience in less than 1 year it will not be covered.

      Tip for the uneducated furniture purchaser – When shopping for a couch always test the cushions by picking them up.
      As a general rule if the seat cushions feel “light” you are looking at a couch with a very short expected lifespan.
      The longest lasting cushions will be the heaviest.

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