marzo 4, 2024

Furniture Buyer Beware:  Foam shortage and substitution

Foam is an essential material used in the manufacture of sofas, sectionals, and chairs.  Foam is used on the seat and back cushions and the arms of any upholstered piece of furniture.  If you want your sofa, sectional, or recliner to last longer than two or three years, knowing which foam it is made with is critical.  Foam is also, unquestionably, the material that determines its comfort.

Some manufacturers and retailers will tell you their furniture is made with high-density foam.  Each foam has a weight, and generally, the higher the weight, the better it is.  This information is not accurate when it comes to your sofa or sectional.  The best foam, without question, is an HR or High Resiliency foam.  HR foam is one of the heaviest foams for density, but what makes it superior is its ability to regain its original shape after you sit on it.  A sofa with an HR foam for a seat cushion will be super comfortable with good support and last the longest.  This foam is not only used in household furniture but also in cushions on yachts.

The foam used by most sofa manufacturers in Mexico is NOT HR or high resiliency foam.  The foam they use is either HD (high density) foam or polyurethane foam.  Both are widely used because they are low-cost.  These are low to medium-quality foams that are uncomfortable and will not last.  At best, your sofa will hold up for two to three years.  High density and polyurethane foam get softer over time and pack down as they deteriorate.  Unlike HR foam, they do not spring back to their original shape.

When you sit on the sofa, do not let the firmness of the foam fool you into thinking it is durable.  One sales trick is to use cheap foam that is extra firm, so it feels well-made when you sit on it in the store.  Cheap, low-density foam will not last any longer than its warranty, leaving you to purchase a sofa again within one to two years.  These manufacturers do not offer replacement foam or cushions, meaning you must buy the entire sofa, sectional, or recliner again.  Upholsterers can replace the foam and the cover; however, the cost to do so will be almost the same as buying another new item.

Here is a furniture insider’s tip:  Many manufacturers and retailers know that furniture buyers place more of their buying decision on the item’s look and price instead of researching the materials.  They rely on uneducated consumers to get excited about the design and the color.  The worst way to make your buying decision regarding any furniture is based solely on its look and color.  If you purchase a sofa at a low price or what seems like a great deal, the chances are the manufacturer made it with polyurethane or low-density foam.

For those planning to purchase furniture for their home in Puerto Vallarta in the next twelve months, please be cautious.  The furniture industry is suffering from a global foam shortage.

When and how did this shortage occur?  In November 2020, furniture manufacturers started to experience a severe reduction in foam supply.  This shortage was due mainly to last year’s COVID-19 shut down of foam manufacturing plants.  Once foam manufacturers reopened, most operated at one-third their standard capacity.  The reduction in production was due to COVID health and safety protocols and continues today.

Another impact causing a global shortage of foam comes from the shipping industry.  When COVID-19 shut down manufacturing plants and suppliers, it also reduced the number of shipping vessels at sea.  Those shipping vessels then faced a massive backlog once they hit port due to the reduced number of workers to offload containers.  The congestion of containers at North American ports is also causing significant delays since there are fewer customs and imports officers.  Experts predict that this disruption will continue throughout the rest of 2021 and into 2022.

As if this was not enough, yet another issue adding to the shortage of foam is the current imbalance of shipping containers in the world.  North America currently faces a 40% imbalance.  For every 100 containers that arrive at North American ports, only 40 are exported.  This disparity means fewer shipping containers are available to bring raw goods and manufactured products such as foam through the China – USA trade route.

The severe weather in the South and Northeast United States this past winter also contributed.  Most of the companies that produce the chemicals required for foam are in Texas and Louisiana.  The storms and cold weather shut down the export and transport overseas to manufacturers of foam.

With the supplies of foam low, the demand increased exponentially.  With more people working from home and not traveling, the North American furniture industry has seen an unprecedented boom in demand for new furniture.  Warehouses and retail floors are empty.  Delivery dates are delayed by an average of six to nine months with no guarantee of the delivery date.

The bottom line is that no manufacturer can build furniture such as sofas and sectionals if they cannot get foam.  Manufacturers who take pride in their products find alternative sources, reduce their production schedule, and delay delivery dates.  They know that the proper foam is critical to ensure the comfort and lifespan of a sofa.  The best manufacturer of upholstered furniture (sofas, sectionals, sofa beds, and recliners) in Mexico is Palliser (  They are working hard to reduce production timelines while ensuring they continue to build their furniture with the proper foam.

Unfortunately, other sofa manufacturers will need to settle for whatever foam is available to continue production and remain in business.  This increase in low-quality foam on the market means that consumers need to be even more cautious when purchasing sofas, sectionals, and chairs.

Sheryl Novak


Sheryl Novak is the owner of SOLutions Mexico, which is consistently voted Vallarta’s favorite furniture store.  For over 13 years, she has helped hundreds of homeowners find furniture in Mexico that will hold up best in the humid, termite-prone, salty-aired environment.

Visit her and her team at our Puerto Vallarta store: 363A Constitucion just off of Basilio Badillo (Open Mon through Fri 10 to 2).  Their Bucerias store is at Heroes de Nacozari 126 (Open Tues, Thurs, and Sat 10 to 2).  If you are not currently in Mexico, email them at or Whatsapp them at +52 322 136 5156.

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