Buying a sofa bed

It's an age-old problem: you want to have your friends or relatives to stay but you don't have any spare bedrooms - and the age-old solution is to get a sofa bed.

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If you're looking to buy a sofa bed, here are a few things to consider...

Foam fold-out beds
This is the most basic and often the cheapest kind of sofa bed, really suitable for occasional use as a bed and often not very comfortable as a sofa either because of the lack of support.

Nevertheless, they are popular for use in children's bedrooms and other areas where people are unlikely to actually be sitting down much.

Metal action beds
These are the most common sort of sofa bed, with cushions that lift off so that a metal "camp bed" with a thin mattress can be rolled out.

They can be quite comfortable for use as a sofa and are often placed in living rooms, but are probably best kept for just occasional use as a bed.

Clic clac beds
These are a bit like a normal bed folded in half on its vertical axis and are also sometimes referred to as futons - although they are different to the traditional Japanese bedding that goes by the same name.

As a rule, bed bases that combine wooden slats with webbing offer the best support. Clic clac beds usually have a slatted base and a sprung mattress and so are suitable for regular use both as a sofa or a bed, but are unlikely to be as comfortable as a dedicated version of either.

Everyday use metal action beds
These are basically beefed-up versions of the standard metal action sofa beds and usually include a sprung mattress and slatted base to do away with uncomfortable metal bars in your back.

They are suitable for regular use as both sofas and beds - and many owners leave them in the "bed" format for extended periods when guests are visiting.

Try before you buy
Don't be shy when it comes to buying a sofa bed. Have several goes at pulling out the bed and putting it back while you're in the shop - as well of course, testing how comfortable it is to lie and sit on. Some sofa beds look attractive but can be very uncomfortable to sit on - so make sure it's comfortable both as a bed and sofa.

Check to see how well made it is and how reliable the mechanism is, too. Some sofa beds (the better quality ones) can be very heavy - so make sure you can lift it if you need to carry it upstairs to a spare room, for example.

Finally, don't forget to measure the available space you have for a sofa bed before you hit the shops - you don't want to have it delivered to find it's too big for the space.