When you’re making a sizable investment in leather furniture, then one of the first questions will be: how long should a leather couch last?
The obvious answer would be to say that it depends on the quality of the leather, but every clever salesperson in the world will tell you that their “real leather” sofas will last for more years than you’d care for.
But those same salespeople won’t be anywhere to be found when you run into trouble.
So, to help you better understand what your money actually buys, we’ve put together this guide on what to look out for.
How Does Leather Quality Impact Aging?
This is the most important thing you need to look at when it comes to leather furniture and determining longevity.
Let me show you what leather quality to look out for.
Full Grain Leather
Full grain leather is arguably the most expensive and highest quality upholstery you can invest in. And the main reason for this is all down to the manufacturing processes and preparation of the animal hide.
With full grain leather, the preparation involves leaving the outer grain layer in place. And this is the layer that contains the toughest fibers making it ideal for leather furniture that gets a lot of traffic.
The other thing that happens with full grain leather is that the more you use it, the better the leather will age. The polished look is called patina, and it’s highly sought after. But it’s not something that you can artificially create and requires natural aging and regular care.
Top Grain Leather
Some people say that top grain leather is lower quality than full grain, but that ignores an important factor. While the preparation process does sand down the upper grain layer, this gives manufacturers the opportunity to spray or roll on a protective layer.
As a result, a top grain leather couch will be a lot easier to keep clean and avoid staining and minor scratches.
You’ll be able to wipe away most spills with a damp cloth, meaning these leather couches are more suitable for families or those of us that might be a bit more accident-prone.
This is technically still real leather, but what manufacturers do is completely remove the outer grain layer. This leaves a softer material that is easier to work with, but it comes at a cost.
It’s considerably cheaper to buy split leather furniture, but it won’t last anywhere near as long as a top or full grain leather. And that’s where you have to be careful.
Many leather furniture salespeople will keep repeating that it’s real leather and an amazingly great deal considering the price.
But don’t be fooled by such sales tactics and instead stick with higher quality leather.
Bonded leather is another type that has made its way from cheap clothing and accessories to the furniture industry. And while the input material is indeed an animal hide, it’s the processing that is important to keep in mind.
What manufacturers of bonded leather do is buy up lots of discarded leather pieces and then shred them into an almost powder substance. This is then mixed with a type of bonding agent and rolled out into bonded leather.
It’s often highlighted as an eco-friendly upholstery because it makes use of recycled materials, but it’s important to note that for a leather sofa, it will likely last only a few years.
This is possibly one of the worst options as faux leather is entirely synthetic. That also makes it cheap, and even if it looks good, you won’t find that it will last for very long.
Some furniture stores market faux leather as “vegan leather” because it avoids the use of animal hides. But instead of buying a vegan leather couch, we’d recommend going for a fabric couch instead.
In our experience, you’ll find that this upholstery is extremely prone to scratching and tearing. And there’s also a high chance that faux leather sofas will show signs of color fading very quickly.
Genuine leather is another clever marketing term that should really be understood as “it’s just about still genuine leather.”
It’s a lower grade than split leather, and that means it’s not very durable. A genuine leather couch will be cheap, but it won’t take a lot of stress to cause scratches and tears.
So, don’t be fooled by any clever sales talk about a genuine leather couch, and stick with the types of leather that will actually mean you can enjoy them for decades to come.
And this is what we recommend.
What Kind Of Leather Will Last The Longest?
Now let’s get to a more defined answer to the question of how long should a leather couch last.
Full And Top Grain Leather Couches
So, if you invest in high-quality leather furniture, where the upholstery, frame, and cushions (more on those shortly) are all sourced from the best producers, then it wouldn’t be wrong to expect a leather sofa to last twenty-five years or more.
And in a lot of cases, it can actually be a lot longer than that.
Especially when it comes to full grain leather couches, the natural aging process and careful maintenance will improve the leather with time, giving it a polished look that we refer to as patina.
Low-Quality Leather Couches
A faux, bonded, or genuine leather couch might last for 3 to 5 years, but in many cases, the leather will start to show ugly signs of aging badly in a much shorter time.
We have seen some of these couches that are just a few months old where even normal everyday use have left noticeably faded areas. Even if you expect such leather couches won’t last longer than five years, they are not five times cheaper than full-grain leather couches that could last at least 25 years.
What About The Physical Structure Of Leather Sofas?
We’ve covered how long different types of leather, like full grain and genuine leather, might last. But it’s just as important to look at what’s underneath the leather.
There’s no point spending a lot of money on the best possible leather, only for the foam cushions or frame to start sagging and breaking.
And that’s why the following items are so important.
Even the best leather sofa is only as good as the frame it sits on. And when it comes to buying something that you want to have for many years, you should only consider kiln-dried solid hardwood frames.
That means oak, beech, and maple wood assembled using the best craftsmanship. This will ensure that the frame has an average lifespan that is at least as long as the leather upholstery.
Cushion Foam Quality
The next thing to look at for a new sofa is the foam inside the seat and back cushions.
Many manufacturers cut corners here by using low-grade foam. It will feel fine for a while, and maybe even a few years. But the sagging will start, and that means the leather sofa will become uncomfortable.
Only consider a sofa with durable and high-density foam. This should easily last for decades without causing problems.
Next is the quality of the springs and the way they have been assembled. It’s not just good enough to have springs properly spaced out to give the leather couch the comfort levels you want.
There are certain techniques of hand-tying the springs to the frame to hold them in place for maximum comfort. That requires skilled craftsmanship and cannot be recreated with machines or robots.
High-quality craftsmanship might drive up the price, but you get what you pay for when it comes to a durable leather sofa.
Environmental Factors That Impact Leather Aging
The other thing you have to consider when it comes to the lifespan of a leather sofa is where and how you’ll use it. Even if the quality of the leather is exceptional, there are a few factors that will influence the lifespan.
One of the biggest problems is direct sunlight for large portions of the day. Leather is a natural product, and you’d be foolish to think it’s preserved forever without any risks from UV rays.
Just like your own skin, leather will fade and break down if you expose it to a lot of sunshine.
In extreme cases, that could mean that your leather couch might last for only half the time you’d expect.
One thing you can do is carefully consider where you palace the couch. If you can avoid most of the midday sun, then you’ve already extended the lifespan a lot.
Also, try adding some decorative blankets on the leather couch in the summer months or have some sun shades on the windows.
The more you use a leather sofa, the more you risk the leather fading and slowly wearing thin. Even with a large family and kids jumping all over your couch, the right care and maintenance will make sure that you don’t end up with an ugly-looking couch.
But, you do need to be aware that a leather couch in a busy family home won’t last as long as it would for a single person.
Regular Care And Maintenance
This is probably one of the main reasons why people end up disappointed with how long their leather sofa will last. It’s not just good enough to clean spills immediately.
You also have to regularly wipe the leather with a soft cleaning solution. And once a month, you should apply a leather conditioner that ensures that it doesn’t dry out and develop cracks.
This alone could extend the lifespan of your couch by over 50%, and it’s such an easy thing to do. Even with a large couch, wiping on a conditioner takes a few minutes at most.
How Can You Make Your Leather Sofa Last longer?
Here are a few factors that will make a huge difference in how long your leather couch will last. And most of them are simple habits.
Keep Pets Away
Unless you have extremely obedient and well-trained cats or dogs, a leather couch really shouldn’t be a place for them to relax.
You just need to do a quick google search for pet scratches on leather to see some serious damage that can completely ruin a couch. Even the toughest high-quality leather won’t stand up to sharp claws.
Protect Leather From UV Rays
We already mentioned direct sunlight as being a serious factor for aging and breaking down leather upholstery. But it’s important to make sure you plan for some simple ways to protect your leather couch.
Keep a blanket over the couch during the day or have some blinds fitted to reduce sun exposure. It’s the single best way to avoid color fading and cracking of leather.
Avoid Spilling Food And Drink
I know this is a tough one. But it can pay off a lot to set a leather couch rule to not allow food and drink near it. Even when you clean spills immediately with a damp cloth, some spills can cause lasting damage.
Prevention is always better than having to spend a lot of money and effort to fix a spill.
Apply Leather Conditioner Regularly
I generally recommend that you apply a moisturizing conditioner on a leather couch at least once a month. If you live in a hot climate or there is some regular sun exposure, then you should do this even more often.
The conditioner keeps the leather flexible and stops it from cracking and fading, and it will significantly impact durability.
Make The Right Choice For Your Living Room
Hopefully, you now understand that it’s not just important to look at the quality of the leather, but also what’s underneath the leather and how and where you’re going to use the leather couch.
When someone asks me, “how long should a leather couch last,” I tell them that with the right upfront investment and regular maintenance, it can easily last for 30 years and longer.
And if you want to find the highest quality, best leather couches, then browse through our extensive range today and find something that will perfectly match your living space.