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Should I Buy a Couch or a Futon?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
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  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2016
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When people are looking for comfortable seating arrangements, they may be torn as to whether to buy a couch or a futon. There are certainly good reasons for choosing either of these options. Much depends upon price limitations, style of décor, and the purpose for which you might want the furniture.

When you’re deciding between a couch and a futon, you should first consider your needs. If you’re furnishing a studio, it might be more attractive to have a futon instead of a mattress. Many people find them comfortable to sleep on, and they can be converted back to couch form when you’re entertaining guests. Others prefer a sleeper couch, though some of these, especially in lower priced models, are notoriously uncomfortable to sleep on. Sleeper sofas are also very heavy to move, which might be a consideration if you have to move to a new place, or can’t get delivery. Whether you buy a fold-out couch or a futon that can be converted to a sleeping space, you’ll likely find these are both good choices for small spaces where your living room is also your bedroom.

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Many are swayed by price when they consider whether to buy a couch or a futon. It is true that lower priced futons tend to be less expensive than couches. These lower prices may mean that the workmanship on the frame is not particularly good, however, and a standard complaint about inexpensive futons is that the frame tends to break, particularly if it is made of wood and is converted from bed to couch often. Another complaint with less expensive futons is that the mattress is often relatively thin and hard. This may not be comfortable for long periods of sitting or sleeping.

You will spend more money to buy better-made futons and larger, softer futon pads. Once you start to escalate price in this manner, the price difference between a couch and a futon may not be significant. If you do choose a futon, look for one that has an all metal frame, which tends to hold up better than those made with wood, and if you happen to be a generously sized person, you might want to ask the furniture dealer about maximum weight the futon can hold, and whether any guarantees on the frame exist.

Sometimes, the choice of what furniture to buy is made more by aesthetics than price. Futons can evoke a more minimalist look, though there are certainly some that are very fancy. Couches tend to provide slightly more comfortable seating, and may be available in a much wider configuration of styles, widths and lengths. For either choice, different fabrics are available, and there are beautiful, and sometimes washable, covers for futon cushions that can make them highly decorative.

A large couch may be just as good as a futon for people who want to take an occasional nap, and there are also good options for purchasing loveseats, sectionals, or reclining couches that may be more pleasing. Again, with lower end prices, you do want some sort of guarantee on frame and any springs the couch might have. A jumping child can easily kill the springs in less well-constructed couches, so you have to ask furniture dealers what types of guarantees they carry if the material or frame don’t hold up well.

Ultimately, the decision to buy a couch or a futon really depends upon your individual needs and your budget, but don’t forget that there are alternatives to buying either piece of furniture new. Plenty of people are willing to sell good quality, good condition couches and futons for far less money than you would pay for one new. Some people even give them away for free. If you’re short on cash, look to print classified ads, garage sales and online classifieds to find either a couch or futon for much less money.

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anon243819
Post 4

I got a great deal on a futon frame -- then bought the best mattress I could find in the "scratch and dent" section of a reputable futon dealer. So, it sits well and it sleeps well! It's a queen-sized bed when folded out, so no special bedding required. But I have a great comfy mattress topper that goes on with the sheets: guests love it.

It's still the "couch" in my den and I enjoy sitting on it to read, watch TV, etc. I would do it all over again!

anon210788
Post 3

I have never found a futon I would recommend for anyone except first apartment dwellers or dorm students. Even the most expensive futons sold in stores like Walmart or Target have the same basic design and comfort problems as the ones on the bottom end of pricing.

The metal frame makes it obvious that you're sleeping on a converted "couch", not a real bed. The bars are just as intrusive as the middle bar of a sleeper sofa. The mattress on a cheaper futon is not thick enough to overcome the hardness of the bars, and if you're taller than 5'2", you are not going to find a comfortable all-night sleeping position. You *might* be able to take a

nap on a standard futon, but not much more than that.

A lot of cheaper couches also suffer from the same length problem, but the cushions are often thicker than a futon mattress and there is no bar to deal with if the couch doesn't convert to a sleeper sofa. I would much rather buy a cheaper couch from a discount furniture or thrift store than a brand new lower-end futon from Target or Walmart. I've had the bars snap off futons before, and the mechanical elements that hold the futon in the "bed" position can fail without much warning.

Personally, I suggest looking for a used couch in decent condition and using a steam cleaner or heavy duty spray cleaner for upholstery to bring it back to life. A futon may be cheaper up front, but a couch will last longer and be more comfortable for guests to sleep on.

drtroubles
Post 2

I know futon mattresses are oddly shaped for the most part. Do you need to buy special bedding for them, or will standard sheets fit?

I have noticed that a lot of the futon mattresses seem to have almost rounded edges, which makes it look like it would be difficult to secure a bottom sheet to the futon.

Also, do futon mattresses come in singles and doubles? Or is it more of a one-size only kind of deal?

I would like to have more than one in my home. One would be for guests who are couples and one would be for my single friends.

wander
Post 1

I have always thought of futons as a first apartment staple. They are easy to set up, and are great to keep on hand if you have guests over.

I recommend that if you want a good frame you shell out the money for one that comes with a warranty.

Whether you get a wood or a metal frame is often irrelevant, as it is quality that you are looking for.

When you visit a futon shop, ask the store staff who makes their product and what kind of material it is made out of. Make sure you try the futons out, as some may be uncomfortable with their support placement.

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