Construction key to springing for reupholstery

DEAR DESIGNER: I want to get my living room sofa reupholstered but I'm not sure the sofa is worth the expense. I've seen new sofas that cost much less than the cost of reupholstery. My upholsterer told me that one of the reasons my sofa is worth reupholstering is due to the fact it has eight-way hand-tied springs. What does that mean? -- Julie

DEAR JULIE: The cost of reupholstering a sofa can easily cost more than a new sofa for various reasons. Although manufacturing and mass production have made our lives easier in many ways, there are times when the best products are still produced by hand. This is true in upholstery products.

Some new sofas are more affordable because of mass manufacturing and cost-cutting construction. If your sofa is well-built and has an eight-way hand-tied spring system in it, be sure you are comparing apples to apples when comparing the price of a new sofa.

Another thing that can make the price of reupholstery skyrocket is the price of fabrics. Upholstery fabrics can range from affordable to extreme. Many of the fabrics offered by designers and upholsterers are of better quality and more exclusive than some of the mass-manufactured sofa fabrics. Finding a good quality fabric for a reasonable price is one way to save on your reupholstery costs.

The support system of a sofa sits inside the frame, below the cushy cushions. Generally, one of three types of spring systems is used. One is a drop-in spring. It is considered the least expensive and the most likely to get droopy over time. It has coils that have been welded together. It is mass produced and has limited play in movement because of the way the springs are connected.

The most commonly used spring today, also mass produced, is called a sinuous spring. It is made from heavy steel and is molded into continuous "S" shapes that run from the front to the back of your sofa. These are not coils but are still considered springs as they are a very good support system that "springs" up and down when you sit on the sofa. You will find inexpensive to pricey sofas that use this spring system. Many contemporary styles use this type of spring exclusively for its slim fit.

The eight-way hand-tied spring system has been around for a very long time and is still considered to be the best of the best. Individual springs are placed in your sofa frame and individually hand tied together with a special coated cord. The cords run side to side, front to back, and diagonally, creating eight knots on each coil spring. The flexible cord allows the springs to move in more directions than any other spring system, creating the most comfortable seat available. Eventually the cords can show some wear but they are usually retied during the upholstery process, making this spring system the longest lasting. This system costs more because it takes more time to manufacturer, as each knot is manually tied.

Julie, because your sofa is already fitted with the best spring system, it could be worth the cost of reupholstering. Other reasons to consider include: if your sofa fits your room well and is the same style of your current décor, and if the sofa "sits" well for you and you enjoy any good memories surrounding it. It the answer is "yes," then reupholster it.

Cindy Payne is a certified interior designer. Email her at or write to her at Project Design Interiors, 2620 S. Maryland Parkway, Suite 189, Las Vegas, NV 89109. She can be reached online at


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