Buying a pool table can be a crazy experience, especially if you have no idea what to look for. There is information and guides all over the internet for buying a pool table. Each pool table company usually has a guide and it obviously states what their pool table has to offer is what is right. There are many things to consider when buying a pool table and I will try to cover them all with this guide. Hopefully this guide will make you an informed buyer and help you choose the correct pool table for yourself and your family.
How much room will I need? The very first thing you will need to do before you decide on a pool table is measure the room in which you want the pool table. The majority of first time buyers do not realize how much room you really need to accommodate a pool table. Pool tables come in 3 main sizes: 7 foot, 8 foot, and 9 foot. Listed below are the playing surface dimensions of each table size.
7’ – 39” x 78”
8’ – 44” x 88”
9’ – 50” x 100”
The huge thing to remember here is those dimensions are bumper to bumper. Those dimensions do not take into consideration the size of the rail. Rails vary between 4”-6”, so if the table you are looking at has 6” rails then that will add 12” on to the length and width of the table.
The size of the room needed also varies on the size of the cue being used. The standard cue size is 57” in length. All packages that I looked at when buying a pool table comes with this size cue. Other cue sizes are 42”, 48”, and 52”. Listed below are the recommended room sizes for each table and cue size.
42” Cue – 10’9” x 14’
48” Cue – 11’9” x 15’
52” Cue – 12’5” x 15’8”
57” Cue – 13’3” x 16’6”
42” Cue – 11’2” x 14’10”
48” Cue – 12’2” x 15’10”
52” Cue – 12’10” x 16’6”
57” Cue – 13’8” x 17’4”
42” Cue – 11’8” x 15’10”
48” Cue – 12’8” x 16’10”
52” Cue – 13’4” x 17’6”
57” Cue – 14’2” x 18’4”
It is possible to go smaller than the recommended room sizes, you will just need to measure and make sure it will work for your setup. My room size was 12’ x 17’ and I went with an 8’ table. The only time there is any problem is when the cue ball is right up against the rail and that does not happen very often. I have a shorter stick when that situation arises, that is one way to get around having a smaller room.
Deciphering all the table talkSo you have decided that you have enough room for a pool table, now you have to decide what table is right for you. When I was looking for a table I called several installers and got their thoughts and opinions on tables. I knew that by asking a seller of pool tables they would just push their style on me and be biased toward their table. Here is what I found out by talking to installers.
The legs of a table should be solid wood. Other than that there was not to much else anyone said on the legs. It is really up to you on the carving of the leg; just make sure it is solid wood.
This is the part that the legs will attach to and the slate lay on top of. This is where opinions vary a lot between sales people. When searching for a table it the two big styles I saw was solid wood and MDF board. The people that are selling all solid wood tables knock the places that sell cabinets with MDF. Then the companies that sell the tables with MDF try to over justify for MDF over solid wood. Well after I talked to installers they stated it is really up to the customer. They said a pool table with an MDF cabinet holds up just as well as a table with a solid wood cabinet. These days the construction of this material has come a long way since it was first introduced. So what I got from this was that a long time ago solid wood was really the only way to go, but now you can go either way and your table will last a long time as long as it is cared for properly.
The frame can either be tapered or straight, both are of equal strength and stability. I found that some companies will try to say one or the other is more stable. The fact is it is not.
The next thing to look at with the frame is the beams. Good tables will have a center beam running the entire length of the table, and they will also have two cross beams. Some companies state they have double center beams which makes that table better. From the installers I talked to double center beams are just something else to talk about when selling a table. 1 center beam and 2 cross beams are all you need. The most important beams are the 2 cross beams because the weight of the slate and table are distributed from side to side, not front to back.
Slate is probably the single most important part of your table. Slate either comes as 1 piece or 3 pieces. 3 piece slate is the most common. You very rarely see 1 piece slate anymore. 3 piece is the best because it allows for more precise leveling of your table. Slate comes in a couple different sizes: 3/4”, 7/8”, and 1”. 3/4” slate is usually used on inexpensive tables or they will start you at 3/4” then offer upgrades on the slate. 1” slate is the standard and is what you want. 1” slate is what the BCA approves for tournament play. The slate is very heavy each piece of 1” slate is about 150-160 pounds. Slate can either come with a wood backing or without a wood backing. Slate should be attached directly to the frame of the table with screws.
The rails of a pool table should be solid wood. Solid wood plays a part in the way the ball bounces of the rail. So make sure it is solid wood and nothing else. The rail should also be attached to the table by bolts that go up thru the frame, then the slate, then to the rail. This allows the rail to be as tight as possible for the best response of the cushions. The cushions on the rail should be BCA Approved K-66 profile. The rail should also have a tack strip. That is where the staples will go when felting the rail. If it does not have a tack strip then the rail can sit uneven on the slate and make the cushions not have as much bounce or rebound.
Pockets can be leather, plastic or rubber. Plastic pockets are usually used in lower end tables while rubber pockets are usually used in commercial tables. Leather pockets are what the typical home owner will want. Leather pockets can have either a leather shield or a decorative fringe. A shield pocket typically costs more, but there is no benefit in having a shield or fringe pocket. It is your personal preference.
The main parts…So the main parts you really need to look at are the slate, rails and cushions. That is what makes your table. If you compromise quality on those parts then the play of the table will be compromised.
Pool tables are going to require installation. It is not possible to deliver and move around a fully setup table. Before you purchase a table, make sure you can find an installer in your area. Search the yellow pages under billiard services. You can also call local pool table companies and ask them for a recommendation for someone in the area that re-felts tables. Don’t tell them you need a full installation because they might not give you a name and number if you did not purchase a table from them.
I hope this guide helps out some people when they are in the process of looking for a pool table. This is everything I can remember from my buying experience. Check out all the pool tables and choose the one that is right for you.