Buying leather furniture that stands up to the humidity

Is leather a smart choice for your sofa or sectional in Mexico? Photo: Courtesy
  • Homeowners often ask about the viability of leather furniture in Mexico. Photo: Courtesy

Is leather a smart choice for your sofa or sectional in Yucatán, or any hot and humid part of Mexico? This is a frequently asked question posed to us by new homeowners.

The answer depends on what grade of leather you choose. Four generally accepted types of leathers are used for furniture covers: full grain, top grain, genuine and bonded.

When a cowhide is put into a splitting machine, it is sliced in to long layers. The cutting blade separates the top (full grain and top grain) from the bottom (genuine or split leather).

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Full-grain leather is the most expensive leather available. It is the outer layer of the hide and has the most variations in both markings and color. In full grain leather, you can see the life of the cow. If the cow pressed up against a barbed wire fence, was bitten by horseflies or injured, you would see the marks. You can even see veins of the cow in most full grain leathers. This is the most natural looking leather with loads of character. Full grain leather does not go through a lot of post-processing at the tannery. Although beautiful, full grain leather sofas or sectionals are more prone to stains since liquids and oils are more easily absorbed.

The other top layer of the cow hide is referred to as top-grain leather. This grade is much more uniform since it is the split of hide under the top layer of skin. Top-grain leather is strong and more consistent in coloring than the full grain. It is usually buffed, sanded and stained to create a uniform look. The pigmentation added to the top grain also serves as a water repellant to the leather. Liquid tends to bead on the surface and roll off. For that reason, we suggest the top grain over the full grain for most homeowners in Mexico, especially in our beachside homes with humid climates.

The remaining two layers are split from the bottom or inside of the hide. These leathers are put through more manufacturing processes to make them ready for use as furniture covers. It is correct to say that genuine leather is true leather since it does come from the cow. However, it is not considered as decadent as either of the two top grains (full grain and top grain) since it is more processed.

Bonded leather is a great way to get a leather sofa or sectional at a very reasonable price. If it is correctly manufactured, bonded leather is an excellent solution for your home in Mexico. Scraps of leather are fused together with glue and pressure to create bonded leather. Be cautious of any bonded leather imported from offshore and items made with tacto piel. These are poorly manufactured replicas that crack and peel. Only buy from brand names you know and trust.

Since these two grains are highly processed, they will stand up to heavy use and repel stains. This makes them a good option for your home in Mexico.

Sheryl Novak is an expat from Canada who has owned a home in Mexico for over 10 years. She is the owner of SOLutions Mexico, an online furniture store and an expert on sourcing all styles of furniture, for all budgets, in Mexico. Buying a home in Mexico? Email furniture@solutionsmexico.com to get a free home inventory list.

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