Expert Advice on Making Your Couch Comfortable
A cornerstone of the household, a couch should bring you and your loved ones years of comfort for game night and that next show you are binge-watching. However, over time, your couch cushions will begin to degrade and your couch will lose the comfort and luster that it once had. When this happens, you may wonder how to make your couch more comfortable.
If you have viewed any other articles that try to answer this question, you may see advice such as adding cheap throw pillows, throw blankets, and low-quality foam inserts. All this, conveniently placed with affiliate links to Amazon or other e-commerce websites so they can make a commission on the sale, even though they have no personal experience with the product. While these products might mask the discomfort of your couch for a short while, they certainly will not fix it.
As experts in the upholstery and foam industry, with three generations and 60 years of experience, we do not just sell foam, we use it in our upholstery work every day. So, we are here to give you some inside knowledge on what might be making your couch uncomfortable and the various ways to fix these issues, not mask them.
Why is my Couch Uncomfortable?
No couch is perfect and there are dozens of reasons why a couch can be uncomfortable. The remote may be hidden under the cushion. What we are going to focus on are overarching reasons your couch might be uncomfortable.
For older couches a main reason for discomfort is simply wear and tear. Maybe when you sit on it, you are getting closer to the springs under the cushion, as the old cushions have become very soft and now sit lower. This makes it harder to get out of your seat, and you may have to use your hands to lift yourself out when you try to get up. The springs under the seat cushions may feel softer, leading one to believe that they may be the problem. However, in most cases, the old foam has deteriorated and caused the cushions to sit lower as they lose the ability to return to their original height and shape. If your foam cushions have excessive polyester fiber wrap, they may have lumped together and overlapped to create an uncomfortable surface.
Cheap Cushion Fill
For new and old couches, discomfort is often due to the low quality of its materials. Couches from companies such as IKEA and several online retailers are going to use a cheap filling for their cushions. This may include a cheap 1.2 lb. density Polyurethane foam for the seat cushions that are excessively wrapped in Dacron to give the appearance of a thick foam cushion. This means that your new fluffy cushions can compress by several inches within the first month of ownership and will not return to form.
This is why we never recommend a Dacron wrap of more than 1.5”. Any thicker, and the Dacron will compress over time, making the cushion compress, lose its shape, and not return to its original form. Companies will also use cheap polyester fiber filling for the back cushions that clump together in a short time period and will lose any support they once provided. We recommend a minimum 1.7 lb density foam core for your cushions.
Manufacturers also try to save on costs by using cheaper wood framing for the construction of the couch. One of the most common low-cost wood types is plywood followed by low-quality pine wood or even cheaper particle board. This means that your couch has a light and flimsy foundation that can become loose at the joints. It will begin to sway and wiggle from side to side or the arm may move back and forth. The preference would be a hardwood frame made of better quality wood such as Amber or Burch with double dowelled joints.
Unfortunately, there is no way to improve the frame construction of your couch. If it has a cracked beam, a professional upholsterer would be able to repair it and strengthen the frame with wood glue. In the future, there are a couple of things to look out for when purchasing a new couch. One quick trick to know the quality of your furniture is by its weight. The heavier it is, the better the build quality. Additionally, make sure the legs of the couch are a part of the frame or held in with screws or dowels. Legs that are made of plastic but have a fake appearance as real wood is a sure indicator that the couch is of low quality.
Hard Front Edge
An important design feature for a couch’s comfort level is whether it was manufactured with a hard edge under the front of the seat cushions. You can tell if you have a hard edge couch if you lift a seat cushion up and push down on the front edge of the couch. If it is hard when you push down, that means your couch has a hard edge. The comfort level will be less and the foam cushions will wear out faster. The only padding between you and the hard edge is the foam cushion and this puts stress on the couch frame. This can cause frame failure if three or more people are on the couch at the same time.
A better design for comfort is a couch with a softer spring front edge. When you push down on the front edge of the couch, it will compress and then spring back up. This will add to the frame’s stress tolerance and the seating comfort of the couch. The spring front edge will also reduce the load pressure on the cushion foam and will add to its longevity. When you sit down on both the foam cushion and the front spring edge, you will feel the spring action under you and the foam cushion, increasing the comfort level of the couch.
For new couches, you may be experiencing discomfort because you never tested it out before the purchase. There is currently an ongoing transition from brick-and-mortar shopping to that of e-commerce, spurred by the onset of COVID-19. This had led to the rise of mattress-in-a-box companies such as Casper. Mattress and furniture showrooms are being removed from the equation. The problem is that comfort is subjective. A foam’s firmness, for example, has no bearing on its quality. Also, a firmness that is comfortable for one person might not be for another.
That is why showrooms are important. It provides the ability for you to test drive your potential new couch before you take it off the lot. You can make sure that it fits your body. This includes understanding the dimensions of what makes a comfortable couch for you – from promoting good posture to your feet touching the floor. An important aspect associated with discomfort is that the height may not be correct at 18 inches, or a seating depth at 21 inches is making for an uncomfortable experience. You don’t get this hands-on experience from purchasing a couch online. This can lead to discomfort and disappointment when sat upon for the first time and subsequent times.
How Do I Make my Couch More Comfortable?
There are a few simple solutions to making an uncomfortable couch comfortable. The easy way is by changing the firmness and quality of the original foam cushions that were used in the manufacturing process. Some shoppers intentionally purchase a lower-quality furniture piece with the intention of upgrading the foam as they make the purchase. Using the original seat and back covers, it is a relatively inexpensive way to increase the comfort level of a new and old couch.
Upgrade the Foam
The best way to make your couch more comfortable is by inserting new foam cores. If you just bought your couch, you might be thinking, “but the foam is brand new!” That may be true, but unfortunately, your discomfort is likely caused by cheap back and seat cushions.
For example, there might be a polyester fiber blend in the back cushions. The foam seat cushions may be using a very poor quality foam. The foam may be wrapped in excessive amounts of Dacron.
That is why after having the new coach for a short period of time you may be experiencing sag and limited support in the foam seat cushions. The back cushions may be filled with polyester fiber that can be “fluffed” to a certain degree but will continue to compress and cause sag in the covers.
If your couch is older and has become uncomfortable, it is usually because of the degradation of its materials. Most furniture companies will use industrial-grade High-Density foam (1.7 – 1.9 lb. density) for their cushions. This will last around four years before it starts to degrade and require replacement. After that, it will begin to sag, lose its ability to return to form, and not provide adequate support.
Replacing the foam in your cushion will bring new life to your couch. Depending on the new foam you choose, the couch might even be more comfortable than when it was brand new. If you are going this route, our recommendation is to replace your old foam cushion with High Resilience foam. This is an excellent quality foam usually available in densities between 2.5 lb. and 3.0 lb. This is much better than the commonly used 1.7 lb. density cushion foams. We offer High Resilience foam in densities of 2.8 lb. and 3.0 lb. This will give your cushions longevity of over a decade, as well as excellent support, buoyancy, and responsiveness.
The easy solution is to upgrade to a higher quality foam core that will provide ample support, resistance, and longevity that a cheap foam core can not. That is why our number one recommendation is to replace the foam core inside of your couch cushions. If you do decide to upgrade, you can read more about the different types of foam we recommend for furniture cushions here.
Fix Springs and Jute Webbing
Another possibility is that the springs or jute webbing in your couch are worn out. Between the dust cloth fabric beneath your couch and the decking fabric beneath your cushions are springs. They support you when you sit on your couch. There are various types of couch springs, such as eight-way hand-tied springs (best) and sinuous springs (most common).
These springs need to always be tightly coiled and secured with twine. This ensures the couch is firm and level throughout. Over time, the twine will break and the coil will become loose, causing lumps. Worn out springs will not have as much resistance so you can bottom out when sitting. You can look under your couch and through the dust cloth for untied, unclipped, or bent springs. You can also listen for squeaking or creaking when you initially sit on the couch. Broken, bent or not tied properly springs can be able to fixed or replace by your local professional upholsterer.
Balance the Frame
A wobbly or unstable couch can drastically change its levels of comfort when sat or laid on. Weight applied to an unleveled couch will cause uneven pressure distribution. This can cause quicker degradation and damage to the couch frame. A loose and wobbly couch frame will only get worse over time until it does give out. Before this happens get some good wood glue and a few clamps. Lift up some of the upholstery fabric and apply the wood glue into the loose joints. Using the clamps, hold the joints together under pressure until the glue is dry the following day. This will improve the structural integrity and make you couch more comfortable.
Change the Fabric
Upholstery fabric will someday wear out. This brings the perfect opportunity to create a new look and bring new life to your couch. A fabric choice is the start of not only visional comfort but also comfort in the feel of the fabric. There are many different kinds of fabrics available: cotton, linen, wool, leather, acetate, hemp, silk, polyester, polypropylene, acrylic, rayon, and nylon. With so many options, it can be difficult to know what is right for you. For example, cotton will be softer than wool, but will not last nearly as long. The most popular fabric today is Chenell, a soft vibrant fabric with a soft and luxurious feel that will make your couch more comfortable and last for decades.
When choosing a new fabric, pay attention to its double rubs. This terminology tells you the abrasion resistance and durability of the fabric. One back and forth motion on the fabric is one double rub. A rating of heavy-duty starts at 30,000 double rubs. Some new types of vinyl on the market today go into millions of double rubs. We recommend a Chenell fabric manufactured using the new Crypton fabric protectant. This textile has an outstanding double rub count with the new Crypton stain repellent. This fabric goes way beyond the old Scotch Guard protectant that we are all accustomed to.
We hope you found this article helpful! You should now be more familiar with how to make your couch more comfortable. Be sure to take these points into consideration when making your next furniture purchase.
Thanks for the this article! You certainly provide some great practical advise with regard to fixing up an old couch. I may try some new foam cushions, but honestly might just get a new couch all together because the one I have is a bit cheap.
It would be great if you could post a blog about how to purchase a new couch and what to look for.
I didn’t notice any suggestion about back cushions and how they can be fixed to provide more lumbar support. Do you have ant thoughts in this?
Hi Neal. Great question! Lumbar support can be created by adding a 2-inch thick piece of High Density foam in a firmness of Medium Firm to Extra Firm, 10 inches in height to the existing cushion stuffing. At first, it will show as block-looking through the cover. However, with more use, the foam piece will flatten around the edges and become less apparent.
Thanks for the info! One thing I have noticed about couches and sectionals lately is that the seat backs are just really low! And I can’t seem to find any good advice on how to fix that, though my guess would be to just purchase a new couch or rebuild the back. Would you have any other suggestions?
Hi Raven. Back cushions usually are 2-3″ higher than the sofa frame that supports them. The standard height of back cushions would be between 14-17″ tall. If the current back cushions are too short, the only solution is to match the fabric and custom-make new covers that are taller than the existing back cushions.