Upholstery 101: Part 2

Oh sofa, my sofa...

So, sofa.  What shall I do with you?  Recover you?  Slipcover you?  Or send you to the frat boys? 

Perhaps my earlier  scared you a little  bit. You probably didn’t think it would cost quite so much to re-upholster, did you? I’m sorry. That’s just the way it is.  

Before you spend $1,000 or more re-upholstering, you might want to consider the option of just replacing your sofa with a new one.

If your sofa or chair didn’t pass the spring tension bar test  I mentioned in the earlier article, you might not want to because you won’t be putting that effort and expense into a quality piece. It’s kind of like putting nice on an old car that has a worn out suspension and no shock absorbers. It’s just not going to hold up, and in two years your sofa will look bad again and all that money will be wasted. 

There are a wide variety of sofas out there. Cheap, not so cheap, expensive, ridiculously expensive. How do you choose?

Here are some tips for you:

Today’s upholstered pieces have quality standards different from those of your parent’s furniture selections. As I mentioned in the upholstery article, things like spring tension bars and 8-way hand tied springs, and solid hardwood frames, were the hallmarks of their generation of high-quality home furnishings. And to reiterate, these are the kind of pieces you definitely want to consider reupholstering. That kind of craftsmanship is worth the expense, and will last another 20 years.

You will have a hard time finding a spring tension bar these days.  They are out there on really expensive brands. But today’s quality standards have new technology and new terminology. 

I spoke to sales associate Wesley Cooper at in Athens, who gave me a great lesson in today’s quality upholstered pieces.  He even showed me a frame sample that showed a cut-a-way of a sofa frame exposing fabric, foam, wood frame, and the latest in spring technology.

He started with the wood framing. The quality standard has for many generations been to use kiln-dried hardwood for the frame. This is still available but mostly in the more expensive lines. To keep things more forest-sustainable friendly and cost effective, as in Haverty’s custom line, there is now an engineered wood frame available. Made of high quality laminated wood, furniture makers and engineers alike say that it is just as structurally sound.  This type of construction allows for flush and true construction and interlocking joints making for an incredibly sturdy frame, and not subject to warping as solid hardwood can be.

Next came the springs. A diehard spring tension bar fan, I told Wesley he’d have to convince me that you can get a quality sofa without one. 

 “Sinuous springs are made from two-dimensional S-shaped wires and are also known as "No-Sag springs," says Wesley.   

I researched sinuous springs further and learned that they are less labor intensive than 8-way hand tied so that helps keep the cost down, but they are made from high quality steel so they are incredibly sturdy.

“Haverty’s custom line features sofas with both 8-way hand tied springs for those who prefer that, and also sofa’s with sinuous springs,” he said.  

Next in my updated sofa construction lesson was an introduction to soy-based foam. Previously manufactured from petroleum based recipe so that it would remain flexible, foam manufacturers had to get creative with their ingredients in order to stay cost effective. Enter BiOH Polyois! Sound’s like a British Punk band, but it’s actually a polymer discovered by agricultural company Cargill and Pittsburg State University’s Polymer Research Center. This polymer is the main building block for creating “green foam,” which is bringing the furniture industry into the era of eco-friendly furniture.

I don’t know about you, but I am just thrilled to pieces with that bit of info. Soybean farmers across this great land score another hit!

This soy polymer-based foam has been tested extensively in the Hickory, North Carolina, furniture making industry, where it passed with flying colors. 

“Soy based foam is used in many of Haverty’s custom upholstered pieces,” explains Wesley Cooper.  That’s a smart move for Haverty’s.

Ok. On to the main thing you see and feel every day, the fabric.

You have many options for fabric in your new sofa and most manufacturers give you several fabric options for each style of sofa.  From velvety soft and durable microfiber to super soft chenille to faux leather and leather, the colors, stain resistance, and comfort levels of upholstery fabrics has greatly increased over the last fifteen years. 

You can basically choose anything you really like in whatever color you prefer because they can now all be treated with anti-soil and anti-stain finishes! Look for finishes that are applied at the factory such as “Zepel”, “Scotchguard”  or “Teflon”. These products are technically flourochemicals and are not necessarily eco friendly, but they will make your furniture last longer and that in itself points the way to re-use, so it balances out. 

Bear in mind, that if you steam clean or use any type of upholstery cleaner, you are removing the stain protectant!  (this is true of , too, by the way)  If you clean your upholstered pieces, you will need to re-apply the stain protectant, or have ado it professionally.

To get these stain protection options, you will have to pay an up charge, but it's definitely worth it. Many retailers, such as Haverty’s, offer protection plans for an additional fee, which is based on the product you purchase. Haverty’s “Gold Furniture Protection Plan” warranty’s against accidental stains and other types of damages.  Be sure to research this option fully on-line and ask questions at the point of purchase.

When you step into a furniture store and see beautiful sofas at every turn with prices varying from $699 to $2,300, don’t let that price range confuse you. The price range is generally based on size of the sofa and fabric grade used. For example, the microfiber fabric will be more expensive than the cotton/poly because it’s more expensive to produce but will also be more durable.  These are the kinds of facts a little internet research and a knowledgeable sales associate will walk you through and explain the differences between products.

And don’t worry, Wesley will let you sit, lie, bounce or lounge on any sofa you want to try out at Haverty's.  Just try not to drool, please, and keep your feet off!

Happy shopping!


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