How is a quality sofa built?

How is A Quality Sofa Built?

By Randall Silva, CEO of Plymouth Furniture   |  1386 Words, 5 min, 49 secs Read Time

Gain insight into the fundamental processes that distinguish the marks of a quality sofa.

Upholstered furniture frames

A kiln-dried hardwood frame is a must in ensuring durability in your upholstery furniture. Oak, maple and ash are woods most commonly used in upholstered furniture. A good frame is joined using dowels as well as corner blocks glued and screwed together. The legs should be an integral part of the frame and center legs should be used for additional support.

Upholstered furniture springs

There are two primary spring systems used in constructing upholstered furniture: eight-way hand-tied and sinuous. Eight-way hand-tied springs are used in the base of better quality pieces of upholstered furniture and are often considered a sign of quality. These three dimensional coils are attached to webbing on the bottom of the sofa or chair and tied with twine at the top to each of the eight adjacent coils to prevent them from shifting. This system gives the upholstered furniture an even comfort level and has the advantage of never "bottoming-out" no matter how big the person is that sits on it.

Sinuous springs are two dimensional "S" shaped wires that are fastened to the top of the front rail and run from the front to the back of the furniture every few inches apart. This spring system offers a somewhat softer seat and can be used in upholstered furniture that sit lower to the ground as in many contemporary designs. While less costly to produce, it is not necessarily the sign of an inferior product. The quality and quantity of springs utilized is more an issue than which system is selected.

Upholstered furniture padding

The way a frame is padded will affect not only its comfort, but also its durability. Prior to applying the fabric, it is important that the frame be padded so that at no point will the fabric be touching wood of the upholstered furniture. This will prevent untimely fabric wear and also add a subtle softness to the upholstered furniture. Cotton and polydacron are the most popular frame padding materials. Seat cushions are filled with one of the following combinations of materials:

  • Poly Cushions
    High density polyurethane foam wrapped in Dacron is the most common (and least expensive) seat core in upholstered furniture. The density of foam and quantity of Dacron will determine the softness of the upholstered seat.
  • Spring Cushions
    Spring-Down cushions consist of innerspring coils surrounded by foam and wrapped in Dacron. This whole unit is then inserted into a muslin bag of channeled blendown. The springs give the upholstered furniture support, while the blendown gives a luxurious surface feel.
  • Blendown Cushions
    Blendown cushions offer the softest seat, utilizing a combination of down and feathers sometimes wrapped around a foam core and then encased in a muslin bag. This cushion does not retain its shape without an occasional fluffing. Back cushions are primarily filled with Dacron fiber. Encasing the filling in a bag will help the cushions keep their proper shape. Occasionally, in better quality upholstered furniture, blendown is substituted for a more luxurious feel.

Upholstery Materials

A robust selection of materials makes for an important choice when it comes to the look and feel of a quality sofa.

  • Flax/Linen
    With a strong, cool, crisp "hand", linen is one of the most durable fibers available for upholstered furniture. It has a tendency to resist color and is often found in natural coloration's as a result. Linen reflects heat somewhat better than cotton, but will disintegrate in intense sunlight. It is at the higher end of fabric cost.
  • Wool
    Naturally springy and resilient, wool is extremely durable for upholstered furniture. It tends to take color softly and has good resistance to abrasion. Wool has natural stain resistance, but should be mothproofed before using.
  • Silk
    Without question the most beautiful, yet fragile, of all upholstered furniture fabrics. Soft and lustrous, strong light will tend to discolor and disintegrate the fiber. Difficult to clean, the fibers will tend to mildew in damp climates.
  • Rayon/Acetate
    Made of processed cellulose, it can be woven to emulate silk or linen. Its low cost and blendability with other more expensive fibers make it a popular choice for upholstered furniture. The fiber is reasonably colorfast and abrasion resistant, but will tend to rot under long exposure to direct sunlight.
  • Synthetic fibers
    These petroleum-based fibers have been developed over the last sixty years as an alternative to natural fibers and are often blended with them in an effort to achieve the best properties of each in upholstered furniture.
  • Polyester: a polymer that takes vibrant colors well. Polyester is strong and cleanable and stands up well under direct sunlight. Flame and abrasion resistant, this upholstered furniture fabric is often blended with natural fibers to soften its feel. Recent developments have led to a finely extruded polyester fiber that resembles the look and feel of silk.
  • Olefin: known by many people by the trade name, Herculon. Strong, with natural stain resistant properties, olefin is a bulky fiber with a coarse "hand" that does not hold up well to direct sunlight. Often it is used to create heavy textured causal fabrics in upholstered furniture. These fabrics when loosely woven require a latex backing for added strength.
  • Nylon: The strongest and most dirt resistant fiber, nylon is used often in commercial applications where it will take a beating. Until recently, nylon upholstered furniture typically had a high luster. However, now it is often available with a delustered wool look and feel. Its only drawback is its sensitivity to sunlight.

Why buy at Plymouth Furniture?

We have a wonderfully unique collection of fabrics and we tailor them to the highest standards of the industry.  Fabrics are flow-matched (not just matched) to show the full uninterrupted pattern on the item, a trademark of high end upholstered furniture. Welts (cording) are cut diagonally on the pattern, creating an appealing accent on the lines of the item.  We are so confident in the craftsmanship that we will use C.O.M. (customer’s own material) for us to cut, sew and upholster on their orders.

  • Custom Options
    We truly are special order specialists.  Since we build our own frames, stock all our own fabrics, cut each item one at a time, and because we are willing to make what you want, we can create unique pieces for your home that reflect your own tastes.  We offer most styles in several standard sizes (chair, chair-and-a-half, settle, sofa), and we can make custom lengths (including extra-long sofas) in some frame styles.  You can choose the leg finish on most items with exposed wood.  We have many seat cushion options.  We can apply several fabrics on one item; just tell us what you want where.
  • Our Frames
    Our companies build their our own frames. We know if the frame is not strong, the piece will not serve the customer well for very long. To be certain the frames will stand the test of time, the frames are engineered from the highest quality select hardwoods and hardwood laminates. All four corners of the frame are secured by corner braces to keep the frames square and strong. Legs (other than decorative legs) are built into the frame for strength. Nobody builds a better frame.
  • Our Spring Construction
    Our seat spring systems are built the way the best furniture makers do, using a true 8-way hand-tied coil springs. Heat-tempered heavy gauge double-cone coil springs are fastened to a strong webbing material covering the bottom of the frame, reinforced with steel bands.  These individual springs are tied together by hand with tough polyester rope to form a spring network that is soft enough for a child to feel the benefit of the spring action yet strong enough to carry a large person without bottoming out.  Then a synthetic fiber pad is laid over the top of the coil springs network and cover it with a neutral, nonabrasive decking material.
  • Our Seat Cushions
    Our standard seat cushion is composed of an environmentally-friendly polyurethane foam that gives initial softness and deep support, with soft fiber on the top and bottom sewn in a protective ticking fabric.  Each seat cushion is engineered to best suit the frame style, but if you wish, you can change the cushions to Spring-Down, Spring-Fiber or other optional cushion constructions to suit your taste.