Interested in buying a pool table? Having worked in the sales side of the billiard industry for eight years, I can tell you that late summer and early fall are the most popular times for purchasing a table. Pool tables can be found for sale in a lot of different venues from the internet to big-box discount stores to local specialty stores and the prices can range from several hundred dollars to forty thousand dollars and up. So where does one start in the buying process to get the best value for the dollar without going so cheap that the only memories later in life are regrets on what you should have done differently?
- 1. Define the reason for wanting a pool table. If the table is for your kids and you suspect it will take a lot of abuse, perhaps steering for lower quality makes sense. If you already shoot in a local pool league and the table is for helping your game, then aiming for something higher quality is the way to go.
- 2. Define your budget and don’t stray very far from it. The choices are vast when billiard tables are involved. On the low-end, a table with real slate will start around $1,300 (installation included). A good quality table will be around $2,000 – $3,500 (installation included). A table that goes beyond just the billiard aspect and strives to make a statement will start around $4,000 and go up from there. Start by having an idea of what your upper spending limit is. Many people are surprised by the cost of a good pool table and the initial budget gets thrown out the window when the consumer starts getting educated on quality.
- 3. Billiard tables come in different sizes. How big is the space the pool table will go in? As a basic rule of thumb, you will need a 54″ barrier all the way around the table so that a full size cue stick can be used without interference from a wall or post in the room. Try to compromise as little as possible on this because in a lot of cases, the billiard table in the home setting is a launching point for eventually playing in a billiard hall or competitive atmosphere. Transitioning your game from the basement at home with that pesky support pole always in the way to a game with friends in a public setting can be embarrassing because you shoot the way you practice.
- 4. One of the basic requirements of a pool table is slate. Slate is essentially million year old sediment that is mined from the ground in large slabs. Most slate these days is mined out of Brazil but slate comes from all corners of the globe. The playing area that is covered in cloth on a billiard table is slate. To help make the slate easier to handle, it is cut into thirds with each piece weighing about 220lbs. – that’s approximately 660lbs. in slate on a single table. A good quality table to stand the test of time will include 1″ thick slate. A good salesperson will try their best to convince you that there is some savings on thinner slate but this is one area that shouldn’t be compromised on.
- 5. There are several other components on the pool table that will lend to the cost and the longevity. The pockets can be made out of naugahyde to save money but the better quality pockets are made from leather. The legs on the table can be hollow to bring down cost but the best quality legs are solid and usually made out of wood. The frame of the table is vital because it holds the weight of the slate playing surface. On less expensive tables, frames are typically made from Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) with a thin piece of real wood over the outside edge called a veneer. The better quality billiard tables will use solid wood on the frame.
- 6. Some manufacturers will tout “Made in the USA” on their billiard tables. The truth of the matter is that very few billiard tables are actually manufactured in the US. Many times the various parts of the tables are imported from all around the world and shipped into the US where they are then assembled into the final product. Don’t be lured into a crafty sales pitch in which you are led to believe the entire table is manufactured and assembled in the USA.
Shopping for a billiard table can be a daunting process if you’re just beginning the search. Due primarily to the weight of a table, it will typically sit in the same place for long periods of time and the physical abuse it will take usually turns out to be minimal. Often times a decent quality table will eventually get passed on from one generation to the next. Start by determining why you really want the table in the first place as this many times helps determine the overall budget. Next figure out your space requirements and then take all this information to the marketplace to begin shopping. My experience is that it’s better to buy from a dealer rather than a third party because new tables often have nice warranties and part of the purchase includes professional delivery and assembly. A billiard table is essentially a large piece of furniture that can create a centerpiece for any room. Do your research, define your goals and you will most likely have no regrets in the future.