How to repair this vintage sofa
February 26, 2019 8:50 PM   Subscribe

This sofa has straps holding up the cushions. They're starting to sag, and I think they may break soon. It's slightly more complicated than that.

I bought this Danish modern sofa, oh, about ten years ago. It came with a board under the cushions, which obviously wasn't going to work. I think a lot of furniture from the period uses something called Fagas Straps but I hadn't found that out at the time (plus they're pretty expensive it turns out.)

I found a random furniture repair guy on Craigslist. He showed up at my apartment and didn't speak much English so the communication was limited. I showed him what I needed and he pulled out some I guess it's sorta burlap straps and a staple gun and started stapling the straps into the frame. I flinched but figured well, what do I know?

It turned out to work pretty well. The sofa has been pretty comfortable for most of that time. But it's starting to sag now and, as I say, at some point I'm afraid it's going to break. A few staples have come out but I think more of it is the burlap stretching.

In any case I need to fix it. What should I do, though? Try to remove all the staples and see how much a bunch of Fagas straps cost? (It looks like 24 feet of similar upholsterer's webbing is about eighty bucks.) Try to redo it as it is? I'm a little worried about the integrity of the frame with all these staple holes.

[Oh hm, and now that I'm looking, it looks like there are indeed cracks apparently caused by the staples, so that sucks. It's possible they were there before but I doubt it. Is my sofa doomed?]

Thanks for any tips.
posted by Smearcase to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
 
I’m a woodworker, and I’ve seen pieces like this but never done this particular repair or paid much attention to how ithe attachments work. I think the straps are supposed to wrap down between the two pieces of wood rather than ending on top. The cracks in your photo are unrelated to the staples.

As popular as this style has been recently, there have to be some online tutorials.
posted by jon1270 at 12:15 AM on February 27, 2019 [3 favorites]


Best answer: This looks pretty good.
posted by jon1270 at 12:20 AM on February 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


You can buy rolls of webbing and something called a webbing stretcher. Here's a video that shows how to use them:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRIznsKBCZ4
Prices I see on line for webbing are a lot less than $80 (e.g. $16 for 40 feet).
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:46 AM on February 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


Seconding webbing and webbing stretcher (I used to repair vintage sofas at work).
The stretcher is the best way to get it taught.
posted by elke_wood at 12:30 PM on February 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm a little worried about the integrity of the frame with all these staple holes.

[Oh hm, and now that I'm looking, it looks like there are indeed cracks apparently caused by the staples,


Seconding jon1270 here on this topic:

I think the straps are supposed to wrap down between the two pieces of wood rather than ending on top. The cracks in your photo are unrelated to the staples.


Hard agree on both counts. It's the tension/ploping down that's causing those cracks through fatigue or maybe those happened once long ago and have stabilized. It's the staples that hold the straps and they are holding firm and doing their job. It'd take huge staples to have any sort of detrimental effect (affect?) on the wood in your case.

I'd get the strapping, get a staple gun (manual/hand version from Lowes is fine), match the staple size for the gun to what you see in the couch, and wrap the strap around the edge, pull pretty dang taut, and staple away.

I don't know if this is valid but working from corner in or middle to corner might have a huge impact on your results, googling for tutorials from more experienced folks with this specific repair should be your guide here.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:16 AM on February 28, 2019


And if I'm understanding you right the straps are not original to the sofa at all? It was boards that were later repaired by craigslist responder type?

If that's the case then it's likely that this modification isn't really lifetime-level suitable for this couch's frame as it is constructed. Danish modern stuff, insofar as I've seen it, tends to be a bit spindly and/or at least sparse in it's usage of wood/materials. If it was designed for the weight of the occupants to press DOWN on the frame through the cushions and supporting boards rather than have that downward force be supported through a horizontal tension/torsion of the outer edges of the frame via straps then that's a huge change in design needs, hence the cracks. It may well fail/ruin the frame/require major repairs and reinforcement at some point if you seek to continue on with this sort of comfort modification.

Good luck and apologies if I'm misunderstanding.

Edit to add: Think about the forces in a bench with 2 supports. If it's 100% vertically oriented it's basically the weight of the person divided by 2 because that's the number of supports. That's a rough approximation of how the boards were transmitting the weight down previously. Now think about a hammock supporting a person. The weight of the person (due to trigonometry and static force equilibrium diagrams) is multiplied by a lot and that's what the ropes/trees have to support. That's a rough approximation of the strap situation you currently have with the straps being the hammock ropes and the frame being the trees in this case.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:22 AM on February 28, 2019


RolandOfEld: these sofas typically used straps when new, and that’s what the frames are designed for. When the original straps fail and the cushions start to sag, it’s super common to place a sheet of plywood under the cushions as a quick fix.
posted by jon1270 at 5:05 AM on March 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


Thanks jon1270. I'm always impressed with frames that can, year after year, hold up to the tension in those members.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:08 AM on March 1, 2019


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