Who Makes the Best Quality Couches? Flexsteel vs. Biltwell vs. Massoud

by | Apr 12, 2022 | American-Made Furniture, Ask the Expert, Furniture Brands, Furniture Construction, Furniture Cushions, Furniture Manufacturers | 0 comments

Question:

Which brand makes the best quality couches – Flexsteel, Biltwell or Massoud?

The Biltwell and Flexsteel sofas I am looking at are priced around $1600 (in fabric.)

I have also looked at a Massoud sofa that costs $4000.

Is Massoud really worth more than twice as much as Biltwell and Flexsteel?

What are you getting for the extra $2400 cost?

In my opinion, Massoud is the best of these three furniture brands overall.

But the other two brands have advantages that may be more important to you personally.

Looking at the other two brands, I would choose the Biltwell sofa over Flexsteel.

Flexsteel is better built in some respects (especially the blue steel spring support foundation.)

Biltwell has a significant advantage in the single most important factor that determines the lifespan for most mid-priced sofas – Cushions.

Cushions are the single most important factor in this price range.

Biltwell’s standard 2.0 density cushion should last 5 – 7 years.

That is several years more than I anticipate from Flexsteel’s new composite multi-layer foam cushions.

Biltwell offers an optional 2.75 density cushion. It is worth the extra cost.

This option can double the expected lifespan, compared with Biltwell’s standard 2.0 density cushions.

You should be able to get 10 – 15+ years use from the 2.75 density cushions.

Biltwell also has some optional softer cushions (Comfort Cloud & Featherblend.)

These should have an average lifespan of 5 years.

All cushions will have a shorter lifespan if used more than normal or by larger than average size people.

Flexsteel recently switched from 1.8 and 2.0 density foam cushions to a new composite construction.

Their new standard cushion has a 2.0 density central core surrounded by layers of cheaper 1.2 density foam.

Flexsteel also offers an optional upgrade to a 2.5-density central foam core with the 1.2 density foam layers above and below.

1.2 density foam is extremely flimsy (and cheap.) Flexsteel calls this “recovery foam.”

No sofa manufacturer would ever consider using a cushion made entirely with 1.2 density foam.

It would lose its shape, resilience, and comfort within 6 months (or less.)

Flexsteel also has a softer “Featherblend” cushion option. 

It has a 2.3 density core with jackets filled with 50% feathers/50% polyester.

This is the cushion I would recommend if you choose to go with Flexsteel.

Several major upholstery manufacturers have recently switched to the new composite cushion construction.

There is little or no long-term experience with this type of cushion construction.

I would not be surprised if some of these cushions fail within 2 years (or less.)

Massoud is better quality overall, but not necessarily twice as good. It depends on your priorities.

Below is a comparison of the differences that affect pricing between these brands.

1) Frames

Massoud frames are solid hardwood (usually maple.)

Biltwell’s frames are also “solid hardwood,” but that hardwood is Alder, one of the softest (and cheapest) hardwoods available.

Alder has a “hardness rating” of about 500 on the Janka hardness scale for wood species.

In contrast, Maple and Oak are approximately 1400 on that same scale.

As a result, Biltwell’s sofas will generally weigh about 35 – 50 lbs. less than Massoud.

Other factors also affect weight.

Biltwell’s frames will probably still last 10 – 20+ years without problems for most people.

Massoud’s will last longer with fewer problems.

Flexsteel uses plywood for its frames.

These should be just as durable as Biltwell’s solid Alder.

Plywood frames cost less to make* and can be assembled more quickly than solid wood frames.

[* Note – Over the past two years, prices for plywood have skyrocketed. Many manufacturers have switched to lower-quality engineered woods.]

Often the change is not noted in published product descriptions or communicated to retailers.]

2) Foundations

Bitwell uses low-cost sinuous wire foundations for support.

Sinuous wire is very inexpensive but should hold up for 10 – 20+ years without problems.

Sinuous wire foundations add minimal comfort to the furniture.

Massoud uses coil springs (and spring edges) for their foundations.

These can add several hundred dollars to the cost of a sofa.

They are noticeably more comfortable than sinuous wire foundations.

Drop-in coil springs are just as comfortable, more durable, and less costly than the gold-standard 8-way hand-tied coil support foundations.

8-way hand-tied is most often found in the most expensive traditional style upholstered furniture.

8-way hand-tied coils are never found in modern-style seating.

Flexsteel’s blue steel flat spring is probably the strongest foundation support system ever made.

It is over 100 years old and there have been very few failures in that entire time.

It should last 50 years and more in most sofas.

Unfortunately, the rest of the sofa, especially the cushions, will fail long before.

3) Fabric

Massoud has a large selection of expensive designer fabrics. This can have a major impact on the cost of a sofa.*

*The fabric prices quoted below are mill prices paid by manufacturers.

To estimate how much these fabrics are costing you at the retail level, triple the costs listed here.

Most Biltwell fabrics have a manufacturer’s cost between $4 – $10 per yd.

Flexsteel’s average fabric cost is similar for the most popular fabrics.

Most of Massoud’s fabrics may cost considerably more.

More expensive fabrics sometimes have unusual characteristics that require additional time (and skill) to upholster.

Fabrics that have to be matched, such as prints and stripes, require far more time and skill to upholster.

More expensive fabric can easily add $500 (or much more) to the price of the Massoud sofa you were looking at compared with Biltwell and Flexsteel.

4) Tailoring

Massoud’s furniture is custom-built.

The wide variety of styles and fabrics requires highly paid (and skilled) craftspeople.

Biltwell is also custom made, but the styles are less complex and many of the fabrics are simpler to work with.

The quality level that is considered “acceptable” is less stringent than Massoud.

Flexsteel’s furniture is mass-produced, with minimal customization.

Production speed is a critical factor.

To ensure that the furniture can be produced efficiently, sofa designs are simple and engineered so that pre-sewn covers can be “socked on” quickly by relatively low-paid assembly line workers.

Upholsterers are quickly trained to become “expert” on a small section of the sofa only (outside backs, inside backs, outside arms, inside arms, etc.)

The end result of Flexsteel’s upholstering process may be indistinguishable from Biltwell’s custom craftsmanship.

Few Flexsteel complaints refer to problems with tailoring craftsmanship.

5) Cushions

Massoud’s standard cushions are Spring Down construction.

These will last just as long as Biltwell’s 2.75 density foam (10 – 15+ years) with a slightly softer feel.

Spring down cushions cost more to fabricate than foam. They add approximately $100 to the cost of a sofa.

6) Profit margins

When you go from $1600 to $4000, you can expect at least $500 of the difference to be due to higher profit margins.

To determine the best quality couches that meet your personal requirements, the first step is figuring out which features are most important to you.

 

The photo shown above is the Massoud Vesper sofa.

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Jeff Frank

Jeff Frank

Furniture Consultant

Jeff Frank is a 45 year  furniture industry veteran. He created this blog to provide detailed facts, inside information & advice for furniture shoppers. 

 

 

 

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