How Good Are Furniture Warranties?

Most consumers assume that furniture warranties are supposed to protect them. That is not the case.

The primary purpose of a furniture warranty is actually to protect the retailer and manufacturer.

Messed-up-blue-sofa

At the top of the warranty, large bold letters will spell out the time limit for each major part of the furniture. For example:

Frames – 10 years
Cushions – 5 years
Recliner or Sleeper Mechanisms – 3 years
Fabric – 1 year 
Mattresses – 1 year

Much further down the document there will be exceptions and exclusions.

These exceptions and exclusions can make the bold print terms virtually meaningless.

Furniture warranties are honored only by the retailer you purchased from. Manufacturers will do nothing to help unless you first go through your local retailer.

Furniture warranties may seem, at first glance, to cover everything, at least for a specified amount of time.

In reality the warranty document will have numerous exceptions and exclusions. These usually cover the most common complaints that furniture purchasers will have.

For example cushions are almost always excluded from warranty protection. That may not be obvious. The bold print may promise a 5 year warranty term.

Further down in the warranty, however, is a clause stating that “Normal wear” is excluded.

If cushions sag or lose their shape that is considered “normal wear” no matter how soon it happens after you bought the furniture.

There have been thousands of complaints about “peeling” bonded leather fabrics. Some of these occur within the first year after purchase.

Most manufacturers explicitly exclude fabrics in their warranty coverage.

Retailers usually refuse to cover peeling bonded leather citing “normal use” or “customer abuse” as justification.

Even in extreme cases where bonded leather begins to peel in less than a year, many retailers will fight against replacing the furniture. (It usually cannot be repaired.)

There have been hundreds of lawsuits on this subject. Consumers rarely prevail.

Frames and foundations have far fewer problems than cushions and fabrics. Defects are also more difficult to prove.

Repairing a frame or foundation under warranty may require transportation of the sofa. This can be extremely expensive.

Customers are usually responsible for the transportation charges. Large furniture items can cost many hundreds of dollars to ship (each way.)

Returning furniture to a manufacturer for repairs can take several weeks (or months.)

Customers may also be charged hourly labor costs for warranty repairs.

Most furniture defects occur during shipping. This can be from the factory to the retailer or from the retailer to the customer.

Defects must be seen and documented while the delivery people are still in your home. Otherwise you may have great difficulty getting the warranty provisions honored.

Many retailers routinely “deluxe” their furniture before delivery from their warehouse to the customer.

“Deluxing” means that the retailer removes the furniture from the manufacturer’s packaging, inspects it, repairs any noticeable defects and then blanket wraps the furniture for delivery to the home.

The reason for this practice is that a significant percentage of furniture arrives at the retailer’s warehouse already damaged. Or it is damaged in the warehouse before leaving.

Repairs are far less expensive when they are made before the furniture reaches the customer’s home.

Customers sometimes pick up furniture at the retailer’s warehouse.

If something in one of the boxes you picked up is damaged some stores may deny responsibility.

Carefully read your receipt if you pick up furniture at a retailer’s warehouse. There may be unexpected clauses.

For example the signed receipt may certify that you have accepted the furniture in good condition.

This allows the retailer to disclaim any responsibility for damages discovered when you open the sealed boxes in your home.

Warranty claims must first be made through the retailer. Manufacturers will not do anything unless the retailer has approved first.

Retailers will sometimes agree to make repairs if the cost is not too high. Demands for costly repairs or replacement will meet far more resistance.

Online retailers may be easier to deal with. They are able to do returns more economically. They can also force the manufacturers to accept the bulk of the return costs.

Any warranty repairs or replacements for your furniture may take extensive periods of time.

Auto dealers may loan a car to you while yours is being repaired. There are no “loaner” pieces available for furniture customers.

bonded-leather

A high percentage of furniture damage occurs during shipping. Filing damage claims against shipping firms is a long and frustrating process. It can take several months and rarely results in full compensation.

Bedding warranties are virtually useless. Almost anything that can go wrong with a mattress or foundation will be dismissed as “normal wear.” Major defects like broken springs that might be covered are extremely rare.

Extended Warranty Plans

Furniture salespeople may make a strenuous effort to sell you an extended warranty. These plans are typically pitched as though they offer added protection and extend the retailer’s warranty.

Extended furniture warranties are never a good idea. They invalidate the manufacturer’s warranty and are loaded with exclusions.

Extended warranties are third party insurance contracts from financial companies.

If the company backing the extended warranty goes out of business you lose your coverage. There are many cases of extended warranty companies that have gone out of business. Customers are left with no protection.

Extended warranty companies subcontract furniture repair services. Contracts are usually awarded to 3rd party repair services.

These may have bad reputations or be inconveniently located. They have no relationship or agreement with the furniture manufacturer. The contracts are often awarded to the lowest bidder.

Extended warranty plans generally end up costing anywhere from $100 to 6% of the total cost of furniture. They are extremely lucrative to the store. Salespeople usually receive a very high commission for selling these plans.

-Reprinted with permission from Jeff Frank’s blog. Jeff is a 40 year furniture professional and owner of simplicitysofas.com.

His opinions do not always reflect those of Furniture Works, but we find his ideas & expertise always interesting and worth reading. For more useful articles, visit our blog.

By the way, it is for the reasons above that Furniture Works does not sell extended warranties. However, every new piece of furniture has a warranty from the wholesaler. If you want a copy for the item you’ve purchased, just ask.

Is There a Difference Between a Sofa and a Couch?

The former comes from the French verb “coucher,” which means “to lie down.” Sofa, on the other hand, stems from the Arabic word “suffah,” which is essentially a wooden bench covered in blankets and cushions.

Some reference sources describe a sofa as an “upholstered bench with cushions, two arms, and ample space for people to sit.” A couch has no arms and is smaller than a sofa.

More recently the distinction has seemed to be related to where you live and what age you are.

For example, growing up near New York City in the 1960s and 70s my parents always referred to our “sofa” where my grandmother called the same piece a “couch.”

People from rural areas seem to be more likely to use the term “couch.” Those from urban and suburban areas are more likely to use “sofa.” That is just a long term observation. I do not have any hard statistics to prove that theory.

Sometimes a “couch” is considered to be more casual and comfortable, while a “sofa” is more formal and might refer to a stylish design-oriented piece.”

The interior design community and furniture industry generally uses the two terms interchangeably. But not always.

Furniture retailers and manufacturers tend to prefer the term “sofa” currently.

The perception is that, from a marketing standpoint, sofas have an image of being higher style, fancier and more costly.

Interior design professionals may insist there are differences between sofas and couches. But they do not always agree on what those differences are.

A couch is often perceived as more of an informal casual type of seating. The term “couch potato” refers to this interpretation.

Living rooms more often have sofas while family rooms are more likely to have couches.

Size is another distinction that industry professionals do not always agree on.

Some say couches may seat more people (3+), while a good sofa may only seat 2-3. On the other hand probably an equal number claim that the reverse is true.

You can find articles by interior designers going both ways.

Interior Designer Karen Angela of Queensartsandtrends.com added a comment pointing out that “Couches may be one arm or no arm and a covered back. but Sofas are always two arms and a uniform back layout.”

The popularity of sofa vs. couch seems to be just about even over the entire U.S.

Google Adwords gives its users a number of approximately how many people use specific key words and phrases each month.

The results change month to month there is no clear trend for which term is the more popular. For example “sofa” may get more searches one month, but “small sofa” may get few searches than “small couches.”

As someone who has observed this for ten years there is no clear trend as to which term is more dominant nationwide.

As someone who has observed this for ten years there is no clear trend as to which term is more dominant nationwide.

-Reprinted with permission from Jeff Frank’s blog. Jeff is a 40 year furniture professional and owner of simplicitysofas.com.

His opinions do not always reflect those of Furniture Works, but we find his ideas & expertise always interesting and worth reading. For more useful articles, visit our blog.

What is the best mattress or mattress brand?

I researched hundreds of different mattresses to find one for my personal use over several weeks.

I am an expert on mattresses.

Once upon a time, many years ago, I was a mattress buyer for a large furniture chain.

During my 6 years in that position I purchased over $20 million of mattresses.

In my recent mattress search I was not surprised to find that there were almost no points of comparison among different mattress brands. That was true 30 years ago also.

But I was surprised to find that it is now virtually impossible to compare different products within a single brand.

Mattress-stack

There are hundreds of different mattress models within each major brand. Many look alike, but all have different specifications.

There is no easy way to compare these specifications – even for an expert.

For example: Is a mattress with 1000 coils using 16 gauge wire better than a similarly priced mattress that has 850 coils with a 15 gauge wire?

I actually know what these specifications and terminology mean. It doesn’t help!

I still can’t tell if one is better than the other.

Then there are different layers, densities and types of foam — and a choice of firm, gently firm, medium firm, luxury firm, extra-firm, pillow-top, luxury pillow top, and on and on.

Many brand name mattresses had been “marked down” by 50 – 75% off . It was hard to resist such “great” values.

But they “looked” very similar to other mattresses that were the same price but not on sale.

mattress-sale

Comparing different mattress models appeared to be impossible. Except that there was one common measurement for all mattresses that actually could be compared.

After several weeks researching the topic I eventually began to realize that there was a consistent relationship between the price of a mattress and its weight.

In almost every case, the higher the price being charged, the more the mattress weighed. This applied no matter what the original pre-discount “suggested retail price” had been.

For example mattresses “on sale” for $1000 marked down from $3000 almost always weighed approximately the same as $1000 mattresses that had not been marked down.

Mattresses that actually sold for $3000 always weighed substantially more than the heavily discounted mattresses that claimed to have originally sold for $3000.

The weight of a mattress and the price it is sold at correlated very closely in almost all cases.

This conclusion was the result of dozens of comparisons I made among mattresses from three different major brands with widely varying specifications.

I also looked at at mattresses from smaller brands with fewer model variations.

Those few exceptions, where a particular mattress is heavier than similar priced competitors, represent the best values.

Once you have determined the weight of a mattress there are 5 simple steps to make an effective comparison and find the best mattress value:

5 simple steps for choosing the best mattress value:

1. Decide whether you have a preference between foam mattresses, innerspring mattresses or hybrid (springs and memory foam) mattresses. [This comparison system does not work for some outlying technologies such as air or water beds. Comparisons of different technologies (e.g. foam mattress vs. innerspring mattress) are also inapplicable.]

2. Decide whether you prefer a mattress that is soft, firm or somewhere in between.

3. Decide how much you are willing to spend.

4. Compare the weights of mattresses that fit the first three steps. The ones that weigh the most are the best mattresses.

5. The best values are those mattresses that are heavier than the competition but cost less.

I had been searching specifically for an innerspring or hybrid queen-size mattress that was 12″ – 14″ thick, made by an established brand name company with a cost of under $1000.

The mattresses I researched that were priced at $800 – $1000 typically weighed 80 – 100 lbs. I also looked at several mattresses which were selling for approximately $2000 and found that these all weighed approximately 110 -120 lbs.

This confirmed my theory that more expensive mattresses typically weigh more.

There was only a small increase in weight for mattresses costing twice.

This indicates that a substantial part of the additional cost for the more expensive mattresses can probably be attributed to cosmetic improvements and increased profit margins.

Many mattresses are sold at deep “discounts.” It quickly became apparent that the higher “suggested retail” prices were completely fictitious.

I compared the weights of more than 20 deeply discounted mattresses to other “non-discounted” mattresses made by the same company.

In every single comparison the discounted mattresses weighed approximately the same as the non-discounted mattresses and less than the mattresses that were actually being sold at prices comparable to the high “suggested retail” price.

Since writing this article I have been asked by many people on my furniture blog The Insider’s Guide to Furniture and the Home Furnishings Industry, what the difference is between super premium mattresses that cost $3000 or more vs. mattresses that sell for $1000.

More expensive mattresses do have more “good stuff” inside, but not nearly enough to account for the difference in price.

My best estimate is that the extra $2000 that you pay for the $3000 mattress breaks down like this:

Quality improvements: $500
Cosmetic improvements: $500
Additional profit margin: $1000

Update: It has been well over a year since I first published this answer.

I had expected at least a few comments from mattress retailers complaining about my blanket conclusion that “all deeply discounted mattress sale ads are phony.”

Instead, there has not been a single negative response to this article from any mattress retailer or manufacturer.

I have received several comments from bedding professionals confirming the accuracy and methodology of my research.

-Reprinted with permission from Jeff Frank’s blog. Jeff is a 40 year furniture professional and owner of simplicitysofas.com.

His opinions do not always reflect those of Furniture Works, but we find his ideas & expertise always interesting and worth reading. For more useful articles, visit our blog.

What is the best fabric for upholstered furniture?

The best fabric will depend on a number of different factors:

  • How much are you willing to spend?
  • How important is stain prevention?
  • How long do you expect to own the furniture?
  • What texture(s) feel best to you?
  • Do you want solid colors or patterns?
Fabrics 548716_1280-1024x683

If stain prevention is important stay away from the natural fibers like cotton and linen. Removing stains from silk can be almost impossible.

Over the past few years there have been many new fabrics developed that are specifically designed to be practically stainproof.

There are now many high performance American Made fabrics with built-in permanent stain-proofing technology. Some of these brands include Crypton, Sunbrella, Revolution and BellaDura. There are several others as well.

If long term durability is important check out the Abrasion test rating for the fabric.

The most common (but not the only) abrasion test is the Wyzenbeek double rub test. According to this scale fabrics below 15,000 double rubs are considered light duty for residential use. 15,000 – 30,000 are medium duty and above 30,000 is considered heavy duty.

The price of the fabric has very little relationship to durability. There are many inexpensive heavy duty microfibers, polyesters and others.

Expensive fabrics are often delicate (and difficult to clean.)

Fabric mills have come a long way in the science of creating new looks and textures using common fibers. For example 100% polyesters can look and feel like suedes, velvets, linens, wools, cottons and other textures.

In recent years polypropylene (also known as olefin) fabrics have become very popular as durable, stainproof options.

Most (but not all) of these synthetics are solid colors. More exotic looks and textures can be found in fabrics made with a blend of natural and synthetic fibers. There are thousands of different fabric blend combinations available.

Cottons and cotton blends still give the best choices for colorful prints. Most (but not all) of these will be less durable and more difficult to clean than most of the synthetics.

Regarding “scotchguard” or other after market fabric protectors — When aftermarket fabric protectors were first introduced about 50 years ago they were silicon based and worked great! Unfortunately they were also determined to be carcinogenic and banned from sale.

Today’s fabric protectors are water-based – much safer but also much less effective. Basically my feeling is that they add some protection to cottons, linens and other textured loose weave fabrics.

This protection is not permanent and should be renewed every 6 months to a year to maintain the protection.

I have not seen any conclusive evidence that these fabric protectors add any significant protection to microfibers or fabrics with built-in protection such as Scotchguard, Teflon or the Crypton, Revolution, BellaDura or Sunbrella fabrics.

Aftermarket fabric protection is a big profit maker for retailers. You can generally get the same protection at a fraction of the price by buying a spray can of the stuff at your local supermarket or hardware store.

One warning about added fabric protection – check your warranty before adding any type of fabric protection.

Many furniture warranties will specifically exclude coverage for any fabrics that have been cleaned or had fabric protection added.

(The same warranties will usually exclude most of the most common types of problems that may occur even if you don’t have fabric protection.)

-Reprinted with permission from Jeff Frank’s blog. Jeff is a 40 year furniture professional and owner of simplicitysofas.com.

His opinions do not always reflect those of Furniture Works, but we find his ideas & expertise always interesting. For more useful articles, visit our blog.

What Everyone Needs to Know Before Buying Their Next Couch

Cushion construction is the single most important factor in determining the comfort and lifespan of your couch, sofa, or chair.

A furniture industry survey recently indicated that most consumers expect their new couches to last only 3–5 years.

That estimate is probably pretty accurate. The reason for this short lifespan, however, is very surprising to most consumers.

Uneducated consumers concerned about the durability of their furniture often ask first about frame/foundation construction and fabrics.

In reality many “cheap” frames and inexpensive fabrics will last far longer than 5 years.

Cushions are almost always the first part of a sofa or couch that will wear out and need replacement.

Unfortunately, most manufacturers and retailers make it very difficult to replace worn out or damaged cushions.

Cushion replacement generally requires working with a professional custom upholsterer and can be expensive.

Most cushions sold with low and mid-priced upholstered furniture will begin to lose their shape and comfort within 1 – 3 years and will need replacement within 3-5 years.

There are three basic types of cushion construction for most couches and sofas sold in the U.S.

Foam
Coil springs
Down/feathers
Many cushions are made using a combination of two or all three of these various constructions.

Foam is the most commonly sold cushion construction. It is available in several different densities.

Each foam density is available in a wide variety of different firmnesses.

Although most people think that density and firmness are synonymous they are actually very different.

Most foam suppliers typically stock 4-5 commonly used densities for residential furniture seat cushions ranging from 1.5 to 2.5. The number designates the weight (in pounds) of 1 cubic ft. of foam.

Each of these different densities may be available in 10 or more different firmnesses ranging from very soft to very firm.

The expected lifespan of a foam cushion is primarily dependent on the density and thickness of the foam.

Another important factor is whether the foam is HR (High Resiliency) which recovers its shape better after use.

The frequency of use and the size of the people using the cushion will also affect a seat cushion’s lifespan.

A foam cushion’s “firmness” has very little effect on the expected lifespan.

However since most consumers equate “firmness” with durability, cheap foams are often made “extra firm.” With a low density foam, however, that “extra firm” feeling will not last long.

Foams used in seat cushions for moderately priced residential furniture generally range from 1.5 through 2.0.

Lower density foams are typically used for back cushions or padding that goes over the arms or other parts of the frame.

Higher densities (2.0 – 2.5) can be found on more expensive residential furniture.

Furniture designed for heavy commercial or institutional use may use foam with densities of 3.0 or higher.

The higher the foam density the more the cushion will cost. Variations in firmness usually do not affect cost. HR (High Resilience) foam is more expensive than non-HR foams.

The most commonly used foam density for residential furniture sold in the U.S. is 1.8.

Foam that is described as “High Density” without any specific number is usually 1.8 density foam.

The foam core is usually anywhere from 4″ – 6″ thick and is typically wrapped in a dacron polyester fiber.

The fiber wrapping is generally 0.5 – 1.5″ thick on the top and bottom of the cushion. It softens the feel of the cushion and will add 2-3″ to the total cushion thickness, but has no effect on lifespan.

A 4″ thick foam core made with 1.8 density HR (High Resiliency) foam can be expected to last about 2 years with average use before the foam begins to lose its ability to bounce back and keep its shape .

A 5″ thick foam core made with 1.8 density HR (High Resiliency) foam can be expected to last about 3 years with average use before the foam begins to lose its ability to bounce back and keep its shape.

Foam cushions will typically still be usable for another couple of years after the deterioration process begins. Foams that are not High Resiliency will deteriorate more rapidly.

Actual foam densities will vary during the manufacturing process. A variation of 0.1 is considered normal. A 1.8 density foam may actually be 1.7 or 1.9. Larger variations are not unusual.

There are many couches sold with cheaper (and lighter weight) 1.5 density foam that will deteriorate even more rapidly, sometimes within one year of purchase.

The overall thickness of the cushion may or may not be an indication of a cushion’s durability.

“Value priced” couches will sometimes have cushions that are bulked up with several inches of polyester fiber around the foam core.

That polyester fiber will rapidly compress causing the cushion to lose its shape. Better quality sofas typically use 1″ – 1.5″ of fiber on each side of the cushion.

Lower quality couches may use up to 3″ of fiber on each side. Thick layers of fiber are a cheap way to bulk up a cushion over the short term. Thick fiber quickly compresses and causes the cushion to lose its shape – often within one year.

If you want to get more than 5 years of use from your couch you will need to find a couch with a better quality cushion.

Higher priced couches generally use thick higher density foams with at least a 2.0 density. but preferably higher.

Cushions supported by built-in coil springs are typically (but not always) more durable than lower density foam cushions.

These coil springs are surrounded by a foam border (which is typically 1.5 or 1.8 density) and then padded on the top and bottom with additional soft padding.

Down/feathers are often used as the padding in combination with coil springs. A down/feather “jacket” is used as a layer of padding on the top and bottom to soften the feel of the cushion.

Other common types of padding used in combination with coil spring cushions are memory foam and polyester fiber.

Down blend cushions use Down/feathers in combination with a foam core cushion. Down blend cushions have a shorter lifespan when compared with a solid slab of similar density foam.

When down/feathers are used with either coil springs or foam cores the mixture is typically 5% (or less) down and the remainder feathers. Down is far more expensive than feathers.

More expensive furniture may use higher percentages of down. Down is much softer and plush than feathers.

100% Down/feather cushions were extremely popular in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. They are far less common today, both because of the high cost and the need to fluff up the cushions every time you stand up. Down/feathers have no “resilience” and do not “bounce back” by themselves after use like foam or coil springs.

Regardless of the price that you paid for your cushions they are rarely covered under Warranty.

Warranties (including extended warranties) are usually written so that anything that happens to the cushions is considered either “normal wear” or “abuse.”

Either of these conditions will typically invalidate your warranty — even if the cushions are less than one year old.

Tip for the uneducated furniture purchaser – When shopping for a couch always test the cushions by picking them up.

As a general rule if the seat cushions feel “light” you are looking at a couch with a very short expected lifespan.

The longest lasting cushions will be the heaviest.

-Reprinted with permission from Jeff Frank’s blog. Jeff is a 40 year furniture professional and owner of simplicitysofas.com.

His opinions do not always reflect those of Furniture Works, but we find his ideas & expertise always interesting. For more useful articles, visit our blog.