Sofa Buying Guide: How to buy a quality couch that will last

A couch is a big investment - not only in money but in the time you’ll spend using it. The last thing you want is to get your purchase home and find it doesn’t feel right, doesn’t work with your living space or doesn’t even fit it through the door. But with so many different options to choose from, how do you know that you’ll be getting a lasting, quality couch before you buy it?

Quality is more than just looks or a brand name. It’s what’s inside the couch that really matters. How it’s made and what materials are used is what makes the higher priced sofa a better, long-lasting investment than one that might look similar..

By not understanding what makes the pricier version worth it, you’ll end up with cheap furniture that is cheaply made and destined to become curbside trash pick-up two years from now. Believe us, the cheap option will always end up costing more in the long run.

We’ve broken down this guide into three sections to help you with wherever you’re at in your sofa buying journey:

        Sofa Sectional

        What to consider before buying a quality sofa

        The couch is often the first piece of furniture that you think about when you buy or rent a new home. That purchase will inform all of the rest of the furniture in the house- what style will it be? What is the color palette? Is it casual or formal?

        So before you buy your next sofa - one of the most expensive, most used and most permanent pieces of furniture in your house - think through the following questions to help you determine exactly what you should be looking for.

      1. How will you use the sofa?

      2. Think about your lifestyle, where the sofa will be placed and who will be using it the most.

        • Will it be used in a formal living room for entertaining or as a crash pad in front of the TV? 
        • Does it need to be plush and comfortable or firmer with greater support?
      3. What type of couch do you want?

      4. This will be based on how much space you have, how many people you’d like to fit and whether you need additional sleeping arrangements.

        Today's couches generally come in the following varieties:

        • Traditional Couch or Sofa - measures 72-90 inches and seats 3 to 4 people
        • Sectional - a modular sofa with 2 or more pieces put together to create an L- or U-shape configuration. With a Sectional Planner, you can do your own measurements and dream up any configuration to fit your space.
        • Sleeper Sofa - a convertible couch that transforms to lay flat with a mattress to sleep on
        • Loveseat - ranging from 48 to 72 inches, these sofas are meant for 2 people
        • Apartment Sofa- Generally between the loveseat and standard couch sizes.
        • 4 Seat Sofa- Extra long version of a regular couch, with the same depth and height.

      5. How many people do you want to fit comfortably? Are there kids or pets?

      6. Consider not only how many people but also how they will be sitting. If one person likes to lie down and the other likes to sit, make sure you get a couch large enough for that configuration. You can also test out two loveseats facing each other or different size couches configured in a L-shape as opposed to going with a fully custom sectional option.

        If you have kids or pets, stain-resistant fabric or sealed leather upholstered sofas will be the easiest to clean and maintain. Make sure the upholstery fabrics you choose have a high rub count (greater than 50,000). Sinuous springs are better for bouncy kids than hand-tied ones and stay away from down-filled cushions that are likely to become quickly deformed.

      7. Do you know your measurements?

      8. If you’ve ever fallen in love with the perfect couch only to have it delivered and find out it doesn’t fit in the space you thought it would or worse, didn’t even make it through the doorway, you’ll understand why measuring accurately is so important.

        Tips for measuring:

        • Measure the depth and width of the sofa. Keep in mind quality sofas will have legs that detach for extra wiggle room.
        • Measure the spaces the sofa will pass through like staircases or hallways
        • Find out if you need to leave room for packaging when delivered
        • Use masking tape, cardboard or paper to lay out the exact size of your sofa where you intend to put it - this will help you visualize if it’ll work

        The couch you buy should fill the room without overwhelming it. If your ceiling is low, choose a sofa with a lower back. If it’s high, choose one with a higher back. If there’s other furniture in the room, make sure your sofa will be complementary and proportionate to whatever is already there.

        Once you’re ready to shop, Modern Bungalow is here to help you choose your next custom-made sofa from one of our trusted makers.

        What to consider while buying a quality sofa

        Couch Construction

        Identifying and choosing a high quality couch that will last goes beyond a price tag, a brand name or how many compliments you receive on its stylish appearance. Like other handcrafted furniture sold at Modern Bungalow, how it’s made and what it’s made of is what actually matters for longevity. And if you’re able to get furniture that meets the highest of standards in both those areas, you’re getting something that also looks and feels good!

        If you really want to understand why one couch costs $200 and others cost $2,000, let us walk you through how these sofas are made.

        Check for quality construction:

        • Frame:
          • Natural wood that is kiln-dried is the highest quality; MDF (medium density fiberboard) is the lowest. Mid-price brands often use plywood, which can be very strong depending on how thick it is and how it is used in construction.
          • Kiln-dried hardwood means the material’s been stabilized, completely dried and won’t warp
          • Having a high-quality frame means you’re more likely to reupholster or resell rather than send it to the landfill
        • Joints:
          • Look for sofas that use a combination of dowels/staples/screws and wood corner blocks or metal brackets for reinforcement and durability. You can ask your furniture salesperson for these details, or if you’re shopping in person you can give a push to the end of the couch and see if it wobbles at all or feels unstable.
          • Avoid couches held together by only staples, glue or nails and without corner blocks for added stability.
        • Suspension:
          • Sinuous springs - used in quality couches, are S-shaped and run up and down the sofa
          • 8-way hand-tied springs - metal coils supported by an additional layer of twine (tied on) or metal, alleviates sagging and squeaking
          • Pirelli webbing - used as an alternative to springs in quality couches, made of rubber that is durable and long-lasting
          • Poly-webbing - used in lower quality couches, little bounce and tends to sag like a hammock
        • Upholstery:
          • Cushions should be fully upholstered on both sides to allow for rotating and flipping the cushions for even wear.
          • Ask about the rub count rating to indicate how long the material is likely to last
            • Martindale rub test - a machine is used to simulate wear and tear by repeatedly rubbing the fabric until it starts to break down
            • Aim for at least 25,000-50,000 for a residential sofa
            • Consider kids, pets or exactly how and where you’ll be using your sofa
        • Cushions:
          • High quality polyurethane foam is most commonly used and should be dense - at least 2.0 pounds. Most budget brands use 1.5 pound density foam or lower, which leads to quick breakdown of the cushions.
          • The quality and longevity of the cushions is tied to the density of the foam, but even high-density foam can have soft, medium and firm compression.
          • Custom-made sofas, like the couches we carry at Modern Bungalow, allow customers to choose the firmness of cushions
          • To maintain a cushion’s shape, high quality ones will have a core wrapped in material such as Dacron which prevents the upholstery covering from creeping or slipping
      9. Warranty
          • The higher quality the furniture, the better the warranty
          • You’ll often find a lifetime warranty on couch frames with additional warranty timeframes to cover all other parts including fabric, cushions and suspension
          • Often a lifetime warranty will actually be pro-rated over 20 or 25 years. Meaning if you have owned the sofa for 10 years and the frame fails, you may get a credit for half of the purchase price toward a new couch.

        What to consider after buying a quality sofa

        Living Room Sofa and Chair

        If you’ve put forth the effort to buy something made with the best possible materials there are, you won’t have to do much to keep it looking great.

        High quality couch makers use long lasting, durable materials and will treat each fiber with superior stain protection. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean up when you spill, but it’ll give you peace of mind knowing your fabric already has a first line of defense.

        What you can do to protect your upholstered sofa:

          • Vacuum
            • Do regularly to help prevent surface dirt from getting embedded into fibers
            • Use a soft bristled brush that won’t snag the fabric
          • Spot Clean
            • Blot excess mess with a dry towel turning frequently so the stain doesn’t transfer
            • Use soap + water solution - Stylus recommends ¼ teaspoon enzyme laundry detergent such as Tide or Cheer with 1 cup warm water
            • Apply with spray bottle and rub in with soft bristled brush
            • Blot with a clean towel and rinse
            • Repeat as needed
          • Turn and move cushions
            • Helps to evenly distribute wear and tear
          • Avoid direct sunlight and pollutants
            • Too much direct sun can cause fabric to fade and fray
            • Cooking fumes and smoke can cause harm - keep area ventilated
          • Call a professional
            • Experts recommend doing this every few years
            • Don’t wait for it to become visibly dirty as it will be harder to clean

        If your couch is made of leather:

        • Avoid long periods of direct exposure to sunlight and heat (such as radiators, vents, skylights, etc)
        • Do not use Armor All, saddle soaps, ammonia based solutions, Windex, or any cleaners or conditioners that do not have your specific type of leather on the label
        • Butter, grease, oil and water-based liquids should be blotted and left to naturally air dry
        • Wax, gum and ink should be removed by a professional leather cleaning company

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        Once you’re ready to shop, Modern Bungalow is here to help you choose your next custom-made sofa from one of our trusted and carefully selected high quality furniture makers.

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