Buying quality furniture requires some research and understanding. If you’re thinking of purchasing leather furniture, or reupholstering with leather, the following information can help you make an informed decision.

Understanding Leather Production

True, genuine leather comes from animal hides. That may sound simple, but the leather you select for your sofa or chair has gone through quite a process to get to that point.

The quality of hides may vary greatly, depending on the type of animal, their location, and how they lived.

It’s a lengthy process to take the hide through all the stages, from animal to finished product. That process, when following high quality standards, leads to a quality piece of leather.

We found a video that explains this, from Saddleback Leather in Texas, makers of high-end briefcases, backpacks, and more.

Four Grades of Leather

Leather is comprised of fibers that are denser near the outer layer of the hide than near the flesh.

If you sliced a piece of hide horizontally, there would be three separate layers. These include the grain, the junction, and the split.

You may hear the terms Full Grain, Top Grain, and Genuine Leather. This is how the areas of fibers are identified and which layers they come from.

  1. Full Grain Leather is from the outermost layer of the hide, the highest quality and is very strong and durable. It hasn’t been sanded or buffed, so will show the natural character markings of the hide.
  2. Top Grain Leather is directly under that, so the fiber weave is slightly looser. This layer may be corrected during processing, which means sanding or buffing has been done to remove surface markings.
  3. Genuine Leather is next, made from looser fibers, causing the leather to be more flexible. This is often called split leather or suede. Suede leather is from this layer and is more soft and supple.
  4. Bonded Leather contains very little leather. It is made from the leftover scrap pieces of hide that have been ground into very small pieces. These are then spray glued onto the back of a man-made material. It is sometimes called Recycled Leather.

Another term often used is Faux Leather. Not from an animal at all, this is made from synthetic materials that have been treated to mimic the appearance and texture of leather.

Common Questions about Leather Products for Furniture

  • How much does leather upholstery cost?

The outer layers of the hide are typically the highest quality of leather, are thicker and have more character with markings. Because the tanning and finishing processes are so involved for these layers, the cost is higher. Full Grain and Top Grain Leathers start at $900 per hide, for about three yards of fabric.

Faux Leather is less expensive, at $40 to $45 per yard. There is less waste compared to real leather, so this man-made product is often economical.

  • Which leather is more durable?

Since fibers are closer together, the full grain and top grain leathers are the strongest. But, because they are more rigid, they are often harder to work with, and require a professional who knows how to handle the product.

Since the fibers are looser in genuine leather products, they may experience thinning spots over time, especially in areas of frequent friction, such as the edges of cushions, arm rests, etc. Applications for using genuine leather should be discussed with a professional.

  • What is the best way to care for real leather furniture?

Since quality leather is a natural material, it needs regular care to keep it looking beautiful. Blot up spills quickly with a terry cloth towel. Common household cleaners can dry out the leather and cause it to become brittle.

Instead, we recommend Lexol Cleaner and Conditioner. They help maintain soft texture while nourishing and strengthening to help prevent the leather from cracking.

  • What is the difference between bonded leather and faux leather?

Bonded Leather is composed of tiny pieces of leather scraps, pressed, and glued together onto a backing. This thin layer often contains less than 20% leather. Initial purchase prices for new furniture made from bonded leather appear to be more affordable. However, since the thin “leather” surface cracks and flakes apart, breaking down in a short period of time, the initial cost savings aren’t worth it.

NBC did a video explanation showing the problems with bonded leather. CLICK HERE to watch it.

Because faux leather is man-made, it is constructed and conditioned to be longer-lasting. There is usually a polyester base that has been coated with polyurethane and treated to look like animal hide. Because it is synthetic, it can be dyed a variety of colors.

Furniture made with faux leather is often more affordable, durable, and has lower maintenance. Simple washing using a cloth with warm water and a mild soap is all that’s needed to keep it clean.

Popular brands of faux leather that do well for couches and chairs include Luxury, United Fabrics and Greenhouse; and we offer each of these through our upholstery service.

It’s important to choose wisely when reupholstering your furniture, whether you do it yourself or hire a professional who has the skills to do it correctly.

Contact D & N Upholstery for guidance on the types of products you’d like to purchase for a DIY project. If you’d rather have us do the job done right, get an estimate online so we can discuss your project further.