The Best Sofa Frame Construction: Kiln Dried vs. Engineered Wood

published Jun 15, 2011
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Buying a new sofa can be intimidating. It seems there are endless questions about the finer details that will determine if your couch will stand the test of time. We’ve tried to shed a little bit of light on one of the most important questions: should you look for a kiln-dried hardwood or engineered wood frame?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Kiln-dried hardwood is typically considered top-of-the-line, and has been a long-standing selection in durable sofas. By drying the wood in a kiln, roughly 90-95% of the moisture in the wood is removed, preventing warping, and bowing. These frames are made with about 2 inch thick pieces of hardwood, typically secured with dowels and glue, and are very tough.

There are two types of engineered wood: plywood and particleboard (also called fiberboard or composition board.) Plywood is multiple thin layers of lumber glued together under high pressure. Plywood can be very strong and stable in the construction of sofa frames. Particleboard is wood chips and fibers that are glued together, and is much less strong than plywood or hardwood.

While kiln-dried hardwood has been the hallmark of quality furniture for quite some time, furniture-makers and engineers alike often feel that a high-quality plywood (there are different grades and qualities) can be just as structurally sound. A higher number of layers glued together, flush and true construction and interlocking joints make for a very sturdy frame.

There is no cut and dried (forgive the pun) answer to whether a frame will last you a lifetime, as it comes down to researching the manufacturer and trying to derive some basic quality levels across the board. A high-quality plywood frame with interlocking joints can be much sturdier than a kiln-dried wood frame made from a softer wood. (Here‘s a quick guide to hardwoods and softwoods via The key here is to know the manufacturer, their reputation, and remember to be aware of the key facets of quality materials and construction! Here’s a great

Look for:

  • kiln-dried hardwood

  • interlocking joints

  • doweled and glued joints

  • screws, not staples


  • softwoods–kiln-dried or otherwise

  • particleboard

  • low-quality plywoods

  • staples

What other hints and advice do you have for seeking out quality sofa construction?

Image 1: Reese Sectional Sofa from Room & Board Image 2: Newport Camel Back Sofa from Jeffrey Greene handcrafted Newport furniture.