By Phil Callighan with Rick Phillips

Playing pool is not only a great family activity; the table on which it is played is also a large, distinctive piece of furniture in your home.

But before you start playing eight-ball, cutthroat or solids and stripes, taking time to review some differences in table materials and construction can save you time and trouble down the road and make your purchase a longlasting investment.

Your first consideration needs to be room size. A regulation-sized pool table is one whose width is half the size of its length. The industry commonly refers to 7-, 8- and 9-foot long tables. However, the external dimensions of the tables are actually a bit larger. Ideally, your room will permit a 5 ¾-foot clearance around the table perimeter to accommodate pool cues and accessories. Cue sticks range in size from 48 to 57 inches.

Generally, rooms between 11.5 feet by 14.5 feet will handle the shortest length tables when using small cue sticks. A room measuring 14 feet by 18 feet can handle the longer tables and bigger cues.

Don’t guess at the size of your room. Measure your room and write down the dimensions before going shopping.

Among the differences in pool tables are style and wood type; table slate; frames; rail construction; sights; frame construction; table aprons; and pockets. Tables are usually produced from three different types of materials: 1) Mica laminate or vinyl melamine coating, 2) Veneer laminate or 3) Solid wood.

Solid wood is the best because it offers a variety of style choices and will outlast the others. Mica or vinyl tables cannot be stained and therefore come in a limited number of colors. Along with veneer laminates, they also have particleboard, MDF board or laminated layers of solid wood underneath the finish. This indicates the manufacturer is building a less expensive table, so they will often use cheaper materials for pockets, playing surface and less expensive construction.

Beware of salespeople selling an “all wood” table. “All wood” typically means it is largely constructed of particleboard or MDF board, rather than “solid wood.”

The best tables have 3-piece, 1-inch thick Italian or Brazilian slate. Three-piece slate allows for more precise leveling. 1-inch thick slate is the only slate approved for tournament play by the Billiard Congress of America.

Better tables also feature solid hardwood frames rather than wood laminates, rails bolted through the slate with the nuts inside the rail and contoured cushions.

If the legs, table wood or laminate don’t match throughout, it is a warning signal that the support underneath the table may be cheaply made.

Now turn your attention to the pockets. Are they made of cast-iron or aluminum? Cast-iron pockets are the strongest and are least likely to break when people sit on the corner pocket.

Leather or rubber-coated pockets last much longer than plastic pockets that can break down over time. A key difference in leather pockets is whether their color is a result of dyeing or painting. Dyed leather is preferable. Painted leather will scuff more easily when a cue is dragged across a pocket – creating a very worn look in a short period of time.

When buying your pool table, you should also consider the reputation of the seller and insist on professional delivery and installation. Ensuring a level playing surface cannot be compromised.

Because buying a pool table is a major purchase, buy a name-brand table if you can afford it. Remember, you always get what you pay for.

Top 5 Things to Know:

      1. Know your room size and where you want to locate your table.
      2. Allow extra space for cues, and accessories.
      3. Be cautious of tables where the legs, wood or finish don’t match, as the construction is likely of poor quality.
      4. Buy a name brand table if you can afford it.
    5. Insist on professional delivery and installation from a reputable dealer.

About the Authors: Phil Callighan is Senior Account Executive and Marketing Director for Knorr Marketing (www.knorrmarketing.com), a full-service advertising, marketing and PR agency headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan. A member of the Public Relations Society of America, he is the author of numerous how-to articles and case stories covering a wide variety of topics. Rick Phillips is President of Phillips Lifestyles, Inc., the largest retailer of hot tubs, fireplaces and billiards in northern Michigan.

© Copyright 2005 Phillips Lifestyles™

This article previously appeared in The Gaylord Herald Times

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