often ask "Is it worth restoring" or hear something
like, "That's more than I paid for it when it was new!"
You can waste a lot of money restoring a piece of junk.
Or, just as bad, through out a high end quality
constructed item and replace it with a new "bargain"
priced item. The insights provided here will enable you
to make an informed intelligent decision based on the
yourself some questions.
- Do I like the style and quality of my present
- Am I comparing quality and value or just
- Do I know what to look for to determine the
quality, i.e. frame and spring construction, style,
design, fabric content and wear ability, etc.?
- What is the cost deference between replacement
OK, now be honest with yourself. Are you only trying to
save money and don't really like your present
furniture? If so you'll spend your money and still
won't be satisfied with the end product. It might be
best to replace the item with something you will enjoy.
If you made it past the first consideration you'll need
some criteria to make a true comparison. Generally,
the older your present furniture the better the
quality. However, if you bought a low end item 10-15
years ago and compare it to a top end item today this
rule will not be true. Make sure you are comparing
apples with apples, not apples with oranges.
The true quality of an upholstered item can be
deceiving. You can find two almost identical chairs at
different stores with the same fabric and same color
wood trim, but the cost could be $900 more for one of
them! Why? The difference is in construction. One is
low end. The other is top of the line. The quality in
an upholstered item is hidden under the fabric. A top
end item has a solid oak or maple frame that is glued
together with dowels and reinforcing corner blocks.
Low end items are commonly put together with many
staples and use wood such as Pine, Fur, Poplar or even
plastic and cardboard for frame materials. The
difference in the frame translates to how long the item
will last! Top end 20 plus years, low end, 6 months to
Same colored woods are not the same wood. Poplar can
be stained to look so close to Cherry most people and
some "experts" can't tell the difference. Cherry wood
is harder and stronger than Popular wood, yet both are
classified as hardwoods. When a salesman tells you
"This sofa has a solid hardwood construction through
out!" Ask; "What kind of hardwood through out?"
Springs and filling also relate to the useful life of
an item. Low end furniture construction is often
nothing more than a top deck webbing (rubber, nylon or
hemp), with a thick slab of firm rubber over it.
Although it feels as a well-built seat, the rubber
usually deteriorates quickly causing deformity and
sagging fabric. Better, but still low to middle end,
is the "sig-zag" type spring construction. Springs that
look like a series of "s" connected and stretched front
to back on the top of the frame rails. This type of
spring puts a substantial and constant pressure on the
front and back rails. Often frames will bend, warp or
even brake under this pressure, over time, particularly
on a weak frame of Pine or Poplar. High end furniture
employs coil springs attached to a deck of interlaced
hemp webbing attached to the bottom of each side, front
and back rails. The springs are held in place by an
"eight way tie" of a resin coated hemp twine, then
covered with burlap and desired padding materials.
Coil springs compress top to bottom against the webbing
and not the frame. One way to check if an item has coil
springs is to pat the dust cover on the bottom of an
item. If it doesn't feel drum tight it will usually
have a slab of rubber or sig-zag spring type of seat
The right type of fabric for your type of life style is
also important. A cotton velvet may look beautiful on
the show room floor under accent lighting but, the
first spill from the kids while watching TV may ruin
its look permanently. A ruff feeling nylon will last
until you get sick of the color, but in a formal living
room is out of place. When you reupholster your not
limited to a certain number of colors or fabric type to
chose from. Reupholstering lets you match the fabric
you want to the comfortable item you already own.
Another way to check for quality difference is by
weight. A light weight chair is most often the
"through-a-way" type. Soft woods are not as dense as
hard woods and steel springs weigh more than rubber.
Generally the heavier of two comparable items has the
better frame and construction.
The bottom line? COST! If the item under
consideration is top end construction, you will save
1/3 to 1/2 the cost of replacement of another top end
item. Upholstering an older lower end item may cost as
much or even a little more than replacement with a
comparable item. The saving on lower end is in value
for dollar. Older frames were built much better than
what's coming off assembly lines today and your choice
of better fabrics is not limited. Top end
reupholstering is a dollar saving and lower end
reupholstering is a quality up-grade for about the same
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Replace or Reupholstery? by Steve Nearman,
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For a free
upholstery estimate or more help in making your
decision call The Master's Touch at 540-371-5566. We
have over 40 years of professional experience in the
furniture restoration trade. Helping you make the right
choice is what we do best. Call today!