Whether you are new to the world of upholstery or an old pro, one of the things that you will encounter frequently is webbing. Webbing is often found in sitting furniture (chairs and couches) as a functional foundation upon which cushions are placed. The purpose of webbing is to be flexible enough to provide a comfortable sitting area, but strong enough to provide a functional suspension. Exposed webbing is often present in certain types of outdoor furniture, where bands of plastic or rubber are stretched across aluminum frames to provide a seating area. Generally, there are four types of webbing used in upholstery, though only three of them are in widespread use.
Type 1 - Jute
For many years, jute has been by far the most common webbing material found in furniture suspension systems. Jute is a natural, vegetable fiber that can be spun into extremely strong bands. These bands are then stretched over furniture frames to form what is known as the webbing for the furniture seat and back. Jute has been used as furniture webbing for hundreds of years, and was virtually the only material used for this purpose up until the 1950s when other, synthetic materials began to appear in this capacity. When jute is employed, coil springs are typically necessary for comfort and support. Jute webbing provides the structural framework upon which these springs rest. Jute is typically stretched as tightly as possible across seat and back frames of sitting furniture, and is also woven together in order to provide maximum structural integrity.
Type 2 - Rubber
Rubber webbing is currently the material of choice for furniture constructed in Europe, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of furniture constructed there employing rubber webbing. One of the main benefits of rubber is its inherent strength as a material, combined with its elastic qualities. This allows furniture constructed with rubber webbing to often exclude coil springs, decreasing production costs. Rubber webbing is typically attached to furniture framing using staples, but specialized clips that serve the same purpose do exist.
Type 3 - Polyolefin
As its name would imply, polyolefin webbing is constructed from a synthetic, petroleum-based production process. Polyolefin webbing is used in very much the same way as jute webbing—that is, wound in a woven pattern around furniture framing to provide support. As a synthetic fiber, polyolefin is slightly more expensive than jute or rubber, but it has the benefit of not being susceptible to water damage or losing strength due to rotting.
Type 4 - Steel
Steel webbing is included in this list only as an afterthought, as it is not at all commonly used in modern furniture. For a time, steel webbing was being used occasionally, but this practice has all but entirely ceased.