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Where Can I Find More Information About Sofa Construction?

By Jeff Frank


I’m in search of a new sofa, and I’ve browsed around online looking at pottery barn, wayfair, ashleys, costco, room and board, west elm and many more. 

Most places do not offer details about the sofa construction. I am trying to find sofas based on the foam density, or type of cushion (down blend, spring and down etc), frame wood, joinery, and suspension type. 

I find that some have good frame build and suspension but poor joinery or in other words a combination of decent build in certain areas and poorer in other areas. 

Many of the sofas seem to have a 1.8 density for the foam. Most don’t seem to list the density at all.  I’m having trouble finding a sofa with a density higher than 1.8. 

 Also, I’m overwhelmed by the number of options and figuring out which factors I should prioritize most.

It’s hard to find a sofa that crosses all the checkboxes of what makes a durable quality sofa construction.


Sept. 22, 2020


The answer is actually simpler than you think.

In looking at mid-range mass produced sofas priced under $1200 (for fabric or faux leather), cushion construction is the most important single factor.

  • Cheap plywood or engineered wood frames with cheap sinuous wire foundations will still last 10 years in most cases. Bad joinery may cause squeaks, but the frame will remain functional.
  • The standard 1.8 density polyurethane foam (used in most mass produced seat cushions) will begin to soften after one year and will be worn out (and noticeably less comfortable) after 3 – 5 years. That is the first part of the sofa that is likely to wear out.
    • If a sofa’s specifications do not list the foam density you should assume it is 1.8. If the sofa’s specifications state that they use “high density” foam, you should assume it is 1.8. Most companies that use better foam in their cushions will include that information in their product description.
      • 2.0 density foam will last about a year longer than 1.8
      • 2.2 density foam will last 6 – 8 years on average.
      • 2.5 density foam will last 10 – 15 years on average for most people.
        • Typically, the upgraded density adds $10 – $15 to the manufacturing cost of each cushion. This translates to about  $100 more to the retail price of a sofa compared with the standard 1.8 density foam.)
    • A high quality spring down cushion should also last 10 – 15 years.
    • Down blend cushions are more expensive than all-foam cushions, but they will actually wear out even faster.
      • The thinner foam core has less durability and the feathers or fiber used to fill out the rest of the cushion doesn’t add to durability at all.
      • Also, the feathers or fiber are more likely to shift inside their cover, causing the cushions to lose their shape.
      • Down is extremely expensive. As a result, down blend cushions typically have no more than 5% down. The rest of the blend may be all feathers or a mixture of feathers and polyester fiber.
        • Feathers are far less expensive than down, but more expensive than the polyester fiber.
        • Most people can’t tell any difference in either comfort or durability between the low cost polyester fiber and the more expensive feathers.

Finding upgraded cushions in mass produced sofas can be challenging. Even if the manufacturers offer upgraded cushion options, not all retailers make them available to their customers. Take the time to do the research. Purchasing upgraded cushions, that increase the lifespan of the furniture, are well worth extra cost.

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