Pool Table Buyer’s Guide: A Must Read Before You Buy

So your looking to buy a new or used pool/Billiard table? As you probably already know a pool table is a big investment that you will want to make sure you get right the first time around. Well, you came to the right place, I’ve recently purchased a pool table and I had a lot of questions and did some research and thought I would share with you my findings in this Pool table buyer’s Guide.

What should I look for when buying a pool table?

Before you purchase a pool, table there are several factors you will need to consider. The main factors being: Space, Table Size, Table Type, Table Bed Material, Price, and are you buying a New or Used table.

  • The space available in home for a table, any obstructing things in the way such as poles or wall will need to be considered.
  • What size table you need to purchase based on size of space available, or if you have a specific type of table in mind to purchase such as a carom table (no pockets), snooker table, pocket billiard table.
  • After you know what kind of table and what size you need to get you will have options for the table bed material such as slate, solid wood, MDF (particle board), or Slatron.
  • Price is probably one of the biggest factors to consider when looking to purchase a table. I think what you must understand is what are your needs of this table. Are you looking for a table to casually play on for a year or two then get rid of it or are you trying to make an investment for a quality table that can last decades? Buying used will typically save you money but something to also factor in when looking at used tables is the fees associated with moving the table if it is a slate table the table will need to be taken apart and put back together.

The more research I did the more questions I found myself asking so the deeper I dug on the web to find the answers. Above I tried to give you the quick answer for those of you that do not have time to read this whole article. If you keep on reading, I break down each topic into more detail and try to answer the common questions with each.

a guy shooting on a pool table up next to a wall

Space You Need for A Pool Table

What is the minimum size room for a pool table?

If you have ever shot billiards at a friend’s house, you have probably ran into a problem of where a pool table didn’t quite fit the room that it was in or there was a pole or wall in the way in one spot of the room. Just because the table fits in the room you have got to plan for when the cue ball is by the rail and you got to have enough room for the shooter to be able to setup and be able to swing the cue back without hitting the obstructing object whether it be a pole, wall, or etc.

So a good rule of thumb for making sure the space you have for the table is adequate for the size table you plan to buy is to take the dimensions of pool table and add to double the size of the pool cues and add 12 inches for extra room for the stroke swing on each side of the table. Cue sticks are typically 57-59 inches in length, your swing can take anywhere from 4 to 6 inches on each side. So for example if you are planning to get a 8ft pool table which dimensions are 4ft by 8ft or 48 inches by 96 inches, you will add 48+59+59+12 (178 inches) by 96+59+59+12 (226 inches) to get the space needed for adequate playing room for an 8 foot table. So for an 8ft table an ideal space will be 15ft by 19ft.

Picking the Right Size Table

What size table should I get?

A common question for a new buyer of a pool table is what size table to get. There are a few different factors to consider when making this decision. The first obviously being the amount of space you have for where you plan on putting the table but if space isn’t an issue there are a few more factors to look at.

There are several different types of tables that you could be looking to buy such as Carom tables (no pockets), Snooker tables, and pocket billiard table. For many of the readers, you are looking for a standard pocket billiards table, they come in 6ft, 7ft, 8ft, or 9ft sizes and they have 6 pockets. They are the most popular that you will find at restaurants and bars and in people’s homes. Carom tables for one have no pockets and are typically larger the standard size is 5ft by 10ft although you can find them smaller. Snooker tables are much larger and are pretty rare to find in someone’s home just because of their sheer size. Snooker tables typically come in sizes of 12ft by 6ft or 10ft by 5ft .

What is the most popular pool table size?

While pool tables come in many different sizes the most popular size recommendation is a 9ft table. It is the regulation size used in most tournaments. Although it requires a large ideal space but if you have the room for it, it is what I recommend. It is great to play and practice on, and you can easily transition your play to a smaller table with out any problems. But I would say that for most common homes a 7ft or 8ft size table would work best because you don’t need as big of a room.

Picking the Table Bed Material

For starters you may be asking what a table bed is, and a table bed is the main playing surface that you play your billiard game on the is under the pool tablecloth. Pool tables can come in many varieties of materials such as Slate, MDF, or Slatron. They all have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Any serious pool player will recommend slate because there just isn’t a better material that can last for a long time. Slate tabletops can get expensive and very heavy but with that you wouldn’t have to worry as much about warping and you would be getting a quality table that could last a lifetime. Okay so if everyone recommends slate why bother looking at MDF or Slatron. While slate is recommended for any serious pool enthusiast because it provides a quality tabletop with longevity, sometimes it just doesn’t make sense for the budget.

Cheaper options like MDF or Slatron may be a better fit for what you are looking for. So now your like but what is MDF or Slatron. Well MDF stands for medium-density fiberboard, it is formed out of wood chips that are held together with wax or resin and is squeezed together to for a solid playing surface. Slatron is composed of a layer of plastic that surrounds particle board. It is often considered the most durable of synthetic slates, though its quality is far below that of real slate.

Are MDF pool tables any good?

These budget friendly pool tables are great for a short lifetime table one for your kids or just to use for a couple of years. They are light weight which makes for moving the table easier then slate tables because you don’t have to take apart the table in order to move it. The problem with these materials is that they are prone to warping and will degrade over time. The playing surface tends to have slower ball rolling speeds, but when comparing MDF and Slatron to High quality Slate tables the price difference is something to consider. Most MDF or Slatron tables you can get for under $1,000 while slate tables can go for several thousand.

If you are looking for a pool table and you rent your home and tend to move every year I’d recommend a MDF or Slatron table top versus a slate table. You will be easily able to pick up the table and move it versus with a slate table every time you would move you would have to hire someone to come out and disassemble the table to move it and reassemble it at the new place. Those fees will start to add up and for about the same price you could essentially buy a new table every 2 to 3 years.

Since slate tables are of such high quality are there any drawbacks that I should be aware of?

Slate is a stone so with that comes a higher price tag and a heavier table. With a heavier table comes a price tag of disassembling and reassembling the table every time you are going to move which is a reason to not buy one if you move a lot. Other than that, I would highly recommend a slate table versus MDF or Slatron table.

Can slate pool tables warp?

Yes, although its less likely than that of non-slate tables. Slate tables come in two varieties: one-piece and three-piece pool slate. One-piece slate is a large, seamless slab that is hard to move and tends to sag or warp over time. On the other hand, some tables have a separated three-piece slate. This allows players to level pieces individually if the floor that the table is on is unleveled. Due to the lighter weight of individual pieces, three-piece slate tends to not warp.

Does slate break easily?

There is one important thing you should know upfront when removing the slate off your pool table. Although the pieces are made of rock (hence their extreme weight), they are rather brittle and can be easily ruined (chipped, scratched, or plain broken) if dropped.

Buying New or Used Pool Table

Should I buy a new or used pool table?

If you are wondering if you would be better off buying a used pool table versus a new pool table, I would say it would depend on what is available in your local area. There can be very advantageous reasons to buy a used table versus a new one. You could find a well kept up with a pool table that is a few years old for half the price of a new one. Even if it is not that cheap when buying used from a seller you tend to have some flexibility with the negotiation of the sales price.

My brother was able to find and old 3-piece slate 9 ft Brunswick table on craigslist for free as long as he paid someone to disassemble the table and have it moved, it cost him $300. Now that’s a deal!

Disadvantages of Buying Used

The problem with buying used comes down to not knowing all the details where it came from, how old the table is, what is the condition of the slate. You typically will not know this until you buy it and pay someone to come out and disassemble the table.

Expensive and high-quality pool table brands will often have the name of the manufacturer on the table but most lower-end brands will not show the manufacturer’s name on the table. If you don’t know who the manufacturer is you can’t find out the details of the table such as if it’s a good table if there is a warranty still on the table, does the table have any bad customer reviews, etc.

A seller could lie to you about the information about the table such as purchase price, brand name, material, felt, etc.

Why to Buy Your Pool Table New?

There are several reasons to fork over the extra money for a new table versus taking a risk buying from a used seller. If you have the money to afford a new table it is the best option just for convenience and warranty, and customer service.

A great benefit from buying new from a billiard supplier or manufacturer is the included warranty with the purchase of a new table. Which can range from 3 to 5 years and even lifetime warranty for some of the more expensive table brands.

With getting a new table you know that the slate is not cracked or chipped, the felt and the rails are new. When getting a used pool table, you may have to replace all that which the expenses start adding up. Another positive with getting new from the store is you can trust what they tell you about the table such as the type of wood, felt, etc., is what they say it is.

Customer service is also something to keep in mind when buying a new table. What if when you get home you have questions about the table, you can always call the store and ask a representative the question and will be sure they will be able to help you. When buying used your lucky if the seller will answer the phone after you have left with the table let alone if they will even be able to help you with your question.

When you are making big purchases such as a pool table most billiard store will have financing options which is a true benefit from buying new that you do not have buying used. As well as financing, most purchases of a new table will include delivery and assembly from professionals, so you are guaranteed quality handling of the new table.

In Conclusion

To summarize whether you should buy your table new or used, I think it is entirely up to you. It depends on your budget, what tables are available in your area, and what your opinion is on the pros and cons listed above.

Additional Things to Consider Before Purchasing

Now that you have an idea of what size and type of table to buy there are a few more things to talk about, such as what type of billiard cloth should you get for your table, billiard balls, table lighting, and what flooring is best.

close up of pool balls on table, can see grains in pool felt

Billiard Cloth (felt): Napped vs Worsted

Billiard cloth sometimes called “felt” is what covers your playing surface of the pool table. There are many different brands of billiard cloth available, but they all fall into two category types: Napped and Worsted. Both options come with many different colors to choose from but probably the most popular is the standard green and blue.

Napped billiard cloth is a woolen cloth typically what your pool table will come with by default it is considered the standard. It is considerably less expensive and has a looser weave which can wear down faster and over time start pilling or creating fuzzy bits which can dramatically affect ball speed and accuracy in your game.

Worsted billiard cloth is considered high quality premium cloth and is recommended for any serious player that wants professional-grade playability from your table. It is known for its enhanced durability and is what you will find on any tournament table. It is more expensive because it has a tighter weave which creates a smoother playing surface that increases ball speed.

Billiard Cloth Tips & Advice

No matter which cloth you decide to put on your table you need to be aware that it will eventually show signs of use. The most common are small white marks called burns that are a result of heat produced from the friction of striking the billiard ball with the pool cue burning the nylon or polyester content of the cloth. You have probably seen these at your local bar or pool hall, you can see where players have broke from and you see a white line straight to the where the rack of balls would be.

Burns in the billiard cloth are normally harmless and will not affect the playability of the table but over time the burns can start to wear down on the cloth and start creating holes. A way to help prevent theses burns is to use a “break pad”. A break pad is usually a small piece of extra cloth the you would lay your cue ball onto when breaking it will help prevent the burning caused by the friction from the impact of the cue ball being struck by the cue stick during the break.

Whether you decide to go with worsted or napped cloth you need to protect your investment to get the longest life out of your cloth. The most common reason for having to replace your cloth is from spilling drinks onto the table, which can cause the cloth to stiffen and play very inconsistent. There is really no way to clean it so it will have to be replaced. A great option to help prevent this is to treat your cloth with Teflon treatment. Teflon helps protect the cloth by resisting moisture and staining.

pool table lights hanging above pool table

Billiard Table Lights

Now that you have picked out what cloth you will cover your table with the next step is to figure out a lighting source for the table. Things to consider when looking at lighting are what kind of bulbs should you use, how high from the table should the light hang, and how can I get the light to spread evenly across the table.

Do you need a pool table light?

Yes, good lighting is crucial to have a good pool table set up. If you do not have adequate lighting you will see shadows from the balls and the rails which can impact your aiming. The light fixture should be centered above the table and should be focused and bright enough to allow players to see the entire table without glare or distraction.

What kind of lightbulb do I need for a pool table light?

Traditionally most pool table lights that you have seen in homes have been incandescent bulbs for a 3 or 4 bulb lamp bar and lampshades. In pool halls and clubs, you will sometimes see the use of long fluorescent bulbs, but if you are looking for quality lighting though there is now a trend towards LED lighting, which offers a brighter and cleaner light. They also can last much longer and are more energy-efficient than incandescent or fluorescent but they do have a higher upfront price tag. Depending on it your light fixture has a diffuser (a cover to soften the light) you may need to make sure your bulb is frosted.

How far above the pool table should a light hang?

The height of which the table light should hang from the table will largely depend on the size of the table in which you are trying to light, as well as the kind of bulb is used and how many bulbs. Ideally, a light fixture should hang no lower than 40 inches above a table’s playing surface. Just keep in mind that the light is for lighting the table and rails only not for lighting the entire room, so you will have to adjust the light to the correct height for your table. A good rule of thumb for this is the have the bottom of the light fixture lined up to the bottom of your nose. You do this so that the light will be high enough you won’t hit it when your setting up for a shot, but not to high where the light will be blinding you when you are up looking down at the table.

how can I get the light to spread evenly across the pool table and without glare?

This is best achieved by having a diffuser on your light fixture that will soften the light so the light will show up evenly across the table and help prevent glaring of the light on the balls. If you don’t have this you will notice that the table directly under the light will be very bright and darken as the light moves out to the edges of the table.