Couch and Sofa Buying guide
Couches & Sofas 101
Types of Family Seating
Couches and Sofas
Futons and Sofa Beds
Couch & Sofa Buying Tips:
- Measure entry doors and hallways to ensure your new couch will fit
- Create paper templates to experiment with different furniture layouts before you buy
- Check if the manufacturer offers ensemble set items like chairs, coffee tables or end tables
- If your sofa will be subjected to kid play, opt for tougher fabrics like leather or wool, and a pattern vs. solid colour to better hide minor stains
Couch & Sofa Features
The shape of your sofa should promote how you most want to use it. If your priority is comfort and the ability to stretch out, look for a wider and longer design with cushy pillows and rolled upholstered arms. Camel-back sofas are best for more formal or traditional settings. If your aim is versatility, or if you want to create a conversational setting, then consider a sectional. Reclining sectionals are also available, and offer a great spot to relax after a long day.
Sofa size is one of the most important buying considerations. Many people want to purchase the largest sofa possible for their space, but beware that too much sofa can overpower a room and interrupt traffic flow. If you’re furnishing a small space, consider opting for the neat and tailored look of a tight-back sofa. For bigger areas, you can go with a full-size loose pillow back sofa or step up to an even larger sectional-style sofa.
You should select the upholstery of your sofa based on your durability requirements and the decor of the room. If your couch will be used daily (especially by kids), then you should opt for hard-wearing fabrics like leather or wool. If you're shopping for a formal design piece, silk upholstery is an ideal choice. Sometimes you need a fabric that delivers both function and style. Linen is a good example of a material that has visual appeal and also feels good on your skin.
A solid-hardwood frame, preferably kiln-dried, provides a sturdy skeleton for your couch. Popular choices include maple, birch, alder and oak. Particleboard, plastic or metal offer more affordable alternatives, but they may not last as long.
If your sofa gets a lot of use you'll want upholstery that is long-lasting and resistant to stains. Microfibre suede, cotton and velvet are good choices. You might also consider cotton slipcovers: they’ll protect your sofa and can be easily washed. Leather looks great but it’s a bit pricier, whereas faux leather looks almost as good and can stand up to heavy wear and tear. Blended fabrics like a cotton/polyester are less expensive but they tend to pill more quickly. Delicate fabrics such as silk are easily damaged, and anything with a looped or woven pattern can easily snag on clothing studs and buttons.
The three main types of sofa cushions are synthetic fill, natural or down fill, and a blend of both. Synthetic fill cushions contain slabs of foam and clouds of polyester fibres for a fluffy, bouncy feel. They’re inexpensive, but they tend to compress and flatten over time. Feather and down fill cushions are more expensive. They’re very cushiony, and offer a denser feel than synthetics. The down will compress, but it can easily be re-fluffed in the dryer. Blended cushions typically have a foam core wrapped with thin layers of polyester, and finished with an outer layer of feathers or down. This helps to avoid flattening while still providing a good cushy feel.
Joint construction is a major factor in couch stability and durability. Joints formed using wooden dowels, double wooden dowels, wooden corner blocks, metal screws or brackets tend to be sturdy and long lasting. Glue, staples and nails are frequently used in frame construction, but should be applied for additional reinforcement only.
Springs & Coils +
Lower-end sofas are made without any springs: they use a webbing system of interwoven fabric strips. It works fine for casual or infrequent use, but over time the fabric strips will warp, sag, and tear. Mid-range sofas are made with serpentine or zigzag springs, which are flat pads of springs formed from one interwoven wire. Mid- to high-end sofas boast eight-way hand-tied springs, meaning the springs are individual coils anchored to one another. In truth, the way the spring is formed is less important than the sturdiness of the wire. The wire used to form the springs should be thick enough to resist compression over time. It should be at least 8-gauge steel, which is springy when you sit on it; 11- to 13-gauge steel is firmer and will stand up better over time.
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Couch & Sofa Maintenance Tips:
- Vacuum your sofa, including the cushions and pillows, before cleaning
- Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions on what cleaning materials can be used on the sofa
- Dust and polish exposed wood surfaces
- Before shampooing your sofa, test a small area on the back of the sofa to ensure that it doesn’t change color
- Use couch covers to protect your couch, especially during moves or periods of storage