Pool tables are available at virtually every price point. If you have deep pockets, then you could fork over $1.6 million for the one-of-a-kind Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Exhibition billiards table, a gorgeous piece adorned with intricately carved black walnut. If you’re looking to go as cheap as possible, then you can surely find some second-hand table which mice are currently residing within.
Odds are you want to go somewhere between the Queen Vic special and the rodent hotel. Fortunately, it’s easy to buy a good table for an agreeable price if you only know what to look for. Here are the hallmarks of a high-quality pool table!
Whether you call it a felt or a cloth, you want your pool table to have a nice cover. It greatly affects the overall appearance of the piece, not to mention the gameplay itself.
The density of its weave greatly impacts a felt’s durability. A loose weave may hold up to infrequent play, but a denser weave is requisite for serious sharks. Felt density is reflected by the fabric’s weight; in general, high-quality felt weighs between 19 and 22 ounces per yard.
Tournament pool tables may go without Teflon-coated felt, as serious competitors know better than to set their beers down on the rails. But for a home table, a Teflon coating is typically advisable – especially if children frequent said home. (We love kids, but they’re about as friendly to pool tables as easily excited dogs are to softwood flooring.)
The finest pool tables have waterproof slate surfaces beneath their felt coverings. Slate is extremely durable, and it supplies the frictionless roll which makes for the most satisfying play.
The key thing to look for in a slate is its thickness. A lower-quality table’s slate may be only 1/2″ thick. This poses a risk of cracking – especially when the slate is unusually dry. Higher-quality tables may have 3/4″ slates, but professionals typically prefer 1″ slates for their superior durability and stability (a thicker slate makes a heavier table, which will shift less). The best residential pool tables often have 1″ three-piece K bolting pattern slates, such as the gorgeous Cape Town table by Presidential Billiards.
Several economical alternatives to slate are available. Permaslate, which is made of plastic-sheathed particle board, can work well, although prolonged exposure to humidity will inevitably warp it out of flatness. Honeycomb, which is made entirely of plastic, is more resilient to warping but also noticeably rougher than permaslate. Fiberboard is extremely lightweight, yet also so flimsy that a single misplaced cue or elbow can destroy it!
Frame & Legs
You don’t just want a sturdy frame to support your weight while you’re leaning on the table to line up a shot. The frame also provides support to the slate itself, which can snap like a graham cracker without adequate buttressing.
A pool table with a 3/4” slate can typically get away with just two crossbeams. A 1″ slate like the pros play on demands four crossbeams. The Grant pool table by Presidential Billiards exceeds even this standard with its resilient six-beam construction. Furthermore, it is made of incredibly solid hardwood that won’t easily succumb to stress or fracturing.
Like its frame, a high-quality pool table’s legs are sturdy. Two-piece legs are the more affordable option, yet one-piece post legs provide unparalleled support and stability.
The rule of solid wood applies equally to rails. The cushion lining itself, however, is available in two options: synthetic and gum rubber. Synthetic rail cushions are typically more affordable, yet the clay they contain will dry out over time. A cushion which has lost its suppleness effectively spoils the game. Natural gum rubber remains supple for a far longer period of time, and its bounce is also appreciably better for the great game of billiards. The highest-quality tables thus universally feature gum rubber cushions.
The best size for a pool table is subjective – don’t let anyone tell you which one you should prefer if you have already formed your preference. That said, there are three common regulation pool table sizes:
- Bar: 7′ long, 39″x78″ playfield. Perfect for smaller spaces, as well as making the game accessible to smaller players.
- Standard: 8′ long, 44″x88″ playfield. The most popular size table in America, and ideal for most homes.
- Tournament: 9′ long, 50″x100″ playfield. The original pool table size, which is still used for competitive play.
We appreciate that a pool table is a fairly sizeable commitment. We treat our customers right by offering only the very best tables by Presidential Billiards (as you may have gleaned from the examples provided in this article).
Even if you don’t wind up buying your new pool table from Paradise Patio, Pool & Spa, we would be honored to explain the differences between a high-quality piece and something that’s only fit for the seediest of biker bars. Our pool table expertise is yours for the asking – please contact us today!