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Pool Table Buyers Guide

Pool Table Buyers’ Guide

There are many things to take into consideration when purchasing a pool table. First and foremost is that a lot of the information that you gather is coming from salesmen who just want your money. You can take a lot of what they say with a grain of salt. On many websites, they will show you why one way of doing things is better than others and they just so happen to do it the correct way (for example the debate over plywood or metal versus wood bracket). I will do my best to give you the most comprehensive and unbiased opinion that you can find. I have installed thousands of pool tables and built a few, so I feel that I qualify to give my opinion.
1. First you should determine the size of the pool table that you want. See Room Size Requirements.

2. There are two things that could qualify as the second step that you should take.

One is to determine what style pool table you prefer or like. Many times more than none, pool tables eventually don’t get played on as often as we plan to. You should at least like the way the table looks in your home and consider it a piece of furniture ( this will be more important to some people than others ). Obviously if you just want a cheaper table for your garage or kids than its not as important. Pool tables generally come in two main forms- tournament style and furniture style. Tournament style is like the tables you usually see the pros play on television. They are usually black or some other veneer or laminate material. They are usually less expensive, but not always by any means. Furniture style tables usually have four legs that are carved, square, or circular. I prefer the carved legs and they are generally more expensive than the rest. Furniture style tables usually have leather pockets that are exposed to the outside view of the table. These types of tables are very popular in homes today and usually become the centerpiece of any game room.

The other thing is to decide whether you want a new or used table. There are certainly advantages to both. Purchasing a new table obviously gives you the advantage of getting something more updated in style, no nicks or minor wear, new cloth, and your choice of color on the cloth. If you are looking at tables in the price range of new tables, then you should definitely consider getting the new table. You may find a used table that is perfect for you, then you should determine the condition and then buy that table its in good shape. Used tables give you the advantage of saving serious money on the price of the pool table. Beware I’ve seen pool tables for sale for more than the person paid for the table brand new. Many people lie about the retail value of the tables. Many new table dealers also exaggerate the retail value of their tables. This is true in almost any industry. EBay has been a good place to look for pool tables on the internet for some time. Craigslist is my favorite place to look. I have bought and sold many pool tables on Craigslist through the years. I have placed the links to send you directly to the page where the tables are located. The downside to buying a used pool table is that your really not sure of the condition. The best and only way is to go look at the table and check all around it. You should just look for nicks and scratches on the wood and on the cloth. Also determine if the cloth looks good enough to reuse. If it needs replacement you should factor that into the cost of the used table. Dallas Pool Table Movers is our sister site and has our local rates for services in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. Other cities rates will vary. You should also factor in the additional cost of have a professional company disassemble the pool table, move it, and set it up for you. You will also need a new table professionally set up, but it is a little less expensive because they don’t have to disassemble the table and if the company you bought the table from does their own installations, they usually give you a little break on the price of the service also. The last and most important thing you should check while looking at a used table is to go around the table and feel the bumpers (cushions) along the rails. They should feel like rubber. Some manufacturers use less expensive rubber and some tables live in an array of hot and cold temperatures. These factors can cause the bumpers to dry rot over time. When a table has bad rails you will know. It feels very hard when you squeeze them. They usually will feel hard in one spot and soft in another. If you find a table with this problem (unless it is old and valuable) you shouldn’t buy the table because the cost to redo the rubber on the rails and put new felt on the table while you are moving it exceeds the money that you thought you saved because you bought a used table. I don’t want to scare anyone from buying a used table, I just want you to look and feel first. I have installed many pool tables that have dead rails and I couldn’t give good advise to the person on what to do because I knew the cost to fix the table, after they had already paid to have it moved, was about $700.

3. This is where I will discuss the “nuts and bolts” of pool tables and give you my opinion on advantages and disadvantages of differences. One thing you will hear a lot of is solid wood versus veneer, laminate, mdf, and plywood. Let me begin by explaining what everything is.

Solid wood is taken from a solid piece of wood. It is actually not a solid piece sometimes. They use smaller pieces glued together to make the solid piece. This is structurally ok as long as it doesn’t make your table ugly. Solid wood legs commonly show the individual pieces glued together. This is actually a good way to make the legs because a trees cross section has rings that are likely to split because the manufacturers can’t get the glue in between the rings to give the cross section the strength that it needs to prevent splitting. You really should look for solid wood rails and preferable legs. These are the parts of the table that gets more wear. If the table has laminate or veneer, it is harder to fix when it gets chipped and its look bad too.

Although solid wood is the best option for wood that shows, it has slight warping capabilities.

Veneer is a thin layer of solid wood. Veneer can actually be very expensive if it is exotic. Veneer can look very good if you get an attractive wood. The probable lies on what material is behind the veneer. MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) is not what you would want ideally. It is a cheaper material, absorbs moisture more, and is not as strong. Solid wood could be behind the veneer and that is fine. Also plywood could be behind the veneer and that is fine too. It is not recommended to have veneer on the legs or the rails of the pool table.

Laminate is a fake veneer. It is also a thin layer but is painted on a synthetic material. Most laminate is actually very durable on floors (scratch resistant). Laminate is not a very good material to use on a pool table if you want a wood look. Laminate has the same problems as veneer because of what may be behind them.

MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) is essentially saw dust glued together with a strong glue. It is the cheapest of all types of wood. It makes great speaker boxes because of its acoustics. You should probably stay away from MDF on a pool table unless quality is not a big concern. MDF is less likely to warp than solid wood or plywood.

Plywood seems like the cheapest material, but that isn’t the case. You can buy cheap plywood, but higher quality plywood like marine grade plywood is actually stronger that solid wood. The resign that us used to glue the thin layers of solid wood together is actually stronger than wood. Plywood is also less likely to warp than solid wood believe it or not. Plywood is cross grained (one layer in one direction and one at 90 degrees from the other). This makes any changing in the size of the wood to be equaled throughout. Plywood can be a good frame for a pool table. If the plywood is showing on an external part of the table, you may have the same problems of having the veneer on top of it getting chipped up. Plywood on the cabinet of a table is ok. Solid wood is preferred on the frame but not by much. Part of it is because people like to hear the word solid wood.

Buyer beware of salespeople advertising their table as solid wood when it is not at all. I know of people who consider veneer on top of MDF, solid wood. I think they think it is a play on words, but non the less it is wrong and intentionally deceiving.

4. Another topic of debate is wood versus metal brackets. The answer to this question is not as simple as wood or metal. We have to determine the quality of the wood or metal and how it is being used. In general wood on the leg brackets is the best route. Usually the wood used is strong, especially when compressed as it will be. Now the corner brackets that hold the cabinet of the table together and the brackets that hold the cross supports together depend on the type and design of the table. The metal used in the corners of the pool table in the picture is actually a good way to do it. The weight of the slate actually tends to want to pull the frame apart with the weight of the slate sitting on it. These forces are best held by strong pieces of metal that resist the pushing and pulling. There is also metal brackets that hold the cross supports to the cabinet. In an ideal world the slate would set flat on the frame and these cross supports would help hold the slate up. This actually does not happen. To get a pool table level, good installers will use shims all around all of the pieces of slate to get the table perfect for playing pool. Essentially the weight of all the slate rest on the shims that rest on the frame of the table in many locations. Most of the time the slate does not touch the cross supports at all. This leads the most important function of the cross supports to the pulling of the frame that is caused by the weight of the slate. That being said, metal is better on these brackets on this type of pool table. There is another type of pool table that I don’t seem to have a picture of . One where the frame of the table is exactly up and down instead of tapering in toward the middle of the table. These tables commonly have legs that go directly up to the slate of the table. Everything I mentioned about the last table should be good for this kind except that the corner brackets can be wood because there should be no pulling like there is on the other pool table. All wood brackets are not bad, they are just done many times because it is easier to say wood is better.

5. Lastly another debate is the cross beams. It is common to see two cross beams along the width only. In general this is structurally fine. Olhausen and Brunswick commonly use these two crossbeams only. The pool table in the picture above also has a beam across the length of the table. If you understood what I said earlier, this helps only in the stretching of the length of the table caused by the weight of the table. Another advantage from an installers perspective is that we have the ability to put shims between the beams and the slate and may want to put a shim somewhere along the center beam. In my opinion the difference between these two types of crossbeam constructions is not enough to deter you from the table that you already like. Some manufacturers use two crossbeams going across the width and the length of the table. This is overkill and is a selling point to make there table stand out. True is a little better structurally if anything.

I hope this guide has been useful for those of you that actually finished it. If you have anything that you felt useful, would like to add, or didn’t quite understand, send us an email and we will try to get it changed or clarify anything for you. We appreciate you taking the time to do something right. That’s how we like to do things.

Kenric LeBlanc

Dallas Pool Table