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Durban - It is often difficult to distinguish between a good quality couch and one of an inferior quality.

As the adage goes: you get what you pay for.

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A good quality couch on the other hand, will not only retain its good looks, but it will also offer years of enjoyment and comfort.When choosing what kind of covering you want for your couch, it is essential to consider aesthetics as well as durability, stain-resistance and maintenance issues: chenille fabric, for example, is soft and durable, while leather is extremely long-lasting.A lounge suite is a sizeable investment. Not only does it have to look good, but it also has to be comfortable, and long-lasting.

Nowhere is this truer than with regards to the lifespan of a couch. In most cases, cheap couches break, pop springs, and look worn and out of shape after a year of regular use.

A good quality couch on the other hand, will not only retain its good looks, but it will also offer years of enjoyment and comfort.

When shopping, begin by investigating what you can see – the upholstery. It is the seating that will receive the most wear and tear. So it needs a good-quality covering.

I bought a couch 12 years ago – covered in an expensive, durable fabric. Although I have had to have the cushions refilled, the couch is still in great condition due to the good quality upholstery I initially chose.

Look for a manufacturer that offers a guarantee, not just on the frame, but also on the upholstery.

When choosing what kind of covering you want for your couch, it is essential to consider aesthetics as well as durability, stain-resistance and maintenance issues: chenille fabric, for example, is soft and durable, while leather is extremely long-lasting.

Velvets and faux suede, on the other hand, look lovely and offer a wonderful textural quality, but may quickly appear worn out if placed in high traffic areas.

Plain canvas or drill fabrics are hard-wearing, but easily stained.

Stains and dirt are especially important considerations for parents and pet owners, as children and pets are known to be couch destroyers.

Patterned fabric and fabric in dark colours have the benefit of being able to hide stains better than plain and lightly coloured fabrics.

Alternatively, you can pay a bit extra and opt for an industrial-strength commercial grade upholstery fabric, which has been specially manufactured to withstand the wear and tear of high traffic areas.

Some commercial fabrics even have the ability to deter bacteria.

Special treatments can also be applied to your couches, such as Masterguard for example, which keeps fabrics looking newer for longer.

Opting for couches with slipcovers is another great option.

Slipcovers are a fantastic choice, as you can take the slipcovers off to wash them when they get dirty, and you can also easily change the colour and look of the couch by fitting it with a new cover in a different fabric when you tire of the old upholstery.

However, it is probably leather that has the longest lifespan, lasting up to five times longer than fabric.

Leather is highly durable and easy to care for, it is fully serviceable and panels are easily replaced.

Leather couches are by far the most popular, and it is easy to understand why – they are beautiful and durable pieces of furniture that offer superior comfort, conformability, longevity, and they are easy to clean in comparison with their fabric counterparts.

But they are also, by and large, considerably more expensive. It is essential to know what qualities to look for when making your selection to ensure that you make the optimum choice.

The most important thing to do is to determine whether the sofa is upholstered in genuine or faux leather.

Your first point of reference should be to examine the furniture tag and see if it identifies the materials used in the manufacturing of the sofa.

Faux leather can be identified in a number of different ways, including pleather, leatherette, Naugahyde, Corfam, ultrasuede, Fabrikoid, permeable leather, artificial leather or leather cloth, bicast and bonded bellissima.

Genuine leather should always be identified with a genuine leather symbol or the term “genuine leather”.

The next thing to do is ascertain the quality of the leather used to upholster the sofa.

Leather comes in a variety of qualities that can serve different purposes.

Bonded leather is made of leather scraps that have been glued together – although it is inexpensive, it is not as durable and so it should be avoided.

Full grain leather is as durable, or perhaps even more durable than top grain leather, but since it doesn’t have a protective layer, it will take on more character from wear and tear over the years, but ultimately, it will last longer.

You can also consider thickness as a function of price – the thicker the leather, the longer it will last, and the more expensive it will be – most leathers are categorised according to their thickness.

Split grain leather is made from the inside of the hide, which is considered less desirable than the outer layer because it is not as durable.

Top grain is made from the outer layer and is the most durable type of leather because it is specially treated to increase its longevity.

Full grain leather is the most expensive option – like top grain leather, it is made from the outer layer, but it is not treated. It is the most expensive because of its beauty, but is not as durable as top grain. Some couches will offer leather match, which is a combination of vinyl and leather, which is less expensive than most genuine leather sofas. (See box.)

The sofa frame is also very important.

In South Africa, pine is used for the construction of seating. However, there are different grades of pine. If you are looking for quality, you should make sure the frame is constructed fromA-grade industrial unknotted pine, which is the strongest and most durable material.

The interior construction is another crucial consideration. Inexpensive furniture is stapled together and has poorly constructed corner bracing, while more expensive furniture should be securely screwed together and have well-constructed, hardy corner bracing.

With regards to seating, one of the most durable seating constructions comprises eight-way tied springs. But there are other types of wire coils and, of course, some seating comprises only wood and foam constructions.

To ensure your couch doesn’t date too quickly, it is advisable to choose something neutral: a neutral palette will prolong the use of your seating as it will match a variety of styles and can be adapted easily to changing decor trends.

A neutral colour will allow you to change the look of a room by simply changing accessories, such as scatter cushions, rugs, light fittings and so on, without having to invest in a new lounge suite.

Genuine leather can be divided into three broad categories, namely:

Type A – Aniline: This comprises crust leather (leather, that after tannage, has not been further processed, but has simply been dried), which has been coloured using aniline dyes, then dried, softened and milled. It doesn’t have a protective finish and therefore requires a high degree of preventative maintenance and is susceptible to scratches and stains.

type B – Protected: This is also crust leather that has been coloured using aniline dyes, but with additional pigmentation to ensure colour consistency. It is also dried, softened and milled, but receives a protective topcoat, which ensures that it is easy to maintain and clean. The topcoat also makes the leather more resistant to scratches and stains.

Type N – Nubuck: This leather is crust leather that has been dyed using aniline dyes, then dried, softened, sanded or buffed, and milled. Its surface has a visible texture and its colour may vary from one hide to the next. It is susceptible to scratches and stains, and requires a high-level of preventative maintenance. - The Mercury

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