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IKEA Sofas – All the Experts are Wrong!

By Jeff Frank

Question:

Are IKEA sofas any good?

Answer:

Furniture professionals consider IKEA sofas to be cheap, flimsy short-term furniture.

The usual review analysis concludes: “You get what you pay for!”

All the Experts are Wrong!

IKEA sofas often last longer than couches selling at more than twice the price.

Important Note: I have no financial or other relationship with IKEA. 

I do not receive payment or any other type of compensation from IKEA or any other brands that I write about.

Over the past decade, I have written over 2,000 articles and reviews, viewed by more than 2 million readers.

In many previous reviews, my advice to furniture shoppers stated that IKEA sofas are poorly made and are suitable only for short term or temporary use.

Every professional furniture review I have read has echoed similar opinions.

It’s time to re-evaluate!

Wirecutter is one of the best researched and most influential review sites for furniture.

In Wirecutter’s Sofa Buying Guide, updated Oct. 12, 2022, the reviewer states:

“We’ve tested the [IKEA] Kivik, which has a simple classic design. Though its price—starting at about $550—is almost impossible to beat, in this case you get what you pay for.”

The implication (like all of my previous reviews) is that IKEA furniture is flimsy and won’t last very long.

But, later in the same article, the author comments:

“Two Wirecutter staffers, who have owned Kiviks for 10 and eight years, respectively, both say they have liked this sofa.”

Shoppers who buy $550 sofas are not supposed to still like their sofas 8 – 10 years later.

Yet, here were two individuals from the same office who had good long-term experiences with an IKEA sofa. Subsequently, I looked at hundreds of other IKEA reviews.

I found dozens of reviews from IKEA sofa owners who still like their cheap IKEA sofas after 6 or more years.

People who have not spent their lifetimes in the furniture industry can easily miss the significance of the full Wirecutter review.

Is it possible that IKEA sofa buyers are actually getting “More than they are paying for?”

After reading the Wirecutter review, I checked through over 12,000 Ashley Furniture reviews on independent websites.

Ashley is the largest furniture manufacturer and retailer in the world.

The company makes and sells more sofas than IKEA.

Ashley sofas are in the same price range as IKEA. Some of their sofas are more expensive than anything IKEA sells.

Many of their sofas are more than double the Kivik’s $550 price.

Not a single Ashley review reported that the reviewer still enjoyed their Ashley sofa 6 or 8 or 10 years later.

Note: Checking through 12,000+ Ashley reviews did not take as long as you may think.

90% of the reviews were either 1 or 2 stars.

I assumed those would not report that the reviewer still liked their Ashley sofa 8 or 10 years later.

Ashley is not the only brand to charge more for sofas that don’t last as long.

Almost all of IKEA’s Sofa-in-a-Box flatpack competitors also use 1.8 density foam cushions with a 3 – 5 year average lifespan.

This includes: Article, Albany Park, Allform, AllModern, Burrow, Floyd, Anthropologie, Poly & Bark, Sabai and more.

IKEA Kivik sofa

There is a very good reason why furniture “experts” judge IKEA sofas harshly.

Most articles on furniture construction and quality are written by industry professionals who work with high-end products.

Frame quality is critical for top quality sofas, built to last 20+ years. It is natural and proper for professionals who work with high end furniture to emphasize frame construction.

IKEA’s frames are junk!

But that is completely irrelevant for evaluating the expected lifespan of cheap sofas.

IKEA’s fiberboard and particleboard frames may squeak or wobble.

But they will usually remain serviceable for at least 10 years.

On cheap sofas, cushions wear out long before the frame.

IKEA frames are warrantied for 10 years. Many low and mid-priced brands offer lifetime warranties on frames that are no better than IKEA’s.

Cushions are not covered under any brand’s warranty.

Warranties may appear to cover cushions for 1 year or more. But in reality, sagging or mis-shaped cushions are always excluded from warranty coverage as “normal wear and tear.”

Cushions are the most vulnerable part of mass produced sofas.

The majority of cushions made for mass produced sofas and couches use 1.8 density polyurethane foam cores.

1.8 density foam, found in most low and mid-priced sofa cushions, has an average lifespan of 3 – 5 years.

After that, they lose their shape, resiliency (ability to bounce back) and comfort.

That 3 – 5 year lifespan can be even lower if used by people who are larger than average or by families with kids who like to jump on the furniture.

A 250 lb. person can wear out a 1.8 density foam cushion in less than 2 years.

Cushion cores can be replaced, but it is expensive. Few people choose that option for mass produced seating.

Once the cushions lose their shape and comfort, many people decide it is time to replace the sofa.

Most just live with an uncomfortable sofa for many more years.

KIVIK Loveseat, Tibbleby beige/gray

IKEA sofa construction

Looking beyond the fiberboard and particle board frame, there is a lot that I like in IKEA’s sofas.

That includes their cheaper models, priced well under $1000.

Several of my older blog articles dismiss IKEA as being cheap furniture suitable only for short-term use. 

But I hadn’t been in an IKEA store for nearly 20 years.

Ikea sofas are still cheap. But both the quality and comfort have significantly improved.

IKEA sofas were originally designed for Scandinavian and European tastes.

Those included low seat heights and smaller scale dimensions.

Some of IKEA’s older models, like the Kivik, still have 17″ seat heights, standard for European furniture, but well below the 19 – 20 inch seat height most Americans are accustomed to.

IKEA’s more recent models are 18.5 inches from the floor to the top of the seat cushion and larger in scale with increased seat depths.

10 years ago, IKEA sofas used cheap foam cushions that flattened out within just a few years.

Most American sofas priced below $1200 (and many priced far higher) are still using cheap foam cushions.

Why do IKEA seat cushions last twice as long as sofas sold at far higher prices?

IKEA has upgraded its seat cushions to include pocketed coil springs!

The pocketed coil springs are covered with layers of 2.2 and 2.0 density foam and a layer of polyester fiber.

Pocketed coil spring cushions with higher density foams should hold up much better than those made with 1.8 density foam cores.

Coil spring cushions are often firmer than foam. They should retain that firmness for many years.

Three years after purchase, when many foam cushions already need replacement, IKEA’s cushions should still feel firm and look almost new.

Some people don’t like firm cushions and may complain about the comfort, but they will be a minority.

IKEA’s pocketed coil spring cushions should last at least 6 – 8 years, and possibly 10 years or more, with average use.

That is more than twice the life expectancy of far more expensive sofas with better frames, but inferior foam cushions.

Note: Back cushions are filled with polyester fiber. They can lose their shape and loft much sooner than the seat cushions.

Back cushions may require periodic “fluffing” to maintain their shape.

If the fiber compresses too much, back cushion filling can be replaced inexpensively.

IKEA sells a lot of leather sofas.

Although IKEA’s leather sofas can cost several hundred dollars more, they probably won’t last any longer.

IKEA uses excellent quality leather, equivalent to leathers found on many $3000+ sofas.

Their leather sofas are “all-leather,” where many higher priced brands are using “leather match,” sofas with leather only on the seats, inside arms and inside backs. The outside arms and backs  are a matching vinyl.

IKEA’s leather may last 20 years, but the cheap frames probably won’t.

Washable, replaceable covers are another big IKEA advantage over similarly (or higher) priced competing brands.

Some IKEA sofas are better values than others.

The Kivik 4 seat + corner sectional sells for $1399.

The Finnala 4 seat sectional + corner sells for $2399.

According to IKEA’s website, these two sectionals have similar construction and features, with only minor differences in size and style.

So, why does the Finnala cost $1000 more?

Most of the difference is simply extra profits.

IKEA merchandises their furniture lines by first deciding the price ranges they want to sell at.

Usually, there will be a low, medium and high price range.

The low price range will be extremely low – to give a perception that IKEA prices are the lowest around.

The mid-price range will bring in a more normal profit margin.

The high price range will be at or slightly above similar products from other brands.

IKEA has several advantages over its competition in determining prices:

Because of its size, it can buy raw materials at lower prices.

Shipping in flat boxes drastically reduces shipping and handling costs.

Shipping unassembled eliminates some of the labor charge paid by competitors who ship fully assembled products.

IKEA mystery:

IKEA sofas are labeled “Firm”, “Soft,” and “Extra Soft.”

Question: What is the difference in cushion or foundation construction that differentiates IKEA’s firm, soft, and extra soft cushions?

IKEA’s website shows the same cutaway picture and description for all sofas, regardless of firmness.

After multiple attempts to find the answer to this question from IKEA sales and customer service people, the most coherent response I got was that “the packaging is different.”

If anyone out there knows the answer, please contact me in the comments section or at Contact.

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