Is there really any difference between a $4,000 sofa and a $1000 sofa? (Part One)

May 16, 2019

Is there really any difference between a $4,000 sofa and a $1000 sofa? (Part One)

Is there really that much of a difference between a living room sofa that is $4,000 and one that is $1000?

The simple answer is yes. It’s a big difference, and one that will take more than one blog post to unpack. That’s just what we’ll do in this new series.

Let me first ask you this. Is there a difference between a Ford and a Mercedes vehicle? After all both look good, both will get you to where you want to go, both have a decent warranty and yet the Mercedes is often many times the price of the Ford.

Whether you are buying a car or a new sofa the old adage “You get what you pay for" generally rings true.

In this and future posts, we will explore the differences between good quality sofas, better quality sofas and the best quality sofas so that you can make an educated decision as to which one represents the best value for you.

So what are you really paying for when you buy a more expensive sofa?

Let’s start at the very beginning of life for your new sofa – the frame.

Before it even starts to look like a sofa the foundation of whether this will be a good quality or lesser quality sofa is already taking shape. The frame of a sofa is probably the most important part when you are talking about longevity and yet it often is only a tie-breaking consideration for people debating between 2 equally stylish and comfortable sofas..

There are a lot of inexpensive sofas being sold today with a frame made of particle board, stapled together in a matter of mere minutes. This foundation of your sofa should take time to put together because if it isn't solid, the sofa will not stand the test of time.

The best quality living room and family room leather and fabric sofas start with a frame made of kiln-dried hardwood such as maple, oak, ash, poplar or birch. The individual structural components of the frame should be joined together with double-dowels, glued and screwed together to create sturdy long lasting joints that will last a lifetime. Corner blocks are added to disperse weight equally and further enhance the strength of the sofa frame.

Corner brackets in a Sherrill furniture piece

A corner block in the Sherrill factory, courtesy of Sherrill Furniture.

A Difference I Saw First-Hand

Years ago I took some time and went through the factory of Sherrill furniture and watched as they assembled their frames. Not only were their frames built this way but I remember being impressed with a special spot in the factory where every frame was put together, chosen because it was completely level. This was something I hadn’t thought about but it ensured that the sofa was square and would sit level on the floor.

Instead of taking minutes to assemble like some other factories I have seen, it took them hours to carefully assemble, glue and screw the solid wood frame for the sofa.

Extra hours in the factory mean extra years in your home.

How You Can Spot a Solid Frame

Not everyone has the ability to go through the factory of the sofa they are considering purchasing so how do you know a good frame from a bad one?

Once a sofa is upholstered it's hard to tell what the quality of a frame is like because you can't see it any longer, however there are a few tests you can do to give you an indication of the quality.

  1. The Ask Test. This should probably go without saying but you should first ask the salesperson at the store how the frame of the sofa is constructed. They should be able to give you some details on the construction.
  2. The Lift Test. You can test the quality of the sofa construction by slowly lifting one corner of the sofa. I normally pick the front corner of the sofa. As you lift the corner up the frame will flex and show you how much movement there is in it. The higher you can lift the one corner of the sofa off the floor without any of the other legs coming off the weaker the frame is. A really good quality sofa frame should not lift off the floor more than a couple inches without the other legs coming off. One thing to keep in mind is that, the longer a sofa is the more any frame will flex. If you do this on a loveseat there should be very little movement at all whereas a 110" long 4 seater sofa with the best frame will have a little more flex in it.
  3. The Leg Test. Look at how the legs are attached to the frame. Although it is not possible in all cases, the best quality sofa frames have the legs built into the frame, rather than being screwed on afterwards. Like I said this is not possible in all cases but you know when you see a leg that is an integral part of the frame that you have a good quality piece.

Have you done these tests on your own sofa? How does it hold up?

A good quality sofa frame will make the difference between your sofa lasting just a few years to something that will last as long as you want. Years down the road you might even decide it is worth re-upholstering it because you have become tired of the fabric and that will be a valid option because the structure of the sofa is solid.

I hope you are already feeling more confident for your next trip to the furniture store, and we’re just getting started.

Complete the series: Part 1: Frame | Part 2: Suspension | Part 3: Cushions | Part 4: Fabric



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