We are often asked how to determine whether a sofa or chair is a good piece of furniture that is worthy of being reupholstered. One of the best ways is to inspect the spring system. When we reupholster furniture we see the insides of sofas made by other furniture manufacturers. The spring systems vary widely depending on the original manufacturer. At Fabrics and Frames Furniture most of our furniture has coil springs that are either machine tied or eight-way hand tied.
There are many different spring systems used in sofas today. Some utilize metal springs while others use flexible webbing. What is the difference in each of these systems?
Metal Spring System:(machine tied coil unit)
Flexible Webbing System:
The oldest and considered possibly the best spring system is the eight-way hand tied coil springs system. All of the coil springs are tied together in eight different ways and thus when you sit at one end of the sofa it is actually getting support from the entire spring system. In addition the coils may be up to 8″ tall and when you sit on them you have a nice ride up and down that is very comfortable. This system does require maintenance over the years. The nylon or jute twine that is used to tie the springs together will eventually stretch or break over years of use. The eight-way system when done right using nylon twine should last many years. Actual knots rather than loops between the springs is important to ensure the springs will remain tight. Many furniture factories pay what is called piece work to their furniture builders. Since workers get paid based on how many sofas that they tie in one day some attention to detail is lost and loops rather than knots sometimes is done. When we reupholster existing sofas we often see coil springs that are loose and need to be retied because of use of loops rather than knots together with age. When we retie them we do it with knots not loops. A sofa for example will take us about 8 hours to tie properly while others made by many massed produced North Carolina companies take about an hour and half. Why the big difference ? We take the time to do it right.
Eight-Way hand tie spring system:
Another coil spring system we use is the machine tied coil unit. Since the coils are tied by metal wire there are no strings that stretch or break. We support the coil unit by hardwood braces which will hold the springs in place . Maintenance of this system is almost non existent since metal does not break or stretch like string. We use this system when making most of our furniture. The most prevalent metal spring system used by other manufacturers is a sinuous wire that is clipped to the front and the back of the sofa. It is shaped like a long snake. This is the most cost effective (cheapest) metal spring system available. Spring spacing is critical. This system can bottom out and loose it resilience with heavy usage. A lot of the less expensive sofas will have this spring system. When this system no longer supports properly it must be replaced. We have had clients that sank in their furniture (too soft and hard to get out of) and thought firmer cushions would cure the problem when it was actually the springs. When a client has a sofa that does not need to be reupholstered we have a remedy for this – we fill the bottom of the sofa (under the springs) with foam to prevent the spring from bottoming out.
Examples of Different Types of Inexpensive Spring Systems:
Sinuous Wire Spring System:
Many of the newer leather manufacturers use webbing as their support system. This system cost a lot less than coils and the “ride” is limited and obviously not long term. Spacing and proper installation are critical.
Whatever spring system is used can give years of service if it is done properly . Softer seat cushions perform better on coil springs that ride up and down for support. Webbing suspension has a limited ride and the senuous wire tends to bottom out and these are better matched with firmer cushions. Whatever system your sofa has now can be changed or reworked when it is being reupholstered but limited options are available if you do not want to reupholster.
Comfort in seating is the result of cushions, springs, pitch and depth . At Fabrics and Frames we have showroom samples that combine all of these options to achieve what we believe are comfortable high-quality made sofas by craftsmen who care. If you have any questions about your sofa or ours contact us – we would love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have.
Jim The Sofa Man
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