Buying a sofa

Some people live with their sofas for a lifetime, but most expect them to last in good condition for around ten years. Of course, this depends on the design and upholstery of the sofa and what you are using it for. It may be that you want a very cheap sofa for a limited time, or even just to help sell your house.

It’s possible to pick up sofas or settees for nothing from online sites such as Freecycle, or for very little on online auction sites. At the other end of the scale, some luxury, designer or antique and vintage sofas retail for thousands of pounds. In the middle, you can expect to buy one for between £200 – £800. Remember you can also dress a cheaper sofa up with colourful throws and cushions.

Check on size

Many people set their hearts on a certain sofa but don’t think about where it’s going to go. One of the biggest issues is size. Your sofa needs to fit comfortably in a room so check how much space (length, height and depth) you have before heading off to the sofa shop. You don’t want to get your new sofa into your lounge only to find you then can’t open and close the door!

Who is using it?

If you have a large family, including small children, then a white leather sofa probably isn’t the best option. Think about who will be sitting on the sofa, where it will go and what else it might be used for – a sofa bed could be a useful dual-purpose item, for example.

What is it made of?

When out looking for a sofa, also consider how it is made so that you end up with a good quality piece of furniture:

  • Frame – Like a solid building, a well-built sofa is based on a sound frame. Sofas with kiln-dried hardwood frames such as oak or poplar are good options. Kiln drying removes excess water in the wood so that it doesn’t warp or crack later. You can get cheaper-framed sofas using soft wood, plywood or plastic, but expect these to last for a shorter period of time.
  • Construction – A good sofa will have its frame joined using a mixture of dowel, block and glue, and screws. Cheaper sofas will be stapled and glued together with lighter weight braces to hold the joints together. See how solid your sofa is by wiggling it gently from side to side. A solid frame should not wiggle!
  • Suspension system – When you sit on a sofa, it’s the suspension system that gives it its bounce. The eight-way hand-tied coil system gives the firmest and most continuous ‘ride’ (how even it is across the sofa). The drop coil system gives a slightly less continuous ride so you could end up sitting in a dip. The sinuous system is often used in low slung seats and is not for those who dream of diving into a soft plump sofa!
  • Cushions – Full down cushions give a very soft feel but need plumping up to reshape them. Semi-sprung, fabric-wrapped cushions give a firmer seat but still a soft feel; foam filled sofas are the firmest of all – can be used in anything from cheap sofas to very expensive sleek ones.
  • Upholstery – This is the bit you can actually see. Keep in mind that tightly woven fabrics tend to wear the best – the number of threads per square inch tends to determine durability and woven patterns last better than prints. Wool is natural, resilient; cotton takes colour well but may tend to mildew; linen works best in natural shades; silk is beautiful but fragile; polyester is strong and cleanable; while nylon is the strongest and most dirt resistant of all. If you have got young children or pets or you’re just worried about general wear and tear, it might be worth getting the fabric of your sofa protected. Sometimes the retailer will do this for you, or you can buy products yourself.

A new sofa could be one of the most expensive items in your home so remember to take it into account when you’re working out how much home contents insurance to take out. If you also take out accidental damage cover, you’ll be insured against common household accidents – children’s crayons and careless adults!

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