4 things you should know before buying a leather couch

November 6, 2014

A leather couch can add instant luxury to any living room, but it's important to learn about your options before purchasing one.

4 things you should know before buying a leather couch

This guide explains what to consider when choosing a leather couch, including information about the various types of leather and sofa construction.

1. Types of leather

Different types of leather come from varying parts of cow hide.

  • The highest-quality leathers are full-grain leathers, which feature natural hide markings and texture.
  • Most sofas are made using top-grain leathers, which are created from the outer layer of the hide. This is the most durable type of leather.

Cheaper sofas

Cheaper sofas may also include split-grain leather on the sides and back of the couch. The surface of split-grain leather may be painted to give it the appearance of the higher-quality, top-grain leather.

2. Leather finishes

Some leather furniture is actually upholstered with cheaper plastic material, which is then finished with genuine leather to give it the classic look of a leather couch.

  • For example, bonded leather consists mostly of synthetic polyurethane, which is then sprayed with leather shavings and stamped with a pattern that mimics the leather grain.

Couches made of natural leather are usually finished with aniline dye, which colours the leather while allowing its natural texture to show through.

3. Couch construction

As well as the type of leather, the construction of the couch also matters.

  • The highest quality, most durable couches are built on strong hardwood frames.
  • Plastic frames, or frames that are made from a soft wood such as pine, are not as sturdy, and may not last as long.

What to ask

When buying a couch, ask how the wood has been processed.

  • Kiln drying is the best processing method for preventing the wood from warping in humid weather.

The construction of the frame is also important.

  • The sturdiest sofas are held together with wooden dowels, and reinforced with metal brackets and screws.
  • Cheaper couch frames are often constructed using nails, which is a less-durable construction method.

4. Cushion types

Most couch cushions are filled with dense polyurethane foam, which is firm, supportive and durable.

  • If you're looking for a softer, more luxurious type of cushion, look for ones that are filled with a combination of natural down and synthetic foam.
  • Cushions that contain only down need regular fluffing, as they are easily squashed out of shape.
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