When shopping for a sofa, just like shopping for a used car, checking under the hood can make the difference between a sofa that lasts five years and a sofa that lasts 10 years.
Here are 6 tips to consider when comparing sofas.
Fill and Frame
Good quality seat cushions will consist of a high-density foam core usually around 4" inches thick wrapped with Dacron that is placed inside a muslin casing. The density of foam and quantity of Dacron will determine the softness of the seat. If you who prefer a firmer sit, look for an innerspring core. Ask to sit on examples of each option to determine what is most comfortable for you.
Look for seat cushions with a high loft which looks as if the fill is trying to bust out of the seams. This is referred to as a crown and is one of the hallmarks of a high quality sofa.
Some manufacturers' frames are built with soft woods and may only be assembled with staples and glue. A good quality manufacture will use kiln dried hardwood using dowels as well as corner blocks, glued and screwed together.
Eight-way hand-tied has always been the gold standard for a quality sofa frames; however, this should not be a deal killer. Some manufacturers build extremely sturdy pieces without the traditional eight-way hand-tied construction.
The entire frame should be padded so that at no point will the fabric is touching wood. Feel for sharp areas on the frame that are hard especially on corners and edges.
Down vs. Faux Down
The industry standard ratio is 75 percent feather/25 percent down. Any higher than 25 percent down will not only be more expensive, it can result in an uncomfortable "bottoming out" sit.
Many people don't like the indentation that down leaves or constantly having to fluff their cushions. Today faux down is being produced with the same comfort benefits of natural down but without the weight and maintenance. High quality faux down can be nearly as expensive as natural down and should not be considered a compromise in quality. I recommend the toss pillows always be made in natural down so that they can be sliced for a more luxurious look. If the manufacturer does not offer this option, for about $20 per pillow you can switch out the fill yourself.
Probably the biggest comment I hear from people after an unsuccessful sofa shopping trip is, "I didn't see anything on the floor I liked". If you limit your choices to just what is shown on the floor you are doing yourself a huge disservice! Retail space is expensive so they cannot possibly show every fabric on every frame. Choose your frame first then ask to see the available fabrics. You'll have to use your imagination a bit but you will definatately expand your design options.
Generally the thicker the fabric the more durable but also more expensive. If this is a sofa that you intend to keep for more than 8 years in a high use room, opt for a chenille or woven rather than a cotton or linen.
The heavier the texture the more forgiving when soiled. You can also ask for the published Wyzenbeek rub test rating which is the number of cycles, or double rubs endured before the fabric shows noticeable wear. Anything above 15,000 is will be extremely durable.
Detached back and seat cushions (not to be confused with toss-back cushions) will give you double the wear. Many mass production manufacturers will attach the back cushion in order to keep the cost down but this is not where you want to cut corners.
Sofas should be fitted to the users, especially for the seat depth. Many manufactures offer two seat depths, average at 38" and tall about 41". It's easier for a shorter person to adjust to a deeper seat than it is for a taller person to adjust to a shallower seat.
Lastly, some retailers will offer a service/damage warranty plan. I'm normally not a fan of add-on warranties, however for people that have small children or pets I do recommend them. Just be sure to read all the fine print and exclusions.