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Futon Buyers Guide For Futon Frames,
Mattresses, And Covers 


If you're shopping online for a futon frame, futon mattress, or futon cover, our convenient futon products buyer's guide can help you make the right choice..and save money. We created our Buyer's Guide to assist consumers navigate through hundreds of websites by applying our 15 years of in the trenches experience in the retail futon industry. Should you buy a futon product online, or try to find a retailer in your local neighborhood? What should you look for when buying a futon? Right off the bat, there is a great resource for many futon topics that both retailers and customers can use. Futon Association International, www.futon.org, provides a store locator you can use by entering your zip code. Members of FAI are typically involved dealers who follow industry trends, are dependable, and pay a hefty fee to join this elite organization, which keeps them in the loop with futon frame manufacturers, fabrics for futon covers, futon mattress suppliers, and more. Buying a futon from an FAI member in your area means that you will probably have access to spare parts if you need them (a large mixed product furniture showroom does not specialize in futons, so aftermarket problems could be an issue) and they will more likely offer higher end futon frames and better quality mattresses and futon cover fabric selections. 

Another great resource online is Futon Life Online, www.futonlife.com/primer, which offers primers and lots of basic information about the history of the futon industry and where it is today. The primer was written by Joe Tatulli, probably the most knowledgeable person in the retail futon biz. Read it, and you will distill a lot of information and misinformation about the product. It is important to understand that when you are shopping for a futon, there are lots of "bells and whistles" you may not need, and any good futon store salesperson or futon product website is going to try to sell you the most expensive package you can buy. Not to say that all salespeople are evil, but if they are working on commission, it's volume that counts. It's also expensive to ship futon frames and mattresses from distant locations to you, so much of you pay (read more below in our 5 Biggest Mistakes section) is actually for shipping costs and not for the futon frame or futon mattress you have just purchased.


To give you an idea of what other people are spending to buy a futon frame and futon mattress, according to a poll by Futon Life Online, folks on average spend anywhere from $299-$799, with the largest percentage of sales falling between $399-$499. This is most likely what you will pay for a fairly decent and reliable hardwood futon frame and a fairly high quality foam and cotton futon mattress. The mattress will most contain a piece of high density foam (get one that has a foam section at least 2-3" thick, since you will experience settling with any futon mattress). A decent futon cover with a good quality zipper, double sewn stitching, and an acceptable fabric weight, will cost you another $40-150, depending upon the fabric and quality. Our own site, which specializes in a wide price range of product, www.futoncoversonline.com, sells a large variety of futon covers with free shipping and the option to purchase matching pillows and bolsters as well. We also sell a top of the line futon mattress made by Otis Manufacturing, as well as a decent promotional grade mattress if you don't want to dump a ton of money into something that is a guest bed, temporary sleeping arrangement, or for your kids playroom. A direct link to our mattress page: www.futoncoversonline.com/futonmattress.htm.


Futon Frame Facts: How To Choose The Right Model And Style

There are three key ingredients to a futon couch: the frame, which is the base, usually crafted from wood, metal, or a combination of wood or metal, the futon mattress, and the futon cover which covers the mattress. Whether you are shopping online or in a retail storefront, you will find hundreds of frame styles to choose from. The best way to narrow down your choices is to determine a few basic need factors. How much money you are willing to spend, where you are going to put the frame, and how often it will be used (is it for the guest room primarily to be used as a couch and only occasionally as a bed?) should be considered in your selection. Expect to spend at least $300-450 for a good quality hardwood frame, $250 for a pine frame that is considered promotional or "entry level" but still of good quality, and $200-225 for a basic tube steel frame, although a well crafted contemporary designer type metal frame may cost you $450 and up. A company called Innovations makes some really great metal frames with wooden support slats, wheels, and even add-on fabric arms, that fall within the higher price point category.


Futon Frame Definitions: Bifold Vs. A-Frame or Tri-fold


A bifold futon frame looks just like a regular couch. The mattress lies on the long edge is perpendicular  to the arms or ends , and when converting it from couch to bed, you typically pull it out from the front, and pull it up from the side or back to close it from bed back to couch. About 95% of all futon frames sold are of this type, and it works well for most applications, because it is easy to handle, and it seats 3-4 when in couch mode.


A trifold or A-frame style futon frame has typically 3 sections, and the futon mattress often folds over the top of the unit, so that when it unfolds, the long edge of the unit is parallel to the arms or ends, and it is more complicated and cumbersome to open and close, but the advantage is its ability to save space, since in a full or double size, for example, it consumes roughly 54" in running width (without the arms) whereas the bifold couch consumes the full length of the mattress (we'll use full or double size as an example again) of 75".


If you are looking for something inexpensive, for occasional use in a guest room, TV room, kids room, or basement, and you will rely on it for periodic use as a bed, but mostly for seating, buy a metal frame or pine lounger type either in bifold, or trifold (A-Frame) if you need a space-saver. If you are buying a pine frame, make sure it is Southern Yellow Pine. This is the only species of pine that can stand up to the daily opening and closing of a futon frame and its mechanism. If you can get it, buy a Rubberwood futon frame, (Hevea brasiliensis), and you should not have to spend more than $250-300 maximum. If you pay more than that, you're paying too much. If you do plan on using the futon frame a lot, and you plan on moving frequently or you are placing the futon frame in a high traffic area, or in an environment with active children, or with dogs that gnaw, buy a metal futon frame..Again, the price will vary from $200 or so for a promotional metal tube futon frame (Coaster Manufacturing makes some sturdy models) to $400-450 for a designer futon frame with a really decent enamel paint finish.


Futon Frames With Bells And Whistles


Remember that the one component of a futon frame that causes the price to rise, is the degree of sophistication of the arms. The guts of the futon frame are the same, the mechanical and moving parts identical all across the board, but the arm style may vary greatly. Some will be a simplistic Mission style arm with not a whole lot of elbow room, and other models with have built in magazine racks, hidden cubby holes for remote controls in the top of the arm, they may be made of wicker or fabric, but none of them will make for a better quality frame..you are paying for aesthetics and design. There are new, hybrid style frames that look exactly like a conventional sofabed beginning to showup in the marketplace. It is almost indistinguishable from a futon couch except for the price..it will be much more because of the upholstery costs..and, if you spill something on the fabric, you can't change it out like you can with a futon cover!


The 5 Biggest Mistakes To Avoid When Buying A Futon Mattress Online

If you are considering purchasing a futon mattress, you may want to read the next few paragraphs, to avoid making the mistake that hundreds of people make when shopping for what they believe is a good quality product. We've been in the futon business for over 11 years, and have sold almost every brand made in the USA in our retail stores. Remember, that if you buy a futon mattress online, it is probably being drop-shipped from a vendor, and if the retailer you are buying from does not have "in the trenches" experience with this kind of product, hands-on with the mattress you are buying, chances are they've never even seen one in person, and probably know little more than you do about what you are buying.

Mistake #1: Buying The Cheapest Mattress You Can Find On The Internet

It goes without saying that you get what you pay for, but I promise you, when you are buying a futon mattress, nothing can be more truthful. If you are paying $100-200 for a futon mattress and it is advertised with free shipping, about $80-100 of what you are spending is being used for shipping costs, so the mattress you are buying has a value of about $60-80 at wholesale cost. This might buy you a very basic, promotional grade, entry level mattress with a poorer quality fill material (which could be garment fiber or a blend of some cotton and garment fiber). To get a decent mattress, which should be a foam filled futon with very little fiber or cotton content (so it does not pack down), be prepared to pay $250-350 for something that will last for years rather than weeks, and will be far, far more comfortable than the basic model. Look at the dollars you are spending over a five year period of time, which is the truthful and accurate amount of time the average person keeps and uses the same futon mattress, before they get dirty and tattered from spills and accidents. If you are spending even $500 on a really good mattress, that's only $100 per year, or about $10 per month!!

Mistake #2: Buying Unknown, "Knock-Off" Brands On E-Bay or From Small Stores That Are Not Properly Packaged For Shipping

Who you buy from will either come to haunt you or make you happy. Many people who have E-Bay stores, bulk buy promotional mattresses that may be improperly stored, may have gotten wet, and these vendors do not subscribe to State Laws governing Sanitary Bedding rules and policies. After all, you're going to be sleeping on this mattress. We've heard stories about improper packaging, using thin, Saran wrap style plastic sheeting, and mattresses showing up on doorsteps covered with grease, mold, and soaking wet. Worse, getting hold of the shipper becomes a nightmare. This is compounded by the fact that almost all vendors do not allow returns of futon mattresses because in most states, bed purchases are final. Make sure you're buying a mattress that is bagged, vacuum packaged, and properly sealed for the rough ride it will take on a common carrier freight truck. Incidentally, we bag our premium mattresses in heavy plastic, remove the air, place the bag in a heavy box, strap the box, and ship it out.

Mistake #3: Buying So-Called Deluxe or Premium Futon Mattresses With Poor Materials Used In Construction

Since very few people are foam experts, or know the difference between a good muslin cloth and a terry cloth towel, it's hard to know what spending a little bit more money on a futon mattress really gets you. Guess what, though...I can tell you. First, you want a mattress that is covered with a heavier, muslin material that resists ripping, tearing, and punctures..and stains. You want tuftings all over the place. Tuftings are the dimples across the surface of a futon mattress that are created when a nylon (we use nylon, not cotton thread) thread connects one side of the mattress through to the other side, to prevent shifting of contents. If a futon mattress is not tufted, don't buy it. A year from now, you will have a big bag of shifted contents, like a giant bean bag chair. Also, the foam used on the inside is the absolute key ingredient to the comfort of the futon...and the key to it's durability. High density foams, with good elastic quality, at least 2 lb. density foam, handstuffed, with a layer of either polyester fill to "buffer" and add a soft cush to the outer feel of the mattress is critical..and will add lifespan. Our Otis brand mattresses are bench built by hand, using all the ingredients talked about above. I have not found another company in 11 years that still completely hand makes their mattresses one by one, using top of the line ingredients.

Mistake #4: Buying A Mattress That Is Too Thin..or Advertised As One Thickness And Delivered Much Thinner

Beware the company that advertises their "Premium 8 Mattress", but amazingly, when it arrives, is only 6" thick..this is not unusual, and is typically the result of deflation. When it is made, layers of poorer quality garment fiber and cotton are "poofy" and fat, but once sandwiched in and sewn into the casing of the futon mattress, quickly expel their air, especially during shipping, and pack down, the curse of an "El Cheapo" futon mattress.  Our solution: overstuffing every mattress, pre-compressing it, so that it pushes out against the muslin casing like a fat sausage..it makes for comfort, lifespan, and durability.

Mistake #5: Not Buying A Futon Cover That Fits Properly

Hey, we're in the futon cover business, I will admit. But we're in the comfort business too. If you buy a decent futon mattress, and then put a cover on it that is either too tight, or too loose, you lose the flexibility and tactile qualities that your mattress was meant to deliver. Our recommendation: order a microfiber cover (velvet, or simulated suede, or chenille) for the absolute most luxurious result. It allows you to feel the foam through the mattress casing and futon cover, and also keeps the mattress cool in summer or winter.

We hope the information provided has helped you with your futon frame, futon mattress, or futon cover experience.