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There is a disturbing trend in the leather furniture industry. To cut costs and present the consumer a “leather” product at a low price, many in the leather furniture industry have turned to an inexpensive material, which is known as bi-cast or bonded leather. Over the last few years there has been a tremendous growth of bi-cast and bonded “leather” mostly made in China and sold in North American furniture stores and etailers. Many of these stores (salespeople) have no idea they are actually selling an inferior product to an unsuspecting public. If there was ever a time to use the phrase buyer beware, this is it.


Bi-cast and bonded leather products are made by bonding a thick polyurethane coating to a split-hide leather or composite leather substrate. Split hide (the under-layer of the hide) and composite leather are both significantly inferior to top grain leather (the top layer of the hide). Bi-cast and bonded leather is basically a man-made synthetic upholstery product, and as such some countries, (for example, the United Kingdom and New Zealand) have legislation mandating that it cannot be marketed as leather. North America has no such legislation, so an unsuspecting public is being led to believe they are purchasing natural leather, when in fact they are getting artificial leather. The public is being mislead.


Bi-cast and bonded leather products have the visual aesthetics of top-grain leather, but at substantially less cost, so it appears very attractive to the unsuspecting consumer. With natural leather, the strength and durability come from the outer layer of the hide. Because bi-cast and bonded is a polyurethane-coated split (inner layer), this “leather wanna-be” does not have the strength or durability normally associated with leather. Therefore, bi-cast and bonded leather products do not have the life expectancy of natural leather. Its structural integrity can be shockingly short-lived. The polyurethane coating will peel, or the substrate material splits and tears within the first 6 months of usage. When the bi-cast or bonded leather product’s inherent weakness surfaces, it is time to replace the furniture, as repair or restoration are no viable options with this material. Bi-cast and bonded leather upholstered furniture should be considered a throw-away item.