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Avoid This Futon – The Black Metal Futon Frame
When the futon industry was born back in the 1980s, the frames were well thought out and well constructed. Whether it was softwood or hardwood, the frames feature good basic designs made from solid wood. These futon frames would incorporate new working mechanisms and ideas of operation that made futons appealing not only in their design, but in the quality of materials and construction that went into them. The futon industry has been doing well and growing with these frames entering the 1990s, but then black metal futon stretchers came on the scene.
At first it was widely considered a great addition to the futon family of products. Finally, a futon that could be offered at a much lower price point. The black metal frames were imported from China, Malaysia and Taiwan. Many of the first black metal frames were packaged with an imported mattress made of ground up fabric material with a colored cover and bushing. These packages were often anywhere from $199 – $249 and started in specialty futon shops as a good way to introduce customers on a budget to a lower cost futon option. It was soon discovered though that these frames were not as much of a bargain as they appeared to be.
The first problem with black metal frames is the round metal bars that make up the seats and back sections of these frames. Where wooden futon frames use flat planks, black metal frames have round hollow bars. Thin mattress would slide into the gaps between the round bars. On the wooden futon this was never a problem. The other problem with the hollow bars is that if enough weight was placed on one spot they would start to bend. The problem has gotten so bad that most frame manufacturers have included a 90-day warranty.
Another problem black metal frames suffered from bending bars or rails. Again the hollow nature of these strecther rails presents problems with breakage and bending. Early designs involved a steel tooth design that would fit into pocket welds on the arms. These would break on use. The alternative design was to run a bolt through the arms and into the rails. While better it still did not address the problem of bending stretcher rails.
Gon Bent also added another problem that would occur in use over time. While not as common as the other problems this problem still leads to the failure of many black metal frames. The hinges were attached to the arms of the futon frames with two bolts and two nuts. While this design was OK the hinges themselves would fail when too much weight was applied to one side or the other. These would also fold out making them useless in the operation of the futon.
Most specialty futon retailers pay little attention to black metal futon frames. Retailers I spoke with said that the black metal futon frame was the number one service headache when it came to futons and more than 95% of the service problems were the failure of a black metal frame component. Replacing these parts was made more difficult by the fact that the manufacturers were located overseas and getting the parts past the 90 day warranty period often involved the retailer having to buy the replacement parts and charge the customer.
If you are shopping for a futon, here are some things to think about if you see a black metal futon frame at a mass merchant or big box store. Consider the fact that most solid wood futon frames carry a warranty anywhere from a year to a lifetime warranty. Black metal futon frames have a 90 day warranty. It says something about how much the manufacturer stands behind the product. The black metal frames are made overseas. Expect to wait for a part if something breaks or if you’re past that 90-day warranty, expect to pay for all replacement parts and associated costs to get your frame back up and running. Also consider that parts may no longer be available if something breaks. Metal bars allow the mattress to slide in and out of the gaps between each bar. This puts lumps in your mattress and can make the futon very uncomfortable when compared to flat wooden planks on wooden frames.
Futons make a sensible investment as they provide all the features and benefits of a sofa bed but at a fraction of the cost in many cases. If you find a good carrycot that is well constructed of good quality materials and a good futon mattress your experience is sure to have a positive one. Avoid metal futon frames that make more hit a particular price point then be a piece of furniture that can offer longevity as a reliable sofa and sleep for your home. The right futon can provide you and your family with years of quality use. The wrong futon frame will simply become disposable furniture.
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