Holiday weekend may be good time to shop

If you’re in the market for a new sofa, dining table, bedroom set, hutch or ottoman, then you might want to go shopping during President’s Day weekend. President’s Day falls on the third Monday in February.

A holiday weekend is one of the best times to shop for furniture as stores offer sales and other incentives to lure shoppers.

Another benefit of shopping during the post-Christmas holiday season and July: Furniture manufacturers unveil their new product lines to retailers at market shows. Retailers eager to make room for new merchandise look to move out the old stuff by cutting prices, offering to pay the sales tax on purchases or providing free delivery.

And while buying a new dining table and chairs or a bedroom set isn’t as expensive as buying a house or car, purchasing furniture still requires a significant outlay of money. So it pays to do some research and arm yourself with some information before spending your hard-earned cash.

Getting started

Before heading to a furniture dealer, warehouse store or online Web site to buy, shoppers need to ask themselves some questions:

* What are your needs? Will the piece you’re considering fill a long-term or short-term need?

* How will the piece be used? And by whom? If you’re shopping for a couch to put in your preschooler’s play room, one made of white chenille probably isn’t the best choice. If you know the kids will use that sofa as a makeshift trampoline for the next four years, you want to spend a bit more money for one with a sturdy frame.

* How much space do you have? Consider the size of the room where the piece (or pieces) will be placed. If you need seating for a big, airy great room, then large-scale pieces can work. Trying to shoehorn a hefty entertainment center into a small, narrow room will not.

Take lots of measurements. Measure the room as well as the spot where the furniture will be placed. Measure the doorways into the room and any hallway or stairway that leads to it. You don’t want to buy a comfy over-sized chair then realize it won’t fit through the door.

* What is your budget? Know how much you can afford and stick to that amount. If you’re purchasing multiple pieces, prioritize your spending.

Judging quality

Once those questions are answered and you’ve decided on the furniture style you want, it’s time to search for the best quality pieces you can afford. It’s worth taking the time to find what suits your needs because mistakes can be costly.

According to a consumer survey done by the American Home Furnishings Alliance, a trade group that represents furniture manufacturers, most Americans have at least one piece of furniture they want to pick out all over again because they didn’t choose the right piece the first time. The top three furnishings consumers wished they could pick again were sofas, bedroom furniture and dining room furniture.

When shopping for upholstered furniture, four components to keep in mind are the frame, its supporting foundation, cushioning and fabric.

* Frame selection: Frames made of hardwood plywood are among the most durable on the market today. Steel, plastic, softwood plywood and strand board are other sturdy choices.

Furnishings constructed with reinforcements that are glued and screwed into place at stress points and joints are more durable than ones kept in place with staples.

When shopping, ask a sales clerk what materials were used in the frame. Look at the piece’s underside and look for interior corners that are braced.

Also, make sure the piece feels sturdy and sits correctly on the floor without creaking or wobbling.

* Foundation: The frame and the amount of support the piece offers determines the foundation. Eight-way hand-tied coil springs is considered a mark of fine craftsmanship. The number of coils and how they are reinforced determines the quality and cost. When shopping, ask how the foundation is constructed.

Look for pieces with steel spring construction.

* Cushioning: Good cushioning equals comfort. A lot of upholstered cushions are made of polyurethane foam and density is used to gauge the foam’s durability. The higher the density, the more durable the cushioning. Better quality upholstered pieces use foam with a density rating of 1.8 to 2.5. Foam cushions should be wrapped or covered.

The best way to determine if cushioning meets your needs is to test it out. Sit on it and stretch out just as you would at home. Ask the sales clerk how the cushions are made.

* Fabric: Options are endless in this category when it comes to colors and style.

Natural fabrics include cotton, silk, wool, linen and leather. Popular synthetics used for furniture include acetate, acrylic, nylon, rayon and polypropylene. Whatever your choice, look for fabrics with a tight weave that incorporate durable fibers like nylon or polypropylene, especially if the piece is a sofa that will get lots of active use.

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