Buying New??? Think Twice…

Buying New??? Think Twice…

“Out with the old, in with the new”  In today’s disposable society this seems to be the motto when looking for new furniture. That is not the case at Fabrics and Frames Furniture! Fabrics and Frames is celebrating its 34th year of service in the furniture industry.   With so much experience behind us, we have learned a couple of do’s and don’ts from the industry, and reasons why we suggest you carefully reconsider before throwing out your old furniture or buy new.

With the way most furniture is constructed these days, it no longer holds the label of “furniture built to last a lifetime”.  Most of us assume that our pieces of furniture are constructed with the finest materials both inside and out, especially if you have invested thousands of dollars in the piece, but this is not the case in most situations.  Fabrics and Frames Furniture is a manufacturer in the furniture industry, and because of this we specialize in furniture construction and repairs.  Over the 30+ years that we have been in buisness, we have deconstructed and reconstructed  many pieces of furniture to find particle board and cardboard holding the insides of the furniture together. There are many ways to construct a piece of furniture, but by paying attention to the small details you can distinguish a well-made piece of furniture from a low end piece of furniture. Price does not necessarily determine the quality!

When you take apart a piece of furniture that was built in the early 1900’s, you will notice many unique characteristics of the style of upholstery and construction.  A older piece will show that the person or company that originally created the piece designed it with functionality meant to last for many decades.  Generally older furniture will be constructed with hardwoods, joint details that give strength to the piece, and structure details that screams out “Form Follows Function.”.

The majority of today’s furniture is constructed to last maybe 5-10 years before it starts to breakdown. One of the first areas to go are the cushions followed by the frame.  Older peices would normally have some sort of spring system built into the structure of the piece.  Today many furniture frames are constructed with a webbing systems inside of them.  (Note: there are some companies out there still offering spring systems to support their furniture, but the average furniture won’t have it incorporated into the design.)  Having a webbing system incorporated into your design instead of a spring system will ultimately end up with you eventually falling through your sofa.  Webbing is a rubber product that has elasticity…over time (5-10years) the webbing will start to stretch and wear out.  As time goes on, you may eventually start to sink into your sofa.  When this begins to happen, many people think that it is just the foam in the cushions breaking down, and that is why they are starting to have trouble getting out of thier furniture, but in reality it is often their webbing system is stretching and breaking down.

Most furniture sold these days comes from China, regardless of whose brand name is attached to it.  When shopping for a new piece that you expect to last for years, ask these questions:

1. Is it made in the U.S.A.?

Furniture that is constructed in the U.S. mainly comes from North Carolina.  Many name-brand companies are buying overseas and getting pre-upholstered furniture shipped into the U.S.  This is problem for many reasons because (A) it takes away American jobs and (B) you lose the quality aspect that comes from experienced upholsterers. You can end up with mis-shaped furniture, and poorly matched pattern repeats. I have seen fabrics put on upside down because people are not taking the time to pay attention to simple detail. (C) Non-Consistant Furniture Product.  What you see at the store is not what you always get in your home.  Dye-lot colors and patterns on the fabric being off in tone and texture are common problems.  After waiting for 12 weeks or more for a custom-ordered piece and not getting what you ordered at the store is not a fun experience. Often you get stuck with something you don’t really like because once you sign on delivery you are unable to return it.  With these many problems with mass produced furniture today it should  make you question: “Is it worth buying cheaper?”

Striped Pattern Matched Sofa

Stripes are not pattern matched.

2. What type of wood is the furniture frame constructed out of?

The only acceptable type of wood for furniture frames is hardwoods. Softer woods and particle board is a big no-no because they don’t have the strength necessary to support the frame.

3.What type of seating system does it have?

Webbed or Spring? Spring systems are superior in all areas no matter what a salesperson tries to tell you.

4.Am I looking for a piece to keep for a long time, or do I want a disposable piece of furniture?

Many of today’s younger generation like the option of cheaper furniture because it allows them to change every couple of years.  The disadvantage to this way of thinking is that economically you are spending more money overtime.  Instead of buying a better quality sofa  which will allow you to abuse your furniture and it structurally be able to withstand the impact over the next 20years, the younger consumer will buy inexpensive sofas every 3-5 years that will break down and may even structurally fall apart.  When purchasing an inexpensive piece of furniture, you are risking buying a piece that is constructed out of particle board and cardboard.  What is wrong with this style of construction is that particle board is compressed thin layers of wood, allowing it to be weaker that hardwoods, and eventually snapping and breaking in half.  Some common places where breakage occurs is in the middle of the frame, the arm falling off, and legs breaking off.  If you are looking for a piece of furniture to fill a spot in your home and it will never be used, then go with a cheap piece of furniture.  But if you are looking for a piece of furniture to really use such as in your living room or den spend a little more and buy quality.  Another benefit of buying quality is that you will not have to bother with the headache of the upkeep on an inexpensive piece that will need extra TLC.

Broken Arm Sofa

Broken Base SofaBroken Arm Sofa

When thinking about new furniture, think about the functionality of the piece, and how are you going use this particular furniture piece and how often?  Times are hard economically for most of us right now…shouldn’t we analyze our expenses so that we get the most out of our purchase? If you are now discouraged from buying new…Then think Reupholstery!  Reupholstering is not always the most inexpensive way to go, but if you have a unique quality frame, or one of sentimental value, then it may be structurally better than the pieces coming out of China and most certainly will cost a little less than buying a comparable new piece.

For more information about designing or where to get custom looks like these please visit our website:

We are currently located at 5322 Alpha Rd, Dallas, Texas 75240. 972-385-4097.  Please contact us if you have any questions about this blog at, and or follow us on Facebook!

Writen By: Erica Guajardo

Edited By: Linda Decuir


Quality Made Sofas

How do you determine whether  furniture is of good quality?

When shopping for new furniture most people check out the current ads to see where they should look. Almost every furniture ad says that the furniture it is advertising is a quality product. This is standard advertising but often misleading to the general public. The ads want you to believe that the stores are indeed selling quality products when in fact they may not be. They advertise different prices but still advertise quality for all. Maybe good advertising sells products but good quality keeps customers.

So how does one determine if a sofa is truly built with quality in mind?

The old adages that “you get what you pay for” and “if its too good to be true it generally is” is a good start. But let’s look deeper into what goes into making a quality sofa or chair.

The Frame:

all hardwood frame, glued and double dowelled at stress joints

Let us first start with the main structure of the piece – the frame. Frames should be made of properly dried hardwoods. They should be engineered with strong joints that will withstand years of use. Using wood dowels and lots of wood glue to hold the joints together is very important. The size of the rails, the large piece of wood on the front of the sofa, and supporting side pieces, together with proper spacing is critical for long term performance. Perhaps most important is the time and care taken assembling and gluing the frame pieces together. The frame builder must make sure the wood joints are flush and glue is oozing out of the wood to make sure the frame will withstand the abuse of consumers for years to come.

I have seen plywood , OSB(wood chips glued together) and pine used in inexpensive furniture. I have also seen plywood used in very expensive furniture. Plywood is not necessarily bad in certain situations, such as on curves, but care must be taken to properly engineer all stress joints. Plywood is composed of layers of wood that can be used in radius (curved) pieces without concern of the wood splitting with the grain. CNC machine (computer generated cutting) of plywood is very precise and with careful assembly can perform properly. Call me old fashioned but I want my frames to be made with hardwoods , want them glued, double doweled at stress joints and most importantly I want the wood assembled with care taken so that all wood joints are flush . The process is time consuming and not easy to accomplish in large production line environments. When shopping for a sofa you can often determine how well the frame is made by trying to wiggle the arms to see if they move. If they do the joints are probably not put together properly.

Dried Hardwoods:

Dowels used at stress points:

Spring System:

Now let’s talk about the spring system. The most important part about the spring system is that, whatever type is used, it must be properly spaced and the frames properly engineered to work together with the springs for years of service. No-sag springs (snake looking wire from front to back) and webbing are the least expensive and their productive life is usually limited to the life of the fabric. Coil springs are considered the most expensive and with maintenance will last for many years. You can find eight-way hand tied springs or machine-tied springs. Both will last you for years to come.

Eight-way Hand Tie:

No- Sag Springs (snake looking spring system):


Cushion stuffing can be foam, dacron , feathers and down, springs or a combination of any of these. There are many different qualities and firmnesses of foam that are typically used for standard sized cushions. Soft overstuffed cushions can be a mixture of springs (small coils wrapped in muslin) or foam in the middle with a combination of feathers , down or dacron on the outside (the envelope). This is then covered with a cushion covering. Whatever type of cushion stuffing you choose should be combined with a spring system that gives proper support. A general rule is that soft overstuffed cushions work best with a good firm spring system such as coil springs which will give a good ride while sinking into that wonderful sofa. For a firmer feel denser foam cushions on a good spring system will give better support. Often when shopping one finds really hard sofas that feel like you are sitting on a board. This usually indicates a no sag spring system or webbing with a combination of cheap foam cushions.





Cutting the Fabric and Tailoring:

nailheads on an upholstered arm

The tailoring of a sofa is what determines how visually beautiful it is. It is the most time consuming part of building a quality sofa. Each fabric stretches differently. When cushion covers are cut allowance must be taken into account for anticipated stretch. Most factories cut all the fabrics alike not taking into account this stretch. Factories test fabrics before putting them in their furniture lines. Many large factories marry certain fabrics to certain frames because of the difficulty in matching/tailoring.

At Fabrics and Frames we make each piece individually and study all fabrics thoroughly making allowance for stretch, pattern matching etc. before cutting it. It can take us 8 hours or more to properly cut the fabric for a sofa. A mass produced factory generally gang cuts their fabrics (many fabrics are cut at the same time, one on top of the other) thus all are cut alike without regard to stretching or patterns. This is definitely more efficient but does not produce a beautiful sofa. For us cutting fabrics is akin to an artist doing a painting. Many decisions are made as to where the pattern is centered or continued. We always try to match the pattern in a fabric all over the piece. The pattern will match from the back to the seat. The seat will match from the seat to the apron, the apron will match to the skirt, etc. We not only match the pattern vertically but also horizontally when we can.

Pattern Match Chairs:(follows lines in the base from the seat cushion)

Discriminating shoppers can always tell when a sofa has been upholstered with care. The fabric has been pulled tight during the upholstery process so that there are no wrinkles or loose fabric on the arms, apron, in back or outside back. When shopping for a sofa feel the arms to make sure you don’t feel the wood. We use three layers between the wood and the final fabric – cotton, dacron, and a base fabric. Also feel the back. It should be pulled tight and not feel floppy when pushed in. Saggy backs are just not attractive. The back and seat cushions should fit the frame nicely. There should not be lots of space between the cushions nor should they be too tightly squished together. At Fabrics and Frames we know that great upholsterers produce beautiful furniture that you can be happy to have in your home.

If you are the type that likes things done right ask lot of questions when shopping for furniture. To make sure you are buying from a reputable store you can also check the Better Business Bureau for complaints and resolutions the store has dealt with. Fabrics and Frames is and has been a member of the BBB for over 30 years and we have not even had a single complaint to address. This is because our craftsmen care and our owners care that we do it right. We are human and nothing is perfect but our goal is to do the best job we can – and it shows in both the new furniture we build and the furniture we reupholster. That’s why 70% of our business is from previous customers and referrals. Our goal is to make our customers “customers for life” by giving them the best product they can buy for a price they can afford!

Jim The Sofa Man

For more information about designing or where to get custom looks like these please visit our website:

We are currently located at 5322 Alpha Rd, Dallas, Texas 75240. 972-385-4097.  Please contact us if you have any questions about this blog at, and or follow us on Facebook!

How is the quality of your sofa determined by the spring system?

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

  For more information about designing or where to get custom looks like these please visit our website:

We are currently located at 5322 Alpha Rd, Dallas, Texas 75240. 972-385-4097.  Please contact us if you have any questions about this blog at, and or follow us on Facebook!

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