5 Key Characteristics of Quality Pool Tables – What to Look For
Not everyone needs a top of the line pool table, but for those who do, you’re in luck. There are a few things you should keep an eye out for during your pool table search.
For those wanting to invest in premium performance that can last a very long time, we don’t advise settling for a low-quality table. Cheaper tables are less durable, not as appealing, and can create a negative experience when trying to improve your game.
So, if you are passionate about pool, investing in a pool table made out of high-quality materials is extremely important. Here are a few reasons why:
- A quality table offers more accuracy and table speed
- A quality table lasts much longer
- A quality table is more durable
- A quality table will likely improve your game faster
Let’s take a look at some of the key factors you should consider when buying a pool table.
1. Slate Surface
The pool table surface is one of the key things to pay attention to when buying a pool table. Look for models that have a slate surface. Keep in mind – there are many substitutes for slate including fiberboard, plywood, permaslate, slatex, slatorn, honeycomb, slatine, etc. However, none of these substitutes provide the accuracy or smoothness that slate does.
Pool table slate is categorized by thickness. Here are common slate sizes:
- 1 1/4-inches
1-inch slate is widely considered as the best option – it is one of the most accurate, and widely available. When it comes to professional competitions and tournaments, pool tables must have at least a 1-inch slate.
Keep in mind that many manufacturers produce slate sheets and label them as 1-inch, even though they are actually 7/8-inch. So, just to be sure, always ask whether the slate is truly 1-inch or not.
The thickness of the slate should not be the only consideration. You also have options between 1 and 3-piece slate configurations.
1-Piece Slate vs. 3-Piece Slate
1-piece slate pool tables are a much better choice for commercial use. You can flip them on their side because they are less likely to damage. Also, you don’t have to disassemble them in order to move them around.
The 3-piece slate tables allow for more precise leveling. Most professional competitions and tournaments are actually played on 3-piece slate. The 3-piece configuration is often an option for pool tables that are more customizable, so, in addition to the slate upgrade, you will likely be able to choose other aspects of your perfect pool table.
2. Sturdy Frame and Legs
A sturdy frame and legs are also essential in a premium pool table. Without a good base, the table could easily crack, sag, and become uneven. High-quality tables should have the slate sheets framed with cross beams to add support. The type of frame required will depend on the slate size.
In other words, if you are planning on buying a 3/4-inch slate table, two cross-support beams should do the job. However, if the table has 1-inch slate or 1 1/4-inch slate, it should definitely have a quad-beam type of construction. Ultimately, the bigger the slate, the more framing the pool table should have.
3. Rails and Cushions
The cushions of a pool table are usually made out of either natural gum blends or synthetic materials. Synthetic variations rely on clay fillers. This clay tends to dry out over time, lose the bounce the cushions are supposed to have, and turn into something known as a “dead rail”.
So, we recommend cushions made out of the gum blend rubber. They provide the best and most consistent bounce, and will most likely last as long as the pool table itself. Two of the most popular cushion profiles are K55 and K66.
If you are buying a new premium table like a Diamond or Olhausen, the rails and cushions will be high quality. But if buying used, get as much information as you can about the rail and cushions of the table you’re looking at. You should also test them out before purchasing.
4. Quality Cloth
The quality of the pool table cloth is extremely important, as it determines traction and speed while playing. Modern tables usually feature cloth made of a nylon and wool blend, coated in teflon. If you can’t tell how durable the cloth is, just check out the ounce weight per yard of the cloth. The most long-lasting ones are around 20 ounces per yard.
If you are buying a used table, the cloth is something you need to pay special attention to. If you want the pool balls to follow a specific trajectory, the cloth must be in perfect condition and the surface must be as smooth as possible. For best speed and accuracy, aim for worsted cloth, usually made of wool.
If you’re unsatisfied with the cloth a certain pool table has, you can always buy and install new cloth. A couple of the best cloth brands are Simonis and Championship.
Aesthetics, while not related to the performance of the table, should also play a big role in your pool table decision. Pool players want their most prized possessions to look good, especially if there will be other eyes on it regularly.
There are many things that can make a pool table stand out from the rest. Some customizations include hand-carved details, leather pockets, wood finish, etc. Several table manufacturers offer many finishes and colors, so there shouldn’t be a shortage of options if you need to match your pool table to its surroundings.
You should now have a better idea about what makes a good pool table. If you prioritize these factors, you are most likely going to find a table that will serve you for many years or even decades to come.
As always, Happy Shooting!