The Futon Sofa Bed - How to Find a Quality Futon
Author: Brian Kempler
December 21st, 2016
Let's Talk About Frames
Sleeping on a thin, hard futon sofa bed mattress can be uncomfortable or even detrimental to your health, and finding quality futons for sale can be tough. The quality of your futons frame, mattress and cover really do matter. Would you believe it if I told you that the futon frame you’re sleeping on can have just as much, if not more, of an impact on your quality of sleep than the mattress? You see, most of the cheap metal futon sofa bed frames people buy from stores like Walmart, IKEA and other brand name stores come with cheap, poorly constructed frames that only get worse over time and with use. So how do you tell a good frame from a bad one? Well, that can be a bit confusing. Of course any big store salesman will tell you that their futon frames are the best and give you as many reasons they can to buy from them. But how do you know if they’re just pitching a sale or if they truly understand the specifics of their products? That can be hard to determine because, let’s face it, you probably aren’t all too familiar with the products either. But who would be? It’s just a futon frame. They’re all the same, right? Well, not exactly which is why I created this guide. My goal here is to help you pick the futons with the best frames that are best suited to your needs.
What Should I Look For in a Futon Sofa Bed?
So where do we start? What are the options? Who has futons for sale? Looking at all the available options can make choosing a futon frame that’s best for you confusing, even without having to deal with pushy sales people, so let’s just start with the basics. Generally, any given futon frame is made from wood, metal or a combination of both. So which one is right for you? Let’s take a look at some of the things that go into futon sofa bed construction and what you should look for in a quality futon frame.
Metal – Metal futon frames have a reputation for being durable and inexpensive, and come in a wide variety of styles ranging from rustic to contemporary. However, it is not a good idea to buy a futon frame simply because it is made of metal. Metal might sound like the perfect material because of its durability, but not all frames are created equal. Some futons for sale that I have seen can look sturdy and are anything but sturdy. Assembling and disassembling a metal futon sofa bed frame can be fairly easy, but if the frame is too thin it can easily become bent or damaged making it nearly impossible to disassemble when you need to move it, and reassembling it can be just as difficult. The cross supports are usually the the first part to become damaged, especially with heavy use. This is something you might want to consider when shopping for a futon frame especially if you plan on sharing it with a partner. However, if what you’re looking for is something cheap for the kids to sleep on, this might be the material choice for you.
Hardwood futon frames are very durable and known for their solid construction. They are favored over metal frames because of their looks and durability.
Wood - The wooden futon frame is arguably the best looking type of futon frame, as well as the most popular. Most wooden futon frames are made from mahogany, oak, maple, beech or pine wood and each type of wood used to construct a futon frame can determine the durability and comfort of the futon overall, but don’t let that over complicate your decision. Of the five common types of woods used in the most common frames, there are only two things to remember: soft wood and hard wood. Hard woods grow in temperate climates and have broad leaves that fall off in the winter. Hard woods are much stronger and more stable than softwoods which makes this a perfect choice of material if durability is what you’re looking for. Of the popular wood choices, mahogany, oak, beech, maple, and cherry are considered hard woods. Softwoods, however, grow in colder climates and are more susceptible to damage from being moved around and from daily wear and tear. Examples of soft woods are aspen,pine spruce and fir.
Wood & Metal Combo - This particular combination of futon frame building materials has become popular recently due to the different style opportunities. It is also a very durable combination of materials used in frames. Most futon frames constructed of both metal and wood have flat wooden slats instead of metal bars to support the mattress which is a much more comfortable choice. Typically, the arm rests on this combination are made from wood rather than metal which helps to give the frame a much warmer feel to it. Personally, I have owned more futon frames of this combination than I have solid wood or metal frames.
This particular metal and wood combo futon frame model is one of my favorites for its modern style. I highly reccomend it for anyone new to futons.
Wow, so many choices! But don’t worry! I’m here to help. If you’re still having trouble deciding which type of frame is best for you, allow me to guide you a little further. A good high quality futon frame will always be made from quality materials. If a wood frame is more your style, and durability is what you’re concerned with, you should look for one made from a dense type of wood such as mahogany, maple, or oak. If durability isn’t much of a concern, a softer wood type such as pine, maple or oak might be better suited for you. Softer woods are ideal for staining which makes them a favorite choice for your inner “do-it-yourself-er” if that is what you're looking for. If what you need is a good solid futon frame for the kids to sleep on and style is less of a concern, you might want to consider going with an all metal frame. Metal frames are perfect when it comes to kids because they are hard for children to damage and are also much lighter in weight than a wood frame so moving it around the room is easy, even for a small child.
What About Types of Futon Frames?
Are they all the same or is there a difference? Actually, there is a difference. There are two basic types of frames you should know about. Bi-fold frames and Tri-fold frames.
Example of a quality bi-fold frame. The arms are made of tubular metal to ensure that the frame is always steady.
Bi-fold futon frames – These types of frames are considered to be the industry standard and are the most common type found in stores. This type of frame has arms and legs, much like sofas, and the cushion folds down the middle. Most of these have a series of rollers that allow the futon frame to switch from the sitting position to the sleeping position with ease. This is what is called the “slider” mechanism. Some bi-fold futon frames have what is called a “wall-hugger” mechanism which allows them to slide away from the wall when you pull them down to help avoid having to move the entire frame around when you want to change it from the sleeping position to the sitting position or vice-versa.
Tri-fold futon frames – This type of frame was actually the first to hit stores. If you haven’t already guessed it, they’re called tri-fold frames because they fold three times instead of just two. This particular configuration allows this type of frame to have legs or sit directly on the floor. It can be folded and unfolded either way very easily.
But Aren't Good Futon Frames Expensive?
Actually, no. Of course, some frames can be more expensive than others, but the best thing, I believe, about owning a futon is that you can get a high quality futon for much, much less than you can get a high quality couch or sofa. Sofas can cost well over a thousand dollars or more and still be considered low-end whereas a well made futon may only cost a few hundred dollars or less and be a top quality piece of furniture. This is why futons have become such a popular choice for so many people today.
What Style Options are Available?
Last, but not least, let’s talk about style. When most people think of futons they think of them as a modern piece of furniture that was popularized in America, but little do most know that futons are actually a Japanese invention. These days we call Japanese style futons “traditional” and we call more modern style futons “western.” Here’s a look at some of the differences.
Traditional – In the past, the term “futon” was used to describe a traditional Japanese mattress that was stuffed with cotton or feathers. The advantage to the traditional style of futon was that they were light enough in weight and small enough in size that they could easily be stored in a closet during the day which allowed the room to be used for other activities. Traditional futons were thin (usually only two to three inches thick) which may make them seem uncomfortable to some. Traditional futons were designed to be placed on the floor and not on a wooden or metal futon frame like western style futons typically are today. Though this style of futon is typically not considered modern, they are still widely used in Asian countries today.
Western – When we hear the word “futon” today, western style futons are usually what comes to mind. The western style futon, however, is heavily based on the traditional style, but they are almost always placed on a frame and not directly on the floor, although there are some exceptions. This style futon is typically stuffed with cotton, foam or other types of synthetic materials and are usually much thicker than a traditional Japanese style futon. This style is often what are used to replace typical western style beds and couches. This style was popularized in the 1970’s by a Boston home furniture designer by the name of William Brouwer. Brouwer was one of the first designers to realize that futons could become very popular in America, especially for people living in apartments, but needed a change in design. Brouwer knew that Americans prefer to sit and sleep on a surface raised off the floor so he designed a futon that would appeal to them by designing one that was raised to the standard height of a bed. He also set out to design his new furniture in three different parts, the frame, the mattress, and the cover. The end result of his design was a modern, elegant, well crafted piece of furniture that earned him a national award for design.
My Final Thoughts on Futon Frames
Modern futons can be found in almost every store today and are much more sophisticated, elegant, and comfortable than the old traditional style of futons. They are a great choice for anyone looking for a flexible piece of furniture and are capable of adding to your style of decor. But as stated earlier, not all futons nor their frames are built equally. Some futon makers use cheap parts and materials which can make for a pretty uncomfortable experience. If you would like to know more about quality futon frames, I have created a short review blog to help further guide you to choosing a futon frame that is right for you. I have personally owned and used the frames I have written about there and others have been owned and used by my family and friends. I based my reviews around quality, style, and material choice to help you make a more informed decision before you buy. The next time you see futons for sale, you'll be at an advantage! I hope it helps!
An example of an 8" futon mattress. A standard for any modern futon.
Now, let's talk about Mattresses and Covers
Ok, so we’ve covered futon frames, but of course that isn’t the only to look for when looking for a quality futon sofa bed. Futon mattresses and covers are also very important because, like the frames, they are not all created equal. Cheap futon mattresses from IKEA and Walmart tend to show wear an tear pretty quickly when compared to a high quality mattress sold in high end furniture stores.
This is a great futon cover. It comes in multiple colors so it can match with any futon.
Of course, high end furniture stores are also very expensive and so most people will settle with a cheap mattress and cover. However, I have managed to put together a list of quality futon mattresses and covers that are of high quality, but wont break the bank. Be sure to read about them here and here.