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Most people are aware of when household items like food, medicine, and cleaning products are set to expire. But what about your couch?
Yes, believe it or not, your couch does need to be replaced after a certain amount of time, wear, and use. It may not come with an expiration date printed on the bottom like your favorite boxed mac ‘n cheese, but there are guidelines you can follow to determine when your couch needs to be replaced. Or, for those shopping for a new couch, how long it will last in the first place. While it’s impossible to determine exactly how long a new sofa will last, there are choices you can make in material, fabric, and quality to ensure you’re buying quality furniture and lengthen the lifespan of your sofa.
Meet the experts
We’ve consulted interior design experts for tips on what makes a long-lasting couch, and how to know if yours needs to be replaced. In this guide, you'll hear from:
Whether you’re shopping for a couch for your new home, or you’re trying to determine whether or not to toss the old sofa in your family room, it can be difficult to determine which factors contribute how long your couch will hold up. Unfortunately, there’s no blanket timeline that determines the average lifespan of every sofa.
However, Paige Gray says that pricepoint can serve as a guideline for how long your couch will last. “A good quality couch should last between five to ten years depending on how you care for it and use it,” she said. “Sofas have a general rule of thumb, the more you spend, the more you can safely assume there is more work and design in the bones of the sofa.”
“Sofas have a general rule of thumb, the more you spend, the more you can safely assume there is more work and design in the bones of the sofa.”
If you’re looking to invest in a new sofa that will last a long time, Margaret Carroll suggests shopping for a piece of furniture that is of “heirloom” quality, as it will almost always last over 20 years in style and comfort.
Karen Rohr says that additional factors to pay attention to revolve around individual use. “Ultimately, [the lifespan of a couch] depends on your individual circumstances,” says Rohr. “If you have children or pets, your couch is likely to show signs of wear and tear much sooner than if you are a family without kids or are living alone.”
Paige Gray, on the other hand, pays attention to the following factors to determine the lifespan of a couch:
How hard you are on your furniture
Your lifestyle: do you have kids or pets? Is your living room couch the primary hangout zone in your home?
Construction of the sofa: is it dovetail, or glued and screwed?
What does the retailer provide for a warranty: this should give you a good idea of how long the manufacturer expects their product to last.
Fabric durability: check the Wyzenbeek rating. I would recommend nothing less than 35,000 for upholstery use, preferably over 50,000 for sofas and high-traffic pieces.
UV exposure: invest in some quality window coverings you can program to protect your furniture from the sun in those peak times of day.
Care for your couch and it'll care for you back. Regular maintenance and professional cleaning, along with simply seating yourself with less force are all going to help extend the life of your sofa.
On the other end of the spectrum, low quality sofas can last as little as five years due to poor craftsmanship and low quality materials. This is especially true for sofas subject to high levels of traffic, such as from children or pets, or sofas that are not properly maintained.
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Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Couch
We get it. It’s easy to become attached to a couch you’ve had for a long time. After all, the couch is often a staple of your home— a place to relax and unwind after a long day. At social events, it’s often a place for friends and family to gather around. It can be hard to let go of a comfortable sofa that holds a lot of memories, but sometimes it’s warranted.
To determine whether it’s time to shop for a new couch by sight and feel, Gray recommends examining “how you feel while using it,” as couches that are in need of replacing often have “pesky stains, rips, tears, and faded spots that impede your ability to fully rest and enjoy the comfort a sofa is meant to provide.”
In extreme cases, “signs your couch might be on its last legs include squeaking when you’re sitting down or standing up, wobbling arms, sagging or fraying cushions and holes forming in the seat cushions,” says Christine Kobervig Munger. If your sofa is no longer structurally sound, it’s probably time to invest in a new one.
Other factors to take into consideration include your own needs and budget. “If your couch is starting to show its age, but it’s still comfortable, there’s no need to replace it just yet,” says Rohr. “However, if you’re ready for a change or you’re dealing with frequent repairs, it may be time for an upgrade.”
However, before replacing a couch with only fabric issues, Margaret Carroll recommends trying to have it cleaned professionally. According to Carroll, “a professional upholstery cleaner can come to your home for a couple hundred dollars and thoroughly clean your couch so it looks like it did the day you purchased it.”
What Are The Signs Of A Quality Couch You Should Be Looking At Before Buying One?
Whether you’re shopping for a sectional or sofa bed, it can be difficult to consider quality when style is already difficult enough. We made it easy by breaking down the elements of a good quality sofa into three parts: frame, cushions, and fabric.
However, it’s important to note that while shopping for a good quality sofa usually does mean a longer lifespan, it does come at a cost. Taking a look at price points before shopping will give you an idea of the quality of sofa that fits your budget.
The first element of a couch to examine is its frame. Quality frames are usually made from hardwoods like maple or oak, material unlikely to warp or loosen over time. “High quality sofas that are built to last are what we call and “8-way hand tied hardwood frame,’” says Allison Smith. “These use strong rope, tied in eight directions on a hardwood frame, for an amazingly strong foundation for your cushions. This is what keeps your seat cushions from sagging.” In contrast, according to Smith, inexpensive sofas have a mesh foundation with wood on the outside of the base. There are ties across the edges of the circumference of the sofa with wood to reinforce the bases of the ties,” says Smith.
If you’re unsure about the material of the frame, Margaret Carroll suggests sitting on the couch. “If you sit on the couch, you'll be able to tell if it's going to last if it makes a creaking sound or if its legs look glued on,” she said.
Another test Carroll recommends is to see if you can pick it up by one of its legs. “A sofa that feels flimsy when you pick it up by one of the legs is a bad choice,” she said.
Another element to consider are couch cushions. Karen Rohr recommends sitting on the cushions to assess quality, as “good cushions will be filled with high-density foam that springs back when you sit on it.” On the other hand, “lower-quality cushions may permanently sag over time,” said Rohr.
For those looking to go even further, Christin Kobervig Munger recommends looking into cushions with springs. “A level up from high-density foam is fiber or foam wrapped pocket springs,” she said. This is because the internal springs in the cushions are much more durable and help the cushions keep their shape and resist compression over time.
While considering fabric choice and longevity, Munger suggests taking a look at high-performance fabric with a double rub count of at least 30,000. “Rub count is an indication of how well the fabric will perform, and how long it will last,” Munger said. “The higher the number, the better it will perform.”
“Rub count is an indication of how well the fabric will perform, and how long it will last. The higher the number, the better it will perform.”
To calculate the rub count of a fabric, a machine rubs the fabric back and forth until wear starts to show. For a fabric with a double rub count of 30,000, the machine has run back and forth on the fabric 30,000 times before the fabric started to wear. By taking rub count into consideration, you’ll get a better sense of how much wear the fabric on your potential new sofa can take before wear starts to show.
Additionally, Munger recommends taking a look at pilling and colorfast ratings. “A high pilling rating means fiber pills are less likely to form on the surface of the fabric with regular use, and high colorfast ratings mean the fabric will be less likely to fade in the sun,” says Munger. Both pilling and colorfast ratings can contribute to the longevity of the sofa, as sofa’s that are low in both often look worn more quickly.
Margaret Carroll suggests considering fabric durability. “Does it have a Crypton Fabric that is highly stain resistant or is it a linen fabric that stretches over me but still looks great, or is it a fiber that requires little maintenance, like microfiber?” Carroll said. While fabric isn’t the sole factor in determining the longevity of a sofa, it does influence how much effort the sofa is to maintain. If you’re not looking to put much effort into maintaining your sofa, consider a low maintenance fabric that’s resistant to wear and tear.
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How You Can Extend the Life of Your Sofa
Regular maintenance and a little extra care can go a long way when it comes to extending the life of your sofa. Allison Smith recommends “rotating sofa cushions regularly,” and suggests seeking out a manufacturer or furniture store that supports a warranty on cushions. “If they’re a high-quality manufacturer, they will have no problem doing this,” says Smith.
Christine Kobervig Munger agrees with Smith on cushion rotation, and added, “rotate your cushions regularly. This includes flipping them, and changing up their position if possible.” Changing up the positions of the cushions spreads out the wear-and-tear that accumulates on one side of the cushion as well as harm from sunlight.
Additionally, Munger recommends “placing your sofa in a location that doesn’t get direct sunlight during the day, and drawing the shades during the day or placing a throw blanket over the areas on the sofa that get regular sun if this is unavoidable.” Additionally, Munger suggests “keeping a fabric gleener on hand to remove fuzz and pills if they start to appear.”
Another form of regular maintenance Munger recommends is vacuuming. “Vacuum your sofa regularly and spot clean with a non-linting cloth,” she says. Many people forget that the same amount of dust that accumulates on your floors, countertops, and other surfaces also accumulate on couches and other pieces of furniture. Vacuuming the sofa is a low maintenance way to extend the lifespan of your sofa, as removing dust, dirt, and grime, as cleaning your upholstery will maintain its bright colors and original texture in addition to removing associated odors.
Sasha Weilbaker is a freelance writer with bylines in Thrillist, Business Insider, and The Vegetarian Times. She's particularly interested in the intersection of sustainability and materials. In the wild, she can be found cycling around New England, scouting coffee shops, or obsessing over new podcasts.
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