I'm a chair snob. I admit it and I have learned to live with it. My goal is to turn you into a chair snob, too. Because I've had it with chairs that bend and break like matchsticks.
Making furniture is a difficult business these days. Competitive pressures have driven many old-line American manufacturers out of business. The survivors are being driven into a corner. To compete, many have shifted manufacturing to Asia, where they are using cheap labor and cheap materials. The result, unfortunately, is a cheap chair.
In our educational series, we're going to show you how to get the best buy for your furniture dollar when it comes to chairs. Once you've learned the telltale signs of cheap manufacturing, you'll never be a furniture-showroom sucker again.
Tip-off #1: high pressure laminate, or HPL. This is created by taking layers of wood products or wood waste - like sawdust or chips - and molding them under high pressure into a sheet of "wood." Is it wood? It's sort of like the difference between real cheese and Velveeta. HPL is the Velveeta of furniture.
How can you tell the difference between solid wood and HPL? Look at the back of the chair - from the side. You'll notice that the wood appears layered. Strips - some of them speckled - appear pressed together. HPL isn't nearly as strong or durable as solid wood.
Tip-off #2: the hex screw. That's a simple screw with a hexagonal indentation. Inexpensive to make and quick to install, hex screws are often shipped with furniture that you assemble yourself. Or, they may be used in furniture that has been manufactured overseas but assembled in the U.S. The problem is, hex screws loosen very easily. Over time, the chair gets wobbly and prone to breaking.
Not all furniture manufacturers have abandoned quality. Some are still making chairs with solid wood and screws built to last, but they will be expensive. You'll pay up to $1,000 for a high-quality chair. One made from quality wood but assembled overseas will cost $300 to $500. An HP-and-hex screw chair may cost $100 to $250.
In our showrooms, we carry chairs in all price