Can Sinuous Springs be a mark of quality?

January 10, 2009

Hi, I'm new here. My wife and I are looking for a fabric sectional for our family room and are ready to purchase one from Mathis Bros. in California. It's made by RC Furniture and their area of the store was next to Century, Henredon, Ralph Lauren, Drexel, and Bernhardt (upstairs from Klaussner and other less expensive lines).

The unit weighs a ton (I could barely lift it), the fabric is fab, the cushions are a down blend and the overall craftsmanship seems very nice. However, when I asked about the construction, after the kiln dried, doweled, screwed and glued bit, I was told it uses a sinuous spring system. I'm under the impression from these boards and my parents that tied springs are the be all and end all and sinuous systems are a sign of cost-cutting and lower quality/durability.

I pressed the salesman on this and he checked with the manufacturer's rep at RC who said the sinuous set-up is used on some of their pieces to balance the down blended cushions and they are spaced closer together than most. They have never had any problems relating to them and they and the frame are lifetime warranteed. If you go to their website at http://www.rcfurniture.com/construction.html

even their diagram shows such a set-up.

This sectional retails for almost $9000 (but is discounted). Is there something fishy going on here or is the "sinuous springs are junk" mantra more a general rule than a certainty? Can a high quality product still employ them in such a way as to shake off the stigma that is usually associated with them? I've only seen one comment here that thinks so and that was, "Actually a quality 5/4 hardwood frame that is designed for using 8 gauge sinous wire springs will outlast almost any 8-way hand tied springs."

Is this a red flag? Or should I feel safe in investing a comparatively large sum in a nice product that uses a maligned method of assembly? We really like it otherwise.

Comments (13)

  • thecollector

    The Gold Standard has always been, and will continue to be, the labor-intensive, 8-way hand-tied spring system. It's expensive to do it right, and few companies do. When done correctly each spring is set into the deck webbing and attached, with various spring rates depending on what portion of the seat deck its located. They are then tied together (8 strings per piece) and knotted at each juncture (not looped! - only knotting keeps the spring deck together if a string breaks).

    I would not say that the use of sinuous springs should be a deal-breaker for you, because they can be OK, but they will never perform as well or last as long as a proper 8-way-tied deck.

  • simplyjeff

    Sinuous springs can be used in both good furniture and bad. I was a buyer for a furniture chain for 8 years, and bought many items with both sinuous springs and 8 way hand tied. Sinuous springs can last just as long or longer than 8 way hand tied. Most people, however, find the 8 way hand tied to be generally more comfortable. In expensive upholstery the type of spring unit is often dictated by the style. On a style with a narrow profile (particularly on modern or contemporary styles) the 8 way hand tied may simply not fit. Also, European made furniture rarely uses 8 way hand tied springs any longer. In summary, sinuous springs are not a reason for disqualifying a piece of upholstery, regardless of the price.

  • john_wc

    Sinuous springs in a $1,000 - $1,500 sofa are one thing but $9,000? Sinuous springs are a quality compromise. If they were truly "just as good" as coils, top upholstery companies would use them. What is the discounted price?

  • bigdoglover

    Sinuous springs are a sign of lesser quality furniture. If the thing weighs a ton it is probably because there is a lot of MDF in there, which is very heavy. We have had this exact same experience with "heavy" furniture -- thinking it was a sign of quality, when it was just the opposite. I would stay away from that place.

    We had chairs made that the manufacturer (also in CA) said had solid wood. I found out by a fluke that they contained a lot of MDF and when I confronted the maker of them a couple years later, they told me that by law they can say solid wood if a percentage of it is solid wood.

  • tankertoad

    Thanks for the replies so far. The discounted price is 35% off - in the mid 5s. I spoke with a rep from the company and he told me it's kiln dried 5/4 Alderwood (because the cost of shipping woods like maple or oak from the eastern US to their facory in CA would be prohibitive and that there's nothing wrong with Alderwood or they wouldn't use it - I didn't find out if it's solid or ply), some places are dowelled and some are glued and stapled, the legs are screwed in (they use attached legs on their exposed leg chairs), the sinuous springs are 8 gauge and spaced four inches apart with two additional springs close to the arms for additional support and they looked at using individual coils but found them not to be any better (whatever that means). They use 2.0 foam surrounded by a 10/90 down/feather mix ("more luxurious than the 5/95 ratio many others use") and the fill has a five year warranty and the frame and springs are lifetime.

    Is all that worth the price they're asking? Perhaps not, if all you're looking at is what I just listed. But since the fabric (one of hundreds from which to select) had a nice hand, the "ride" was very cushy yet supportive, the style was appealing, and we weren't going to fly to N. Carolina or sit on a gazillion other sectionals (I like to comparison shop, my wife - not so much), we decided to get it. It looks better and sits better than the EA sectionals costing a thousand less so we're at a good balance point. I was (and am still a little bit) trying to reconcile a medium-high priced product that is touted by those who stock it as "high quality" but doesn't conform to the usual (see Furniture 101) standards of "high quality".

    If it fails in two or five years, I'll post here but I suspect it will last a good long time because it sounds well designed (enough) despite the reputation sinuous springs and Alderwood and screwed in legs have to many.

    Finally, one other "review" I got was from one of their retailers who considers RC "entry level" in their store. The gentleman said it is a little overpriced for what you get (about the equivalent in quality to Drexel and below Century, which is below Baker, according to him). He said for the same price (full retail of 9K), Hickory Chair and Hickory White are better and Baker stuff on sale could maybe be had as well. But he still recommended it because it's an entry point to the quality of the rest of his lines with some more modern designs.

    So, on sliding scale of "value", perhaps we did OK but not great. On the "married couple chose something they're both happy to look at and sit on" scale, I think we did a lot better :-)

  • pkspigs

    IF you are going to spend that kind of money, why don't you get a Hancock and Moore sofa. It is truly the best you and buy.

  • TheFurnitureGuru

    I know that this tread is a bit old, but thought I would toss in some input. Simplyjeff is right on. Sinuous is NOT a quality compromise. My family has been in the furniture business for over 40 years and we have had major accounts with all types of suppliers especially those in foam and coils. I have actually toured a coil factory in NC that makes a "fake" 8 way hand tie coil simply because people ask for it, but the truth is that coils are good enough now that they don't need to be tied. Here is the long and short of it. Some people only carry lines with 8 way hand ties, that is fine, but they will only promote that as "The" way to make furniture. It is like using a rotary telephone when you have a cell phone in your pocket. It will work, won't drop a call, but when it comes down to it, it basically does the same thing. The major issue with sinuous is how it is installed. If it is installed correctly, i.e. the number of coils per sq in, the gauge and secured then it will not fail. There is a reason that some call it "No Sag." Because it will not sag. When it comes down to comfort a lot of that has to do with the density and IFD of the foam that you are selecting for your core/wrap of your cushions.

    One person stated above that quality=weight, but then mentioned MDF wood. Quality and MDF should never be in the same sentence when it comes to furniture. Whether it be kiln dried or air dried woods, hardwood is the best way to go when constructing a frame. Some companies use pressed wood to cut cost and still charge you 3k for a chair because they have a brand name and sell through retailers who all need to make a markup on each piece to make it worth their time.

    We use sinuous in almost all of our seating applications, so I may be the other side of the bias, however the in 40 years we have been in business, the number of issues we have with seat failures is basically less than 1%.

    Tankertoad, I saw that you were talking about foam density, 2.0 is a great density, but also check the IFD which is the amount of weight it takes to compress typically 25% of the capacity of the foam, sometimes they give you the 75% number as well. The quality of foam is just as more important as deciding whether 8 way or sinuous is the way to go. General rule of thumb 1.8 and above on density in sufficient and over 30 IFD is typical for residential use. 10/90 down is great if down is your thing, 5/95 down is also fine if that is what you are looking for. Down cushions and back pillows are what they are. They are going to be soft and have a great feel, but they will need fluffing from time to time. You will lose fill capacity much quicker with down than you will with a softer density foam wrap over time but this is really a preference thing. We can achieve the same crowing and appearance with foam as with down, and it will last longer. Typically high end foam only will shrink less than 5% over 10 years.

    Overview, you asked the right questions. There is no sense covering a "bad" frame in expensive fabric. It is like putting lipstick on a pig. Still a pig. But as far as Sinuous vs 8 Way, both work, it is more of a feel thing and honestly if you are feeling those coils then the foam selection is incorrect. Either way you should never "bottom out" in either. You should never feel the bottom of your seat. Coils will wear out faster than sinuous. It is a spring and springs wear. That is a fact! When it comes to selecting down, again a preference thing, just make sure that you realize that it will need some routine upkeep, but that in a standard 3 cushion maybe 86" length sofa with typical seat depths you are looking at a 1k to 1500 upgrade at retail costs. But if you like chardonnay then drink chardonnay. This is your choice.

    The main reason that we choose to use sinuous is because of consistency. You get a much more consistent seat surface over the span of your sofa, especially if you are looking at a matching loveseat or chair. If you use the same gauge and same number over same area you get the same seat. This may be harder to achieve with 8 way as the number of coils may need to be reduce or a smaller gauge may need to be used in order to "fit" the drop in unit in the seat deck.

    I hope that this information helps, maybe for future furniture selection. Remember the questions you asked are the right ones and need to be answered when you are looking at selecting your furniture. When it comes to warranties, I always remember "Tommy Boy" the movie. "Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will. I got spare time. But for now, for your customer's sake, for your daughter's sake, ya might wanna think about buying a quality product from me."

    My Best

  • kateskouros

    for $5K you can wait until august, when stanford goes on sale again. that's my plan!

  • Kristi Bradshaw

    I hate to tell you, but that lifetime warranty means it's warranted for about seven years. That's what the lifetime of a sofa is according to the courts. Anyway, from experience stay as far away from sensuous springs as you can. Actually run from them. 8 way hand tied springs are not only more comfortable, but they are more durable. Buy quality and you will never be sorry.

  • PRO

    You should not purchase a sofa based entirely on the seat springs, coil springs that are tied 8 way or sinuous wire springs. Currently the majority of higher end major brand names 8-way tied coil springs are nothing close to what used to be a mark of quality. A well designed 8 gauge sinuous wire spring will sit better and last longer than the majority of todays 8-way tied coil springs. I base that on more than 40 years of on-the-floor upholstery manufacturing experience and over 20 years of re-upholstery experience where you see exactly what makes a spring unit= 8-way tied coil springs or sinuous; last or fail over time.

  • lookintomyeyes83

    I have an old French provincial couch with sinous springs and its my favorite couch to lay on, sleep on, and watch tv on. So I think it depends on what you like - get that butt of yours couch sitting! :)

  • Nancy McHugh

    Thankyou ICustomSofa. Can you tell me what makes for a well designed sinuous spring. The only thing i can gleem from your comment is that 8 gauge is good. Can you tell me what else to look for in the sinuous? Can you guide me on what to look for in the seat cusions? I don't want down and don't want a hard cushion. It's just me here, no kids jumping on it or any big man using it every day.

  • PRO

    Nancy, a solid hardwood seat frame to attach and support the springs and no less than 2 silent tie-wires running across and clipped to each spring.

    I recommend a foam core over a coil spring unit. Either a Ultra-cell or HR foam with no less than 4" thick and 1.8 lb density, the higher the density the longer it will last, but the costs of the cushion goes up substantially as well. The density has nothing to do with how soft or firm it sits, thats in the next number= the ULD or ILD. A medium soft is around 22 - 24 ULD, a medium is around 26 - 28 ULD and a medium firm is 30 - 32 ULD. The manufacturer should be able to provide those specs. This foam core should have also a soft foam wrap (topper) over the core to add comfort/soft touch and fill out the cover. This soft wrap should be no less than 1" and be also the same Ultra-cell or HR foam, just a softer ULD around 18 ULD. If you want a cushion that will last and hold its shape, then avoid any polyester wrap or feather envelope. The reason I don't recommend a coil spring unit is not the spring unit that don't last its how it constructed as the wrap around the unit if not done correctly will break down in a short time and will loose its shape and support.

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