Upholstery bargains exist in these difficult times, and you might find something suitable at a surprisingly low price. However, if you’ve set your price point too low and nothing seems to be available at that price point, try cautiously raising the amount you would be willing to pay.

When considering factors as important as saving money, like size, style or quality, it was once true that spending more would get you a better quality product. That’s not always true with furniture today.

If shoppers rely heavily on brand names or price, they might buy without knowing enough about the invisible qualities of the product. Severe economic pressures caused many manufacturers to change what they offer and what options are included free. Bargain hunting or not, it’s more important than ever to shop carefully and ask relevant questions.

Assuming you know the style, cover, and size you need, and know how it will be used, start researching local stores. Once you find stores with the kind of product you need, learn the difference between the prevailing practices in a few specific categories, and you’ll be shopping smartly for the right product, and likely won’t overpay. Differences include frame, springs, and seat cushion construction, and the corresponding warranty coverages for each of those components, which reveal the manufacturer’s integrity and objectives.

Any upholstery retailers should be able to answer these basic questions, and based on their answers, you can determine what’s right for your needs:

Ask whether floor models are sold as-is, without any warranty coverage, and whether there is any damage or repair history.

Are arm caps included? Ask this early on, even if you don’t use them. Companies that aggressively remove value from the offering often charge unjustifiable surcharges for previously “free” features!

MDF, plywood, or solid wood frames? For how long is the frame warranted, and what are the limitations of that warranty? Avoid MDF frames at all costs and learn whether plywood frames are made from sustainable forestry practices.

What springs are used? Eight-way hand-tied springs are best, but some companies using serpentine springs (aka “sinuous,” “no-sag”) make solid products with acceptable warranties.

How are seat cushions made, and what warranty coverage exists? For an up-charge, you might be able to purchase higher quality seat cushions with longer life and better warranty.

The very best warranties come with sensible limitations. For instance, the limited lifetime warranty of one manufacturer states that provided the original cover is intact all over the piece, the “lifetime” is ongoing, and the frame, springs, and seat cushion cores are covered for repair or replacement: extraordinary. Many other companies offer 1 year to 5 year warranties, and as always, a product’s warranty says much about the product and the manufacturer.

Buying furniture that wears out prematurely or doesn’t fit your body, lifestyle, or space needs is wasteful, expensive and avoidable. Poor quality furniture clogs landfills with toxic waste and causes people to spend more time and money, leading to higher cost of ownership.

For more information, contact Ross Endicott at Endicott Home Furnishings in Scarborough, 207-883-3264 or online at www.condofurniture.com.

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