What is the difference in a Hardwood, Softwood or Metal Sofa Frame?



Hardwood frame, softwood frame, pine frame, metal frame…. the choices can seem endless. Every retailer and manufacturer will have a “selling story” as to why their frame quality is better.


Warranties

Many retailers will offer “lifetime warranties” on their frames. Most of these are limited, which means they can be limited to domestic use and proper usage as decided by the retailer and manufacturer. Obviously it is better to at least give yourself a chance at recourse by having a longer warranty if you find a couch that is suitable for your needs.


Which Sofa Frame is Better?

In our experience, a well-made frame can be made out of a variety of materials. There are major retailers that manufacture their lounges and sofa frames out of metal. Obviously a great way to make a frame, as there would be little movement in the frame and no chance of getting a crack in the frame from a knot in the wood. Unfortunately, you also have the price tag to go with it, as metal is generally more expensive than timber. If you believe that your new sofa will be placed under excessive amounts of punishment and you want to have minimal fuss or worry regarding frame robustness, then a metal frame is a great choice.


That said, will a timber frame, be it hardwood or a softwood frame such as pine be any less robust? Yes, and No.


Hardwood Sofa Frames

A hardwood frame would generally be quite strong as there will be less knots, if any, in the timber if it is a higher grade timber. Of course, many manufacturers will try to reduce their costs as much as they can and may not purchase the best quality hardwood. In this case it comes down to how the sofa frame is made. Does it have blocks in the corners of the lounge to reduce the amount of movement in this area. Do the rails (long pieces of timber that make up the front back and sides of the sofa between each corner), have reinforcement along them to ensure they do not crack when placed under pressure. This can be very important if the quality of the timber is not of a top grade, as any knots will come under pressure and possibly lead to a crack in the frame. Many governments do not support the farming of old growth forests. This is where a substantial amount of hardwoods are sourced. It would be worthwhile to pursue specific information if any retailer is spruiking hardwood frames as there is a shift in the market to manufacturing all frames in a sustainable timber such as Plantation Pine. This can be farmed at a reduced cost, and the added benefit is that old growth forests are not decimated, and the impact on the environment is therefore managed.


Softwood Sofa Frames

Now to softwood frames. Like anything, there is better and poorer quality softwoods. The most common softwood used for lounge and sofa manufacture would be Pine. Both Radiata Pine and Hoop Pine are commonly used. Hoop Pine tends to be a little harder than Radiata, but guess what a lot of our house frames are made of? You guessed it – Radiata Pine. Also fencing, Pergola's and a variety of other structural uses.


Sofa Frame Construction

As mentioned before, sofa and lounge frame manufacturing can be done using a variety of materials. It is more important, with timber at least, to ensure the frame is put together with a degree of common sense. If the manufacturer is using Pine, or other softwood, they must ensure they support the rails with maybe a second piece of timber, or a thicker piece is used. If the frame maker sees a knot in the timber, make sure they reinforce it with another piece of timber. Make sure there are significant blocks in the corners to reduce the amount of twisting in the frame. Plywood for the facings and sides are recognised as being best practice rather than chipboard. Again, there is good and bad plywood used in manufacture, but generally it will be fine for sofa and lounge manufacture if care is taken.


Conclusions

There you have it. Our experience over many years of sofa and lounge manufacture and retailing has shown us that there is no hard and fast rule regarding sofa frame manufacture. Yes, metal frames are great if you are prepared to pay the extra dollars. Timber frames can be just as well made and robust depending on the grade of timber used. If the top grade of timber is not used, is care taken in ensuring the frame has reinforcement in the right areas; along the rails, and the blocks in the corners.


A general rule of thumb is if you can pick up one corner and it displays a large amount of flexing in the frame, or there is creaking when sitting on it, or it is just excessively light then it might be worth asking for more information. Of course the warranty offered by the retailer is another good hint to how much they trust their frame quality. The longer the warranty is, it could be said the more faith a supplier has in there frame quality. That said, if something is going to go wrong with a frame due to a manufacturing fault or weakness in the timber it will happen in the initial period of ownership.


I hope this information helps you when next you are looking at purchasing a new lounge. Obviously, this information is our opinion based on what we have seen over many years of manufacturing and retailing lounges, visiting manufacturing facilities, both locally and internationally and discussing manufacturing procedures with our suppliers. Please leave any comments or questions you may have and we will do our best to answer them. Of course, all these comments are our opinion and other suppliers' opinions may differ.