When you are deciding what type of futon frame you are going to get, the material that the futon frame is made from can be just as important as the style you choose. We Know Futons has done some research on the more popular materials used in the construction of futon frames and give you an overview here. Some characteristics to consider are durability, coloring, does it take stain well, and price.
There are three main types of futon frame construction available:
- Metal– Most often associated with the big box stores and the less expensive styles are fairly limited in the various arm designs they can offer. Metal frames feature a spring hinge that allows for front operation. Metal frames are usually available in more modern looking styles, and their pricing points can be relatively inexpensive. Inexpensive metal frames, due to the round metal bars located where the mattress rests, can be less comfortable when used with a thin mattress than a frame made with wooden slats. However, as futons have become more popular, there has been an upswing in the styles, quality, and associated price. For many consumers on a budget looking for value, a metal frame can be the way to go.
- Metal and Wood– A variation of the metal frame is to add arms made of wood to the metal rails, seat and back section. These frames can add more arm styles, give a ‘warmer’ appearance, and allow for some stain and paint opportunities, but you still have the potential comfort issue, depending on the mattress metal bar styles. Again, as with all futon products, the increased popularity of the futon has lead to many more choices available. From basic ‘dorm room’ styles to convertible sofas that look like traditional pieces, you can often find exactly what you are looking for.
- Wooden Frames– Wooden frames are the most popular type of futon frame. A high quality wood futon frame should be made out of superior wood for durability. Futon Frames made of wood are available in both hard and soft varieties. Soft woods are more affordable and provide more opportunities for the buyer to customize through staining. They can also be colored to take on the appearance of more expensive ‘hard’ wood varieties. Hard woods often are more durable, offer deeper, richer natural colors and have a higher end appearance (and price). We will discuss each type further.
A Primer on Different Types of Woods:
Furniture woods come in two varieties, Softwood and Hardwood. The terms ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ wood describe the leaves, seeds and structure of the tress, it is not, technically, used to describe the type (hardness) of wood produced. For example Balsa wood, a very light and soft wood, is considered to be a ‘hard’ wood. This is due to the trees other characteristics. There is a lot of overlap in the actual ‘hardness’ of the woods included in the groups ‘soft’ and ‘hard’.
Softwoods: Generally come from cone bearing trees trees like Evergreens and are found in cooler or cold climates. They grow quicker and are less expensive than hardwood trees. Examples would be: Pine, Aspen, Spruce and Fir. Softwoods are preferred for intricately carved pieces, but they are more susceptible to marks and ‘dings’.
Hardwoods: Grow in more mild or temperate climates. They are typically mored dense than softer woods. Hardwood tree varieties often have broad leaves and lose those leaves during winter. Examples would be Mahogany, Oak, Cherry, Ash, Maple and Beech. Hardwoods offer greater strength and stability.
The Five most common woods used to make furniture-
This is in no way an exhaustive list, and you will find many different types of woods used to make futon frames and traditional bed frames. However, we feel it is worthwhile to give you the run down on the characteristics of the woods you are most likely to find in the construction of your futon frame.
1) Mahogany– A medium to hard wood from the tropics that is strong and excellent for carving. Mahogany is an expensive wood that is generally tan to reddish brown in color. Mahogany has medium grain, uniform pores and less defined annual rings (don’t stand out). It is a durable hardwood variety that maintains it’s shape against swelling and shrinkage. Mahogany is decay resistant and stable, making it ideal for high quality cabinetry and furniture.
2) Oak-The most common wood used for for finer, more durable furniture. Oak is very hard and very heavy, open grained wood. Two varieties- Red Oak (a.k.a. Black Oak) which is pinkish in color and the more popular of the two. The other is White Oak, which is slightly greenish. Prominent rings and large pores give oak a coarse texture and strong grain, it stains well in any color.
3) Maple– Maple is a very light-colored medium-to-hard wood. Maple has diffused, evenly sized pores that yield a fine texture and even grain. Maple is highly durable and takes staining well. Maple can be finished to resemble walnut, cherry, or other more expensive hardwoods.
4) Beech– Beech is a heavy, pale, medium-to-hard wood used widely for chairs and stools. Beech has a fine, tight grain and large medullar rays, similar in appearance to maple or birch woods. Beech is highly shock resistant and takes stain well. Beech is a hard, strong material, that polishes well, but is not as durable as some other hardwoods. Beech is often used in general purpose fabrication as well as furniture, toys and floors. Beech is more common and less expensive than some other hardwoods.
5) Pine– Pine is a softwood grown in various parts of the world. In the US, the most popular types used in the making of furniture are Eastern White Pine, Ponderosa Pine, and Sugar Pine. Pine has a ‘knotty’ characteristic that provides warmth and brings a unique quality to each piece. Typically Pine is light yellow in color and has a broadly spaced striation pattern. Pine is ideal for children’s rooms, family rooms, beach cottages, and anywhere the owner is looking for an airier, lighter feel. Natural grain and shades ensure no piece is exactly alike. Pine is great for staining. Like Beech, Pine is a more common wood and less expensive than other options.
Common hardwoods used to make quality durable futon frames are beech, oak, southern pine, ash and cherry. You should be wary of futon frames made of weaker wood such as: alder, aspen, poplar, white pine or some imported woods. The weaker woods will not withstand as well the wear and tear of a convertible futon frame.
Finally, as you decide what frame construction may be best for you, check them out. Does it look sturdy, does it feel sturdy when you sit on the futon and frame or lay upon the futon as a bed. Do the joints, nuts and bolts all hit metal to metal or does metal rub on wood. Do the showroom models show excessive wear and tear. Is the futon frame made from the wood they say it is or does it have a ‘finish’ to look like cherry or mahogany and does the price reflect the finish or a solid wood product. Don’t be afraid to ask the sales staff, and don’t be afraid to try the pieces out for comfort. Finer showrooms as well as the big box and discount stores will generally have floor models on display.