Check the Frame
A sturdy frame means long-lasting furniture. Soft wood, such as pine, is low-cost, but it may warp or wobble after five years, Pricier hardwood (kiln-dried oak, ash, or beech, for example) is more durable, and Canadian lumber acclimatized to our environment is very important as we have such a dry climate. Avoid frames made of particleboard, plastic, or metal; they may warp and crack. Legs should be part of the frame or held on with screws or dowels (pegs) — not with glue alone.
Tip: Lift the corner of the furniture, a well made frame is going to feel heavy.
Ask About Joinery
A frame with joints corner blocked, dowelled, screwed and glued, or metal screws and brackets, is going to stand the test of time. Staples or nails may be used for extra reinforcement, but never buy a sofa that's held together solely by staples, nails, or glue.
Tip: When shopping ask the sales person if they use OSB or MDF in their furniture or how the frame is built, if they don’t know run!
Test the Springs
Most sofas have sinuous, also called serpentine, springs — preassembled units of snaking wire. They're nicely supportive, but they can press on the frame or sag over time if the metal isn't heavy. High-end sofas often come with No Sag (Zig Zag), Pirelli or Industrial Webbing, Web and Coil, 8-Way Hand Tied. A custom manufacturer will often give you the choice of springs. Feel the springs through the upholstery — they should be close together and firm.
Tip: Sit down firmly on a corner or outside edge of upholstered furniture you're considering. Squeaks and creaks suggest that springs are incorrectly placed or hitting the frame.
Feel Your Fillings
Tip: Two good options that are comfortable and reasonably priced: HR foam in a layer of down and conventional foam wrapped in polyester batting.
Find Tough Textiles
Sofas for everyday use need durable fabric. Cotton and linen are winners (but watch out for loose weaves — they can snag). Also terrific: synthetic microfiber, which can mimic most fabrics and is stain resistant. Blends of natural and synthetic fibres tend to pill within a year. Wool and leather are handsome and strong but expensive. Silk is sleek but fragile. Fabrics with patterns woven in tend to wear better than those with printed patterns.
Tip: Ask the sales person about what the fabric is made of, and what the durable rating or double rub rating is. A double-rub is a testing method that uses a special machine that passes a testing pad back and forth over the fabric until it is worn out. Each back and forth pass is known as a double-rub
Commercial grade fabrics are usually rated at 100,000 to 250,000 double-rubs. Residential/domestic grade fabrics are usually rated at 25,000 double-rubs. Commercial grade fabrics must be rated higher due to the high traffic that’s typical of any commercial location while residential grade fabrics are rated lower due to the low traffic.
Commercial grade fabrics may be used in a residential/domestic setting as well (and vice versa), but may be unnecessary due to the low volume of traffic. The level of cost for these fabrics may be affected by the double-rub count as well. The double-rub count for any fabric can typically be found alongside the rest of the fabrics specifications.