This is the second blog in our series of posts about how the best sofas are constructed. (If you haven’t read our first post on frame material and construction, start there.) This one focuses on suspension systems–what prevents you from sinking down to the floor when you sit in a sofa or chair. There are many different types of suspensions a manufacturer may use, and not everyone agrees on what type is the highest quality and lasts the longest. We’re going to get to the bottom of it here (and check out our selection of high quality upholstery here).
First, let’s talk about the most common types of suspension.
Eight-way hand tied
Long considered the gold standard of sofa suspension, eight-way hand tied is the most labor-intensive and costly option. It’s the mark of a high quality piece of furniture (except for when it’s fake eight-way hand tied, as explained later). The springs are supported by webbing on the bottom of the sofa (steel webbing is best, but other materials may be used) and the top of the springs are secured by twine. That’s where the name comes in—the twine is tied by hand at eight different spots for each spring and then attached to the frame. This web of twine keeps the springs from shifting, providing years of unwavering support. The soft twine also ensures that the suspension won’t start to squeak with use (something that can happen in all-metal suspensions). An easy way to tell if a piece of furniture has true eight-way hand tied suspension is to pick up the cushion and push on the seat deck – you should be able to feel the individual springs through the fabric. Rest assured, all of the sofas we sell at The Stated Home are made with eight-way hand tied suspension (excluding our gliders, which just don’t have the space). If we have a chair that is not eight-way hand tied, we will make that very clear.
Drop-in Coil Springs
There is a less labor-intensive version of spring suspension that consists of coils mounted on a metal frame, which is then added to the furniture as a single piece. This can offer some of the support of true eight-way hand tied springs while cutting down on labor costs. But lower labor costs come with some sacrifices. The drop-in coil spring system isn’t supported on the bottom by anything (it is screwed into the sides of the frame) so it will start to sag before a true eight-way hand tied unit will. Secondly, there is a lot of metal to metal contact with this option, which can lead to squeaking down the road. A note of caution: Some manufacturers will take drop-in coil springs and add some strings to the system, calling them eight-way hand tied. Don’t be fooled! This is a drop-in unit that is only attached to the frame in the corners. Be wary of any inexpensive or imported piece of furniture that claims to be eight-way hand tied—it’s likely the manufacturer taking short cuts and trying to dupe the consumer.
A bit of a newcomer to the suspension scene, a pocket coil suspension is similar to what you find inside a mattress: a bunch of coils individually wrapped in fabric. Not too many manufacturers use this method (the main stateside manufacturer of this suspension system is Leggett & Platt) and the jury is still out on how well it works. In our opinion, it doesn’t seem as integrated as an eight-way hand tied system.
This is probably the most common type of sofa suspension in low- to mid-range priced sofas. Imagine many large zig-zagging pieces of metal set in rows several inches apart and running perpendicular to the front of the sofa. For every person who swears sinuous springs don’t last as long as eight-way hand tied, there’s someone who says they do. We believe that a properly made sinuous spring system will perform better than a poorly made drop-in spring system or the fake eight-way hand tied suspension. When looking at sofas with sinuous springs, make sure that the wire is at least 8-gauge and that there are at least two silent-tie wires running across and clipped to each spring. Sinuous springs with many smaller turns are more ideal than those with a larger “S” curve. Sinuous springs are much quicker to install than eight-way hand tied, so if you’re buying a piece of furniture with this system, make sure there is an appropriate drop in price.
This type of suspension is less common than coil or sinuous spring, but it’s available on some mid-priced pieces at popular retailers like Room & Board and Crate & Barrel. It is a wire grid that attaches to the frame with springs on the side (similar to how a trampoline is attached). We’d avoid this one if possible. The wires aren’t very thick and the reviews often complain about them breaking.
The last type of suspension you many find on a piece of upholstered furniture is made by weaving fabric or elastic straps in a grid-like pattern. Some pieces from good manufacturers use this mostly for styles with narrow seat decks that can’t accommodate other suspension methods. However, it is also commonly found on the lowest quality furniture so if your furniture has this suspension, make sure it’s from a reputable manufacturer with a good warranty. We would avoid it on a hard-working sofa from any manufacturer.
If you want to ensure you are getting the best quality piece of furniture possible, find one with true eight-way hand tied suspension. This is consistently found to be long-lasting, and any manufacturer that takes the time to hand-tie their suspension will carry this quality through to the other parts of their furniture: the frame, cushions, and upholstery. If you can’t afford eight-way hand tied, buy the best sinuous spring suspension you can find, but make sure there is an appropriate decrease in cost. Certain furniture pieces can only use sinuous springs, due to construction requirements. For example, our swivel gliders have to use sinuous springs to allow space for the swivel glider mechanism. Sofas with webbing or mesh instead of springs should be kept far away from your living room—they will end up uncomfortable and flimsy.
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Rhonda L Mannino says
Could someone please explain the thin wire grid. The wires are pulled through the twisted paper to form a grid. The grid is used in the above picture with the sinuous springs. I have an older spring couch and I am trying to use what was in it, the grid, and don’t know how to arrange it.
Hi Rhonda – The wires are used to keep the springs roughly on the same level as people sit on the furniture. I’m not sure how it would be used with a spring sofa. Is there an upholstery repair company you can go to? Depending on the state of your furniture, it may make sense to have the whole suspension replaced – or purchase a piece of furniture with a lifetime warranty on the suspension so you won’t have to worry about repairs again!
Boont Singer says
Here is the thing.
The whole “8 way hand tied is better” argument is ultimately based on either broad blanket assumptions (that often mistakenly, or possibly knowingly, group together wildly different quality levels into 1 category), faulty logic (eg that old furniture from the 1950s or earlier with 8 way hand tied are still being used today), or “common practice” (eg that old school furniture manufacturers simple “believe” that 8 way hand tied is better…. because… because… you know… because!)
The fact of the matter is this:
30 years ago was 1989. There are sinuous spring couches from 1989 still in use today. Hell, there are still sleeper sofas from 30 years ago still in use today that are minimally different compared to those today (The main difference is that they did not use the woven trampoline like material, and instead sleepers used a stainless steel mesh to support the mattress, but the folding mechanisms were nearly identical)
in the 1950s, for all intents and purposes ALL upholstered couches were made with 8 way hand tied.
thus *any* couch from that era would, by definition, use 8 way hand tied.
It would be like arguing that hand crank-based starters on ancient cars are more reliable than standard modern electric starter motors because those old cars still work today! Even though there are junkyards full of hand crank start cars, and by definition any such car would have that system.
The broad blanket assumption is this:
That all sinuous spring…. or indeed, all 8 way hand tied…. are created equal.
Thats simply wrong. The steel is different. Is it Leggit and Platt steel or a chinese knockoff steel? Are the spring clips metal or plastic (Ikea uses plastic clips)? Is the frame where the clips are attached engineered hardwood (aka plywood) or solid wood? What about the spring spacing? Is it insanely wide spring spacing like 10-12+” or is it super tight spacing like 2-3″ spacing? 1, 2, or 3 rows of tie strings? Is there a layer of foam or dacron/kodel/wool/cotton/whatever between the fabric of the deck and the springs?
One end of the spectrum, with 10-12+ inch spacing and chinese springs you have a $300 sofa with non-removable, sewn in cushions upholstered in bonded leather that you would buy in a cardboard box from Walmart, Costco, Target, etc. and on the other end of the spectrum you have (some) Restoration Hardware sofas, DWR, Pottery Barn, and innumerable small furniture factories, with lifetime warranties on the suspension.
Also 8 way hand tied absolutely wears out.
The jute webbing, pirelli webbing, or whatever webbing that is *traditionally* used in the base of the suspension wears out just like the regular cross hatch green pirelli webbing in a thin-frame sofa or a cheap sofa.
Webbing is webbing. It does not matter if you sit directly on it with your cushions or if the webbing is supporting coil springs that are tied together in 8 directions.
webbing wears out. Just like the elastic in your underwear.
that is why 8 way hand tied sofas often require “tune ups”…. to re-stretch the webbing (or replace it) and to re-tie or replace the tie strings.
Thank you for your opinion – we agree that sinuous springs can be a viable and reliable option for sofa suspensions, we just point out that 8-way hand-tied tends to leave less chance for a poorly made product. Our manufacturers use steel webbing underneath the springs, so will not wear out as fast as a fabric webbing.
Roger Boddie says
Thanks! I Was considering purchasing a couple of leather sofas from rooms to go for my 81 year old mom. (Brockett collection) $877 a piece. Learher where the body touches and sinous springs. Definitely entry level but st 81 who knows. What’s your opinion? Thanks. Roger
That seems really low for a leather sofa. I wonder if its is bonded “leather” which isn’t real leather at all and I do not recommend. Quality of sinuous springs varies widely, but for that price I don’t expect it would last very long. If you purchase a piece with a sinuous spring suspension, make sure there is a good warranty – at least 10 years (better is lifetime).
Hello! Thank you for this post. I have been researching Maiden Home (made in USA, 8 coil) and sixpenny (ss spring) sectionals. There is about $1,200 difference with the Maiden Home being the more expensive option. Sixpenny has promotional prices while Maiden Home does not. In your option do you think it is worth the extra money for the tied coils in the Maiden Home sectional? I liked that Sixpenny offered removable slip covers but not if they quality is way less. Thank you again! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
Hi Laura, I’m not familiar with sixpenny, but yes in our expereience it is worth it to pay more for 8-way hand-tied. If you are interested in an 8-way hand-tied slipcover sectional, take a look at what we sell: You can see all of our slipcovered sectionals here. Almost all are 8-way hand-tied (our Palm Springs is sinuous springs because of the style). If you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for or would like help choosing a fabric, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cali Campbell says
Hello, I received a sectional from Lee Industries three months ago that has springs sinking down and tearing the dust cover. It has been a terrible battle with the retailer and just recently, six months in to the ordeal I am now hearing from Lee I ndustries. They tell me that it was pulled off the manufacturing line before it was inspected. There are no signed finishing tags on 2 of the pieces. They are giving me the decision of refund or re tied and strapped by an upholsterer from my city in Canada. What is your opinion?
So sorry to hear your having so much trouble with your furniture! I think that a local repair is a good option to get this taken care of – I use this option often and it always gets the piece to the standard it should have been when it left the factory.
I am looking at a sofa advertised as 8-way hand-tied springs, pocket coil. Can a sofa be both 8-way hand-tied springs AND pocket coils?
https://www.acmecorp.com/losangeles/53581.html. It’s the Sidonia model at acmecorp.com. I love the look of it but do not want to purchase anything that isn’t well-made. The relatively low cost is making me question the quality. (I am also looking at an Ethan Allen piece that I am assuming is higher quality.) Please give me your advice. Thank you so much.
Unfortunately I do not think the Acme sofa is a true 8-way hand-tied based on the price and what I know about Acme furntiure quality (not the best). The term, 8-way hand-tied is not regulated so some manufacturers will use it falsely. Expect a good quality sofa to cost closer to $3,000 and I would encourage you to purchase a piece that is made in America. If you’d like help finding a good quality sofa in the style of the Sidonia, we have some available through our manufacturers that we can help you purchase. Please contact us at email@example.com!