You’ve fallen in love with an upholstered sofa or chair and you’re ready to make a purchase. But wait! Have you checked the warranty? A good warranty can mean the difference between buying with confidence… and taking your chances. We’ve come a long way from the old days of “let the buyer beware!” when it comes to buying products in the marketplace. Today, rules and regulations are in place to give consumers fair and reasonable protection for their hard-earned purchases. Plus, top-quality upholstery manufacturers know it’s wise to keep customers happy… long after they’ve left the store and taken their new furniture home. That’s why good products are covered by a good warranty.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a warranty is: A (usually) written guarantee of the integrity of a product and of the maker’s responsibility for the repair or replacement of defective parts. But like the furniture they guarantee, not all warranties are created equal. Here’s a quick consumer update on warranties and what they mean to you:
Why A Warranty Is So Important
A good manufacturer’s warranty is all about peace of mind for you, the customer. It’s a written list of promises that detail a minimum of how long the entire piece – or various parts – will provide satisfactory performance. It also states what the manufacturer will do if the product doesn’t measure up to your expectations. Warranties on home furnishings often indicate the furniture’s quality. Usually, the longer the warranty term, the better made the product. A good warranty can add value to your purchase. So consider the strength of the warranty as well as the price of the piece!
Some General Warranty Rules
- Most warranties apply only to the original buyer, and to furniture that has received normal use and proper maintenance.
- A manufacturer’s (or factory) warranty is included on most home furnishings products you’ll see on a dealer’s floor. Some dealers also offer their own extended warranties on certain items, sometimes at a small additional charge.
- Your sales professional should brief you on what warranties apply to the product you are buying. If he or she doesn’t bring it up, ask about:
- The company’s policies for payments, replacements, or refunds.
- What happens if an item arrives damaged? Who pays for shipping and packaging costs?
- Check to see if the specifics and return policies are printed on your sales receipt. Some warranties are mailed to you at a later date.
- One way or another, get it in writing!
- Save your receipt and file it with the warranty. You may need it to document the date of your purchase or prove that you’re the original owner in the case of a nontransferable warranty.
Examples Of What Is Usually Covered…
Most manufacturers warrant their product to the original retail purchaser as follows:
GOOD: One-Year Warranty
The furniture is free from defects in workmanship, materials and construction for one year from the date of purchase. In the event that a defect is found, the manufacturer will either repair or replace the defective item, at its discretion.
Note: Most upholstery manufacturers warranty their fabrics for a maximum of one year.
BETTER: Five-Year Limited warranty
The product or part is warranted against defective materials or workmanship for five years, based on reasonable use. If there’s a problem that’s covered by the warranty, the manufacturer will, at its discretion, repair or replace the product or refund the original purchase price product. Most upholstery manufacturers warranty their cushioning materials for a maximum of five years.
BEST: Lifetime Warranty
Remember, a warranty is all about relaxation and peace of mind. That’s why it’s best to look for a Lifetime Warranty on critical parts and materials. A Lifetime Warranty on upholstered furniture should cover parts and materials on the wooden frame, the spring system, the reclining mechanism, and the sleeper mechanism.
…And What’s Not Usually Covered
Some performance aspects are simply out of any manufacturer’s control. So while a warranty for upholstered furnishings will cover problems under “normal household use”, it also may include specific limitations. Certain warranties may not apply to:
- Defects that result from negligence, misuse, or accidents.
- Any condition resulting from incorrect or inadequate maintenance, cleaning or care, or commercial use.
- Any condition resulting from other than ordinary residential wear or from any use for which the product was not designed.
- The matching of color, grain, or texture of wood, leather or fabrics.
- The colorfastness, dye lot variations, wrinkling, or wear of fabrics or leather.
- The softening of filling materials under normal use.
In some cases, applying a fabric protectant to your upholstered furniture could void your manufacturers warranty. Ask before you have a stain guard applied.
A Special Warranty For Fabrics
Here’s a safety tip: When shopping for new upholstery, look for the gold UFAC tag ensuring that the manufacturer has agreed to meet construction criteria suggested by the Upholstered Furniture Action Council. The voluntary UFAC program has been credited with contributing to a nearly 80% reduction in the number of upholstered furniture fires started by smoldering cigarettes.
Making a Warranty Claim
Here are some helpful guidelines if you have problems with a product or with getting warranty service:
- Read your product instructions and warranty carefully. Don’t assume warranty coverage that was never promised in writing. Also, a warranty doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically get a refund if the product is defective—the company may be entitled to try to fix it first.
- On the other hand, if you reported a defect to the company during the warranty period and the product wasn’t fixed properly, the company must correct the problem, even if your warranty expires before the product is fixed.
- Try to resolve the problem with the retailer. If you can’t, write to the manufacturer. Your warranty should list the company’s mailing address or Web site. Send all letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep copies.
- Contact your state or local consumer protection office. They can help you if you can’t resolve the situation with the seller or manufacturer.
- Remember: A warranty will be effective only if the consumer who originally purchases this furniture retains the original sales receipt showing purchase date and terms of sale.
- A good Warranty is designed to protect your investment… And your peace of mind!
- Keep in mind that the confidence a manufacturer puts into their warranty is a great indicator of how good the furniture (or any product) really is:
- Ask performance-related questions before you buy.
- Read the fine print on the warranty.
- If required, send in your warranty card or register online.
- Save your sales receipt.
- Perform required maintenance and care.
- Use the furniture according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- And finally, relax and enjoy your purchase… knowing that you shopped carefully for furniture with a warranty that covers all the bases!
Links and Resources
- Consumer Law: Warranty FAQ – Frequently asked questions about warranties and the way that they protect consumers.
- BCP Business Center – A guide to federal warranty law for businesspeople by the Federal Trade Commission.
- Glossary of Furniture Terms – A collection of common furniture terms that may be used in a manufacturer’s warranty.
- Upholstered Furniture Action Council (UFAC) – Home page of the UFAC, dedicated to protecting consumers from fires caused by cigarette burns in upholstered furniture..
- ABC’s for Safe Home Furnishings – An alphabetical list of important safety tips to consider with household furniture..
- Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act – A brief description of the law passed in 1975 to regulate warranties on consumer products.
- John Moss: The Man Who Perfected Oversight – An article about the congressman partially responsible for the Magnuson-Moss Act and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.