Furniture Frame: Why Does it Matter to Me?
A sofa or loveseat may look good, but will it give you a lifetime of use? This is a question you may want to consider while shopping at your local furniture store. The longevity and durability of furniture comes from the bare-bones composition of the piece, which is most commonly referred to as frame construction.
Many odds and ends make up the frame of a furniture piece and some qualities may be better than others. In this post, and in an attempt to help you decipher what furniture will give you the best value, we’ll break down how you can tell whether the furniture you’re considering is worth buying based on its frame construction.
What is frame construction?
The structural support or the basic shape of a piece of furniture before it is upholstered, stained or veneered is considered the frame construction. The frame determines the final shape, design or covering of furniture and, depending on the materials used, can establish the furniture’s overall quality.
Types of wood used for frame construction
Two types of wood are primarily used in furniture construction: hardwood and softwood. Hardwood comes from broadleaved trees, such as an oak or an ash, and tends to have a higher density and decay resistance. Softwood comes from evergreen conifer trees, such as a pine or a cedar, and tends to be easy to shape and generally more affordable to work with.
What does it mean when you’re shopping?
Generally speaking, if the furniture’s frame is constructed from hardwoods, you’re looking at a high-quality piece. Since hardwood tends to have a higher density and a lower rate of decay, furniture frames using it tend to maintain their shape and last longer.
It’s important to remember, however, that the terms “hardwood” and “softwood” aren’t always indicative of toughness. Some softwoods, for example, have a higher density than some hardwoods and vice versa.
Instead, as you shop for furniture, consider the type of wood the piece is made of. This will give you a clue as to how dense the wood (and therefore the frame) of the furniture is – the higher the density, the harder, stronger and more durable the wood.
You can determine the density of wood by using the chart below, which was created by Diffen.
It’s likely, then, that plywood or particleboard frames aren’t structurally sound unless layers upon layers are used to construct the frame. Since both materials are comprised of multiple wood-types and compressed together with resin, they’re more likely to come apart with continued use.
Joinery is important, too
Along with the wood used to construct the frame, the way in which the wood is joined together is equally important. In a high-quality frame, the joints are glued, dowelled or screwed while the corners are reinforced with blocks for extra strength.
Wood joined with staples can be a sign of an inferior product. If you’re unsure about the joinery technique used or the frame construction of the piece you’re considering, consult a salesperson or vendor.