Who Makes the Best Sofa? Flexsteel vs. Biltwell vs. Massoud

Who Makes the Best Sofa? Flexsteel vs. Biltwell vs. Massoud

Customer Question

Which brand is better for a sofa, Biltwell or Flexsteel?
The Biltwell and Flexsteel sofas I am looking at are priced around $1600 (in fabric.) I have also looked at a Massoud sofa that costs $4000.
Is Massoud really worth more than twice as much as Biltwell and Flexsteel? What would I be getting for the extra $2400 cost?

I would choose the Biltwell sofa over Flexsteel. 
Flexsteel is better built in some respects (especially the blue steel spring support foundation.)
But Biltwell has a significant advantage in the single most important factor that determines the lifespan for most mid-priced  sofas. 
Cushions are the single most important factor in this price range.
Biltwell's standard 2.0 density cushion should last 5 - 7 years with average use by average size people. That is several years more than I anticipate from Flexsteel's new composite multi-layer foam cushions. 
Biltwell also offers an optional 2.75 density cushion. It is worth the extra cost.
  • The higher density foam option will double the expected lifespan compared with Biltwell's standard 2.0 density cushions.
  • You should be able to get 10 - 15+ years use from the 2.75 density cushions.
 Flexsteel recently switched from 1.8 and 2.0 density foam cushions to a new composite construction. Their new standard cushion has a 2.0 density central core surrounded by layers of cheaper 1.2 density foam.
Flexsteel also offers an optional upgrade to a 2.5 density central foam core with the 1.2 density foam layers above and below. 
  • 1.2 density foam is extremely flimsy (and cheap.) Flexsteel calls this "recovery foam." 
  • No sofa manufacturer would ever consider using a cushion made entirely with 1.2 density foam. It would lose its shape, resilience and comfort within 6 months (or less.)
Several major upholstery manufacturers have recently switched to the new composite cushion construction.
There is little or no long-term experience with this type of cushion construction.
I would not be surprised if some of these cushions begin to fail within 2 years (or less.)
Biltwell also has some optional softer cushions (Comfort Cloud & Featherblend.) Those should have an average lifespan around 5 years (less for larger than average size people.) 
Flexsteel also has a softer "Featherblend" cushion option. It has a 2.3 density core with jackets filled with 50% feathers/50% polyester. This is the cushion I would recommend if you choose to go with Flexsteel.
Massoud is a better quality overall, but not necessarily twice as good. It depends on your priorities.
Below is a comparison of the differences that affect pricing between these brands.
1) Frames - Massoud frames are solid hardwood (usually Maple). 
Biltwell's frames are also "solid hardwood," but that hardwood is Alder, one of the softest (and cheapest) hardwoods available. 
  • Alder has a "hardness rating" of about 500 on the Janka hardness scale for wood species. In contrast Maple and Oak are approximately 1400 on that same scale. 
  • As a result, Biltwell's sofas will generally weigh about 35 - 50 lbs. less than Massoud. (Other factors also affect weight.)
  • Biltwell's frames will probably still last 10 - 20+ years without problems for most people. Massoud's will last longer with fewer problems.
  • Flexsteel uses plywood for its frames. These should be just as durable as Biltwell's solid Alder. Plywood frames cost less to make and can be assembled more quickly than solid wood frames.
2) Foundations - Bitwell uses low cost sinuous wire foundations for support. Sinuous wire is very inexpensive, but should hold up for 10 - 20+ years without problems. Sinuous wire foundations add minimal comfort to the furniture.
Massoud uses coil springs (and spring edges) for their foundations. These can add several hundred dollars to the cost of a sofa. They are noticeably more comfortable than sinuous wire foundations. 
Drop-in coil springs are just as comfortable, more durable and less costly than the gold-standard 8 way hand tied coil support foundations that are often found in the most expensive upholstered furniture.
Flexsteel's blue steel flat spring is probably the strongest foundation support system ever made. It is over 100 years old and there have been very few failures in that entire time. It should last 50 years and more in most sofas. Unfortunately, the rest of the sofa, especially the cushions, will fail long before.
3) Fabric - Massoud has a large selection of expensive designer fabrics. This can have a major impact on the cost of a sofa.
  • Most of the fabrics Biltwell uses probably have a manufacturer's cost between $4 - $10 per yd. Flexsteel's average fabric cost is probably between $2.50 - $5 for most of the fabrics they sell. 
  • Most of Massoud's fabrics will cost more. Some will cost a lot more (up to $30/yd.) More expensive fabrics are also far more likely to have unusual characteristics that require additional time (and skill) to upholster.
  • Fabrics that have to be matched, such as prints and stripes, require far more time and skill to upholster.
  • More expensive fabric can easily add $500 (or much more) to the price of the Massoud sofa you were looking at compared with Biltwell and Flexsteel.
Tailoring - Massoud's furniture is custom-built. The wide variety of styles and fabrics requires highly paid (and skilled) craftspeople. 
Biltwell is also custom made, but the styles are less complex and many of the fabrics are simpler to work with. The quality level that is considered "acceptable" is probably less stringent than Massoud.
Flexsteel's furniture is mass produced, with minimal customization. Production speed is a critical factor. To ensure that the furniture can be produced efficiently, sofa designs are simple and engineered so that pre-sewn covers can be "socked on" quickly by relatively low paid assembly line workers. Upholsterers are quickly trained to become "expert" on a small section of the sofa only (outside backs, inside backs, outside arms, inside arms, etc.) 
The end result of Flexsteel's upholstering process may be indistinguishable from Biltwell's custom craftsmanship. Very few Flexsteel complaints refer to problems with upholstery craftsmanship.
4) Cushions - Massoud's standard cushions are Spring Down construction. These will last just as long as Biltwell's 2.75 density foam (10 - 15+ years) with a softer feel.
  • Spring down cushions cost more to fabricate than foam. They add approximately $100 to the cost of a sofa. 
5) Profit margins - When you go from $1600 to $4000, you can expect at least $500 of the difference to be due to higher profit margins. 


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