June 20, 2024

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

The facts speak for themselves. Bicast products are manufactured by bonding a thick polyurethane coating to a split-hide leather or composite leather substrate. Split hide and composite leather are both significantly inferior to top grain leather. Bi-cast (sometimes referred to as PU Leather) is fundamentally 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. The United States has no such legislation, so an unsuspecting public is being led to believe they are purchasing natural leather, when in fact they are getting essentially faux leather.

Here’s the truth. Bi-cast is to natural leather what particle board is to hardwood. The public is being duped.

Bi-cast products have the visual aesthetics of expensive, natural top-grain leather, but at substantially less cost; so it appears very attractive to the unsuspecting consumer. With natural leather, the strength and durability comes from the epidermis (outer layer) of the hide. Because bi-cast is a polyurethane coated split (inner layer), this “leather want to-be” does not have the strength or durability people normally associate with leather. Consequently, bi-cast products do not have the life expectancy of natural leather. Its structural integrity can be shockingly short lived. As a leather furniture repair and restoration expert, I have seen occasions where the polyurethane coating peels, or the substrate material splits and tears in as little as 6 months. Much like particle board, when the bi-cast product’s inherent weakness surfaces, it is time to replace the furniture as repair or restoration are not viable options with this material. So, in that regard, bi-cast upholstered furniture should be considered a throw-away item.

Think about it. In the 25years or so that a natural leather sofa will last, it is likely that you would replace a bi-cast piece 4 or 5 times or more. So, where’s the saving in that?