“I found a beautiful leather sectional for $3999.99…. is that a good deal?” is a question that often comes up and a not so easy one to answer. Yes, getting a beautiful sectional for that price is a good deal, BUT there are other factors to look at when you are shopping for a piece of leather furniture.
Top-grain, Full-grain, Corrected, Bonded, Reconstituted, Split-grain, high grade, low grade are all descriptions used when describing leather furniture and it gets very confusing. Here I will attempt to give you some quick definitions to help you decide if that good deal is the best value for your lifestyle and budget.
Full-grain leather – This leather has been minimally processed and refers to hides that have not been sanded, buffed or snuffed for uniform look. This is the strongest of all the types of leather because the grains remain virtually untouched and so they are tighter and stronger.
Top-grain leather – This refers to leather that has been sanded, buffed or snuffed to remove imperfections and create a uniform look on the surface of the hide. This is still desirable for leather fiber strength and durability.
Corrected Leather – This is made from top-grain leathers, but the grain is scraped and then chemically treated or textured for a uniform appearance. This is durable but is not as soft to the touch as a top or full grain leather.
Bonded or Reconstituted leather – This, in my opinion, is pushing the boundary of truth by calling itself leather. This is made by blending a thin layer of fabric and leather scraps together and then coating it with a polyurethane on the exposed surface. This is not very durable and will not be as long lasting as a true leather.
Split-grain leather – When hides are processed at tannery, the hide is split because it is too thick to use in it’s raw form. So technically, the top-grain is telling you where it’s coming from when it’s split. The bottom-grain is what they have left over and is is not as durable is often used for gloves, shoes, belts – those items that are not expected to last more than a few years. Split leathers are coarser and stiffer and tend to crack more easily.
Leather grade – Many manufacturers will “grade” their leathers, but these systems are set by the manufacturers and there is no industry standard to say what number or letter represents high quality vs. low. It represents the cost the manufacturer pays for the leather and is determined by where they purchased the hide (Europe vs. USA vs. South America) , the amount of imperfections on the hide (fewer imperfections, the more expensive) & supply and demand.
So what does that mean when looking at that low cost leather sofa/chair? Watch for phrases like “Top grain leather on all seating areas and front rails with leather splits on outside backs and arms”. This says you have bottom grain (see above – not as durable for upholstery) leather on the sides and back which will wear differently than the top grain on the other parts of the sofa or chair. And because those leather splits are not top-grain, they will be harder to match if you need to have a cushion repaired. The same holds true for “Bonded leather” – that is not a true leather product and you should be aware of what you are buying..
As with all furniture purchases, buy the best quality you can in your price range. It’s not wrong to buy that great deal, but make that purchase informed and know it’s appropriate for how you and your family will live life with that beautiful piece of furniture.