Ensuring your new sofa has been created with the right, quality materials is crucial if you are looking for a long lasting sofa. After all, if a house is built on a subpar foundation, no matter how pretty it is, it will crumble.
However, the frustrating part of shopping for a new sofa is that they all look the same – just with different names and price tags! Often the differentiator is hidden under the fabric in the frame, springs and foam.
Below we explore the different types of framing material and construction methods commonly used by furniture manufacturers. Be sure to also check out our blogs on selecting the best fabric for your lifestyle, the best sofa springs & suspension, and what is the best foam for long lasting cushions.
Before we get talking about how a sofa frame is built, let’s talk about the materials being used to build that frame.
A slower growing, denser hardwood such as alder, poplar, maple, teak or walnut are considered more suitable for durable and long lasting furniture.
Softer woods such as pine or douglas fir are still good, but won’t hold up as well as a harder wood species will.
Some manufactures will use fiberboard or particle board in constructing their furniture to keep costs down. The issue with using a material such as this, is that there is basically zero structure or strength meaning it cannot support heavy loads.
The reason why it is so important to get the wood material right is because you want a wood that will hold the staples, nails, glues and joinery in place. The harder the wood, the better it will grab and hold onto whatever item is holding it together. A softer wood is more prone to movement, and overtime will wear down.
Kiln Dried Wood
You may see from more high end manufactures that they use kiln dried wood. But what does that mean?
Kiln drying is a procedure done to remove all moisture in the wood. Moisture can be a big problem with wood, as it will cause the wood to warp or crack. And having a frame that warps or cracks is never good.
How is a sofa made? Well like any other structure really. It’s made by joining pieces of wood together. Therefore the sturdiness of the joints play a huge factor on if the furniture piece will get wobbly. Below we have high lighted a few of the more common joint types you may find in sofa construction.
Solid Joint Types:
- Mortise & Tenon Joint – This is considered the strongest type of joinery. It is mostly used in table construction to adhere the legs to the top for a solid surface. One piece of wood has a hole, and the other is cut to fit precisely into that hole.
- Dovetail Joint – This type of joint is not only strong, but also looks great too. It is commonly used in drawers for cabinets.
- Box Joint – This joint is made by cutting a set of matching rectangular cuts into 2 pieces of wood, which are then glued together. It is often used for boxes or chests because of it’s decorative look.
Not So Solid Joint Types:
- Butt Joint – This is the simplest type of joinery, but also the weakest. It joins 2 pieces of wood by merely butting them together and then attached using glue or with a nail or screw.
- Dowel Joint – A dowel joint is similar to the butt joint, except dowels are used to secure the pieces together. A dowel is a small wooden cylinder that gets inserted into a small round hole drilled into 2 pieces of wood. It’s not as sturdy, and will more likely loosen over time, however it is an acceptable joinery method.
To create an even stronger frame for a sofa, most manufacturers will use extra reinforcement. You may see terms such as Corner Block Reinforced, or just Reinforced Joinery.
When there is a corner, adding an extra piece of wood that is placed at an angle and screwed into place will help ensure the piece of furniture is stable for years to come.
Additionally an extra layer of support may be added with glue, screws or staples.
Remember These 3 Things When Buying a New Sofa
In summary, when you are searching for a new sofa keep in mind it’s what underneath the fabric that counts the most. Typically a lower price tag means lower quality materials have been used, which will result in a shorter lifespan of the item.
Remember these 3 things:
- What type of wood was used in the construction? Hardwood = longer lifespan and greater return on investment.
Softer wood or particle board = shorter lifespan, but easy on the wallet.
- Has the wood been kiln dried? This is an important step in the manufacturing process as it dries out the wood, which will prevent warping & cracking.
- What type of joinery & reinforcement has been used? Look for a joint that has been cut with precision, and essentially slotted together (almost like intertwined fingers) and then corner blocked. Stay away from a simple butt joint.