Which pool tables are best?
The first pool tables were wooden and featured green cloth tops to simulate grass. Wood was the material of choice for pool tables until it was replaced by slate, which is more durable and doesn’t warp over time like wood does. The big benefit for players is that a slate top can be perfectly leveled.
Pool tables take up a lot of space, so if you are looking for a full-sized, slate-topped pool table that can also serve as a dining table, the Playcraft Monaco 8-Foot Slate Pool Table with Dining Top is a great choice.
What to know before you buy a pool table
Pool tables range in size from 3 to 9 feet. That’s just the start, though, because you will need at least a few feet of open space around all four sides to be able to play without obstruction or interference.
Because players lean against the table as they play, the best pool tables need to be really steady. Look for pool table brands that are sturdily constructed and can bear the weight of adults leaning against it during play. If you are thinking of buying a folding pool table due to space considerations, do not expect it to be sturdy.
What to look for in a quality pool table
Pool balls roll around on a fabric surface, usually some type of felt blend. If you want your playing surface to last, look for a fabric that cleans easily and resists spills and stains.
The two types of felt found in today’s pool tables vary in quality, characteristics and price. The actions of the balls are affected differently by each type.
- Woolen felt: This is the standard covering found in most home pool tables. It is made of about 60% wool, feels like felt and is thick to the touch. This is the cheaper choice because the balls will not perform as they are designed to do. Napped billiard cloths are cheaper and are prone to pilling and fuzzing.
- Worsted felt: This is the playing surface all good pool players insist upon. Worsted cloth goes through a treatment process that ensures all fibers are of equal size, making the fabric completely smooth. This allows for faster ball speed, better spin and greater accuracy of the roll. It is found on all professional-grade tables and the best home pool tables.
Keep in mind that the thinner the felt, the more quickly it will wear out. One indicator of a fabric’s durability is the ounce weight per yard of fabric. Bigger numbers are better.
Pool table beds are made of four types of materials. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and their prices reflect their status as playing surfaces.
- Slate: Natural slate slabs are the finest surface there is for playing pool. They are solid, sturdy and machined smooth to exacting tolerances. Their weight means they need a heavy and sturdy frame that doesn’t budge when bumped against or leaned on. Slate is so heavy that it needs to be made in pieces that require perfect alignment during installation.
- Plywood: This is the cheapest top you can buy. You should avoid these because they will become unplayable very quickly and you will have wasted your money.
- Engineered wood: Unlike solid timber from trees, engineered woods are special types of building materials. Engineered woods mix wood fibers and pulp with adhesives and chemicals, subject this semi-liquid mixture to heat and press it into sheets that look like fiberboard.
- Synthetics: Those looking for pool table surfaces that are as true as slate tops and as light as engineered wood come closer all the time. For home pool tables, synthetics beat engineered wood hands down, but at a price.
How much you can expect to spend on a pool table
Tabletop pool tables cost less than $100. Small folding tables cost between $100-$300. Solidly built pool tables cost between $400-$1,000, depending upon the length and playing surface. High-quality pool tables in bigger sizes with slate tops cost thousands of dollars.
Pool table FAQ
How do I clean my pool tabletop?
A. Start by protecting it. Keep it covered when not in use. Do not allow anyone to eat or drink near the table. Sweep off dust and debris by brushing in one straight direction toward the nearest pocket.
How many types of engineered wood are there?
A. Some of the ones you may know are particleboard, pressboard and medium-density fiberboard (MDF). Pool tables with beds made of engineered wood have varying degrees of quality, so choose carefully.
What’s the best pool table to buy?
Top pool table
What you need to know: No room for a pool table? Try this slate top model that doubles as a sleek, contemporary silver and black dining table.
What you’ll love: The premium slate comes in three pieces that have been machined to thousandths of an inch. The leveling hardware allows for those final micro-adjustments that make the table perfectly level. The cloth surface comes in your choice of 25 colors.
What you should consider: Professional installation of this 850-pound pool table is not included but is highly recommended.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top pool table for the money
What you need to know: This is an inexpensive pool table that folds down to a small size for easy storage.
What you’ll love: Every pool table arrives fully assembled and ready to play as soon as you adjust the integrated leg levelers. The steel legs are sturdy and lock securely. The blended polyester and wool felt top is glued to a ½-inch thick poly sealed medium density fiberboard playing surface. The balls, rack, chalk and cues come in a handy nylon carry bag.
What you should consider: A portable pool table will never approach the quality of a permanent one.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Get two games for the price of one with this versatile pool table with a table tennis topper.
What you’ll love: The table tennis top installs easily. The poly-sealed billiard surface features blended felt, molded resin drop pockets and reinforced K66 gum rubber cushions. This pool table assembles in six steps and comes with everything you need to play pool and switch over for a game of table tennis.
What you should consider: The table tennis surface is not as lively as some would prefer.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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