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Suspension Systems: The Second Difference Between a $1000 Sofa and $4000 Sofa

After the frame, the next major area of difference between an inexpensive sofa and a more expensive sofa is the seating suspension.

There are 3 main types of seating suspension for sofas

Web suspension

This type is where the furniture manufacturer runs webbing from front to back and sometimes side to side and attaches it to the sofa frame. This gives a little bit of suspension for the seat cushions to sit on and is usually found in lower quality sofas because it is quick, easy and inexpensive to build.

One caveat to this generalization is that certain very low, sleek styles need to use this type of suspension to achieve the modern look no matter how high the quality of the sofa is. I have found a few high end manufacturers that use web seating but the webbing materials that they use are extremely high quality, expensive and will last. A high quality web seating will always have the webbing run very close together and run front to back AND side to side creating a trampoline-like seating deck.

No-sag wire

This is the most common suspension system used in sofas. No-sag wire is an S shaped wire that runs from the front rail of the sofa to the back rail of the sofa and arches up slightly in the centre giving a bit of spring to the seating system on the sofa. Typically this is used in better quality sofas and will provide a comfortable base for you to sit on for quite a few years.

Again with no-sag construction there are varying degrees of quality within this suspension system and like the web seating the closer the S-shaped wires are placed together the better.

8-way hand-tied coil system

This is the oldest, most labour intensive, and costliest suspension system you can get on a sofa or chair.

8-way hand coiled suspension is built like this. First there is a woven webbing that is placed at the bottom of the frame of your sofa, which is not unlike the web suspension system we talked about earlier but instead of being put at the top of the frame next to where the seat cushion will sit, it is put at the bottom of the frame. Next a series of cylindrical coils are attached to the webbing. From here a craftsman will take twine and tie each and every coil 8 different ways to the frame and the adjacent coils. As you can imagine there are a lot of coils in every sofa so it takes a skilled craftsman quite a lot of time to tie each and every coil 8 different ways.

One advantage of the 8-way hand tied coil construction is that it will allow an upholsterer to create a "soft edge" on the front of the sofa. If you are sitting on a sofa and place your hand under the front of a seat cushion and push down you will find that most sofas don't move at all. If a sofa has a soft edge when you push down you will be pushing on coils rather than trying to bend a piece of wood. The advantage of this is that the front edge moves with the cushion and acts like a box spring does to your mattress. It adds a little more comfort to the sit of the sofa but not every 8-way hand tied coil constructed sofa will have a soft front edge.

This system gives extremely consistent support to the sofa and should provide you with a lifetime of hassle free comfort.

8-Way Hand-Tied Suspension installed in the Sherrill factory, courtesy of Sherrill Furniture.

Complete the series: Part 1: Frame | Part 2: Suspension | Part 3: Cushions | Part 4: Fabric

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