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Which is better for making a sofa? PU foam or latex foam?

By Jeff Frank

Latex foam is a natural product made from the rubber tree. It is extremely heavy and durable. It is also extremely expensive. As a result, latex foam is rarely used for sofas.

Polyurethane foam is the standard type of foam used in upholstered furniture for both cushions and padding.

  • PU foam should not be confused with PU leather which is a term often used for bonded and faux leather fabrics also made using polyurethane.

Polyurethane foams are available in a wide range of densities and firmnesses.

  • Polyurethane foam used in cushions is typically denser than the same type of foam used for padding around frame parts.
  • Foam density and firmness are very different.
    • Density is directly related to the durability and lifespan of the foam. Denser foams are more expensive.
    • Firmness has very little effect on foam durability. A foam’s cost is the same whether it is soft or firm.
  • Foam density is found by weighing a 12″ x 12″ x 12″ block of the material. If a product has a 2 lb. density, that means a 12″ x 12″ x 12″ foam block weighed 2 lbs.

Each foam density is available in a wide variety of different firmnesses.

  • Foam for seat cushions ranges from 1.5 to 3.0. Lower densities are used for foam padding. The number designates the weight (in pounds) of 1 cubic ft. of foam.
  • Each of these different foam densities is available in many different firmnesses ranging from very soft to very firm.

Foam density is the single most important factor in determining the lifespan (and comfort) of a sofa cushion.

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

Frequently furniture manufacturers will describe the polyurethane foam used for cushions as “High Density Foam.”

  • This terminology is almost meaningless. It is used in marketing materials to describe virtually any foam from 1.8 density and up.

Actual foam densities will vary during the manufacturing process. A variation of 0.1 is considered normal. A 1.8 density foam may actually be 1.7 or 1.9. Larger variations are not unusual.

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