Are you considering purchasing a pool table and have been wondering about the price variance that you are encountering? That is mostly down to the choice of material that is used for the playfield; i.e. the ‘Bed’ of the pool table.
This is singularly the most important decision to consider, which is why we have decided to dedicate an article that helps to highlight and break down some of the major key differences between the two main types – Slate and Wood Beds – when looking to purchase a pool table. If there is one article that you need to read before committing to a big purchase – both in monetary and size, this will be it. The question is simple:
Slate or Wood?
So what exactly is Slate?
Slate is a short, industry term for Billiard Slate, which are usually made from solid mineral rock that includes clay, quartz, and mica. They’re perfect for pool tables because they can naturally split into wide and level pieces due to their mineral makeup. After that, they have to be grounded and polished to ensure they are levelled for easy playing. Slate is universally, unanimously used for professional pool tables due to their smooth and levelled playing surface as well as durability.
Also to note, is that Slate is the industry choice of material for the playfield also because of its resistance to humidity, which ensures the stability of the surface levelness over years. Having said that, there are different grades of slate that is procured from different origins and used by different suppliers.
Slates are also produced as a 1 piece Mono-bloc for mostly 7FT tables, or up to 5 individual pieces for larger Pool and Snooker tables with each piece weighing up to 180KG. We’ve prepared a comprehensive guide on the various sizes of pool tables over here.
The most reputable specialist manufacturers often source their slates from Brazil, Portugal and Northern Italy, where the geological attributes is naturally favourable to producing the best quality slates in the world. Slates are also graded with the highest graded slated designed to last more than 45 years.
Finally, it’s must be noted as well that different companies have different standards to how level their slate will be. Companies like Brunswick & Bilhares Carrinho offer certified slates that goes through a rigorous process of polishing to ensure it’s levelness within microns of tolerance.
Are Wood Bedded Pool Tables made out of solid wood?
Unfortunately, that isn’t actually the case. ‘Wood’ beds are more commonly referred to as MDF (medium-density fiberboard) and are made using wood chips that are bound and compressed with either resin or wax. Compressing the board makes sure that there is no air between the chips and aims to provide a flat playing field. MDF is often a material used in wood-bedded table due to its favourable cost point, and ease of production.
The main reason why understanding the differences between the two surfaces is important is because the playing field is an integral part of all pool tables. Slate beds and wood beds are the two most commonly-used playing surfaces that are currently available for pool tables. As such, making the choice between them, whether you’re looking to buy or customise a pool table with a slate or wood bed, can affect your overall purchasing and pool-playing experience.
I’m no stranger to the fact that budgets and price range can influence one’s decision to purchase an item. Therefore, I feel like it is important to note the big price difference between slate and MDF beds.
As MDF beds are made out of wood chips bonded with resin, they cost significantly less as compared to slate beds which come from pure mineral stones. Slate is still considered the best bang for buck when looking at professional pool tables but comes with a hefty price tag to consider. This is because slate is made out of solid stone so it is heavier and usually has to be imported from overseas.
This is the opposite of MDF beds that can be made locally no matter the location. Since a slate bed typically exceeds more than 100kg and can even go up to 200kg, transportation is no easy feat and is usually the reason why the overall cost of slate bed pool tables are marked much higher than MDF beds.
Because of this, most slate bedded pool tables usually cost about 25% to 50% more on average as compared to MDF bedded pool tables.
Portability (Ease of Access)
Since MDF is much lighter than slate, it comes as no surprise that some might opt for the cheaper option due to its range of portability options. Plenty of MDF bedded pool tables have foldable options, which helps if you’re tight on space and looking for something that has easy storage capabilities. This is not the same for slate. While durable, the material is also heavy, making it a challenge to move around after assembly and is generally not recommended unless you have the help of professional movers.
I would argue that this is the most important factor when deciding between either a slate or MDF bedded pool table.
Since it’s made from stone, slate has long-lasting durability that most manufacturers are comfortable enough to give customers a lifetime guarantee in regards to its quality.
It also ensures that slate surfaces will never warp out of shape over time. Furthermore, its smooth surface ensures that the ball feels faster and smoother when playing as compared to MDF. MDF beds tend to produce a certain type of ‘drag’ when playing, making it feel heavier and slower. This is why most people who are used to playing on slate beds are usually recommended to not make a switch into MDF as the differences in gameplay are noticeable. While one can get used to the differences over time, this is still something to keep in mind.
Also, MDF and other wood beds will have a tendency of warping over time due to a variety of factors: humidity, temperature fluctuations, general changes in the environment. While you can maintain the table to ensure it lasts longer, the warping is inevitable in the long run and will affect playability in the long run. MDF is also considered more ‘delicate’ compared to slate as it is more prone to damage from rough play and means that it would generally need more maintenance compared to a slate bedded pool table if you want it to last.
We hope that this article has given you an idea of what the two different types of Pool Tables in the market are, and how it matters. Having said that, beyond the playfield material, there are also other subtle considerations that you will want to think about. Be sure to check out our annually updated pool table’s buyers guide that will cover some of the things you need to think about as a buyer of a pool table.
Ready to make your home fun? Look at our exciting range of pool tables here.