Casco Bay Furniture Reviews the Pros and Cons of the Different Grades of Leather?

People often tell me that they are confused by the different types of leathers. Some companies use “levels,” others “grade”. What does this really mean? Casco Bay Furniture Review decided to investigate the topic.

Basically there are 5 types of leather used in upholstered furniture. Here are my thoughts on the pros and cons of each.

Bicast Leather (also known as split leather or PU. Leather): This leather is a thin layer of leather with a layer of polyurethane applied to the surface and then embossed.

Pros: One of the least costly types of leather, yet I have seen some nice looking bicast sets.

Cons: It may not be the most durable, and the polyurethane layer may crack and split free. It also does not develop a patina or suppleness or improve with age. It’s really a glued together layer of leather and vinyl


Split Leather:

In a nut shell, the tannery takes a hide and with special equipment shaves the hide into layers. The top leather is the best and most durable; the lower layers are poorer in quality and less durable.

Pros: To keep the costs down, many lower-end and medium-end manufacturers use split leather on the outside arms and the outside backs. But in all fairness, the outside arms and outside backs do not get that much wear and, as a rule, it is difficult to tell visually that they are splits.

Cons: The inside layers are not as durable as the outside layers. In general, it is best to avoid splits on your furniture. Higher end brands—such as American Leather, Bradington Young, Casco Bay, Classic Leather, Distinction Leather, Hancock and Moore, and Leathercraft—don’t use “splits”.


Pigmented Leather:

This kind of leather represents 75% of all leathers sold. Essentially it is a lesser quality leather that has a painted and embossed surface. You may wonder, is this all bad? Well, actually no.

Pros: The leather in your car is heavily pigmented with a lot of surface “paint”. Pigmented leather is the only leather that withstands the heat, cold and sun. It is the most sun proof leather. Pigmented leather is also the most cleanable leather. Most spills just wipe up and pigmented leather is the most difficult leather to scratch. It is the most “kid proof”. Pigmented leather can still look good and your set would be less costly. Not everyone needs the Crème de la Crème in a leather living room set. And if you have little kids, this might be a good choice.

Cons: It doesn’t look as nice as a higher quality. It has a less natural feel. It can feel colder in the winter and “sweatier”in the summer. Although, it is much harder to scratch, when it does scratch, it looks really scratched. As rule, these leathers are not dyed all the way through, so when scratched, you will usually see a lighter background below the surface. For this reason, at CascoBay, we do not use any Pigmented Leather.


Semi Aniline Dyed Leather:

About 20% of leathers sold with upholstered furniture are semi aniline dyed leathers. As a rule, a semi aniline dyed leather is a high quality leather which is dyed all the way through, but is not quite good enough to not have some type of a topcoat. The topcoat can be very light.

Pros: The advantage of a semi-aniline dyed leather is it is easier to clean, it is still soft and supple and it is less costly. It can be good with kids and considered a compromise between pigmented leather and a full aniline dyed leather. It is also more sun proof than full aniline dyed leather.

Cons: When scratched it will look scratched and you cannot rub out the scratch. As a rule, the better end companies such as those noted above will use semi-aniline dyed leathers. The mid-priced lines such as Palliser, Natuzzi and others will use these extensively and they have a lot of nice looking sets.


Full AnilineLeather:

This leather only represents about 5% of the leather used in leather furniture. It is a type of leather dyed exclusively with soluble dyes without covering the surface with a topcoat paint or insoluble.

Pros: This type of leather is the very best available. It is the most natural and the most breathable. It is the coolest in summer summer and the warmest in winter. It is usually easy to repair by a qualified tech.Many high end companies pretty much use all full aniline dyed leathers. You may wonder how would this type of leather holds up with kids? Some full aniline dyed leathers can be delicate, but some are actually quite thick and durable, like the very popular Brompton Leather that we at Casco Bay sell extensively. One type of full aniline dyed leather is called a “wax pull up”. Many scratches with a wax pull up leather will simply rub out. In my opinion, full aniline dyed leathers the best and in my home we only have full aniline dyed leathers.

Cons: May be a higher price

Added note: within all the types of leather outline above there can also be different qualities of the leather. Any questions about your leather, let us know at Casco Bay Furniture Review and we will do our best to answer them.

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  1. lynn loosier

    My friend bought a beautiful leather couch from your company last year that she designed and I got sticky rapper on it by accidnet . It took the coating off and made it light colored. I’ve cried and cried. I think she paid 3,000 for the couch.. I need to replace the cushion.. Please help me out.. If I have to replace the couch I will.


    • Richard

      Lynn the cushion can be replaced. This would also be easily fixed by a leather tech. Try going on Google and searching for leather furniture repair in your area. We also have an article on this subject “Tear in your Leather…” or give us a call.

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