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Restaurant Table Tops: Marble, Metal & More!

metal restaurant table tops with places laid ready for diners

Even though wooden table tops are incredibly popular for restaurant spaces there are plenty of other materials to choose from. Some are even more hard wearing but less attractive, while others are arguably more beautiful than wood but brittle or easily tarnished. Here's a quick run down of all your restaurant table top options other than wood.

solid core laminate and edge profilesSolid Core Laminate Table Tops 

Solid Core Laminate, also known as HPL (High Pressure Laminate) or Compact Laminate is made from layers of cellulose fibrous material (normally paper) impregnated with thermosetting resins and bonded together in a high pressure process. Resulting in a tough and slim - often only 10 or 12mm thick material, that is resistant to cleaning products, scratches, heat and impact. Edges are typically straight, rounded or chamfered (which gives them an even sleeker appearance). Available in a wide palate of colours and effects, however, the core is always black or brown, but could be white if the top is also white.

Because of the toughness of these tops, it is not easy to screw into, you either have to include fixing plate or inserts to allow fitting to bases. Solid core laminate tops are particularly popular outside, as they can stand up to the elements.

CompactMel

Is a very similar top to Solid Core Laminate (aka HPL / Compact Laminate). The only obvious differences are that it is 100% recyclable and therefore more environmentally friendly.  Made from wood fibres which eliminates the need for fixing plates or inserts, to allow fitting to bases. However, it is available in limited colours, which can be restrictive and not recommended for outdoor use.

werzalit topaliteWerzalit Table Tops

Is a trade name for tops that have a composite wood and resin core (looking like chipboard) with a melamine wrapping. They come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and finishes. They are particularly popular outdoors, being fully waterproof. They are produced in their masses and stocked in set sizes and cannot be customized or fabricated from a sheet to size.

marble table tops in a restaurant

Stone, Stone-effect and Concrete Table Tops

Stone tops are available in a wide range of shapes and sizes, often cut to a specified size. There is also a range of edge profiles available. Marble and granite are the most popular stone tops, with granite the more durable and practical of the two, but less visually appealing. Marble is more attractive but far more expensive and is brittle. As with any natural material, appearance can change considerably, particularly in some marbles.

Stone tops are heavy and noisy and can be surprisingly fragile – the corners of square tables are particularly prone to chipping and ‘sharp’ edges will be damaged more easily than rounded edges. 20mm thick is the standard size.

Edge profiles for stone

diagram of table top edge profiles for stone and marble

Natural stone and concrete tops are porous, so need to be correctly sealed or lacquered. Surfaces may also need to be sanded pre-application. This will avoid stains and ‘yellowing’. Due to their alkaline nature they are particularly susceptible to staining from acids such as wine, cleaning products & tea. It’s also advisable to use fully glazed plates or stone tables will scratch.

Particular care has to be taken with fixing stone tops to table bases. Fixing plates are needed, and need to be correctly specified for thickness , depth and water-resistance. For more info marble table tops specifically read our blog: Everything You Need To Know About Marble Table Tops

Increasingly, stone-effect tops are being specified (including Corian). They are not porous, are easy to work, robust and available in a wide range of finishes. You can read more about stone-effect tops here.

Terrazzo table tops

Terrazzo is made from around 70% marble chips, set in roughly 30% cement. Terrazzo is not a new material however terrazzo table tops are relatively new on the market and it remains to be seen exactly how suitable they are for contract use. terrazzo-colours

Terrazzo table tops tend to be cheaper than more expensive marble tops like Arabescato but of a similar price to Carrara marble. As terrazzo is mostly composed of marble chippings it behaves in much the same way as a marble table top. However, if comparing the two in a testing environment, marble would fare better, and resist damage at greater weights because the concrete that the terrazzo is set in is softer and marble is a denser material overall.

Max Top Size Possible

Max sheet size is 3000x1200mm, making max top size 3000x1200mm or 1200mm dia round. 70cmx60cm tops would make for an efficient size and price.

Learn more about specifying terrazzo in our guide: Two Golden Rules for Specifying Terrazzo Table Tops.

Metal Table Tops

Metal tops tend to be a sheet of metal wrapped around a core of MDF, plywood or chipboard and bonded with glue. The layer of sheet may be between 0.5 and 2mm and the thickness varying depending on the thickness of the core that is specified.

The most popular metals for table tops are aluminium, copper, zinc, brass and stainless steel.  These tops are made to order and the shape, size and finish can be customised entirely. Some of the most popular finishes are Natural, Mirror-Polished, Patina (Aged or Bronzed), Hand-Beaten or Verdigris – as shown below.

Note, no two tops will be identical, patinas are all hand applied chemicals and acids making each piece unique and an artistic licence to each particular factory. The pattern and shade can vary, any samples provided are only a guide to the finished product (except for Verdigris which is machined finish).

zinc brass metal finishes

All metal tops are fabricated from 2 sheet sizes: Brass & Copper - 3000x1000mm or 2500x1200mm & Zinc – 3000x1100mm. This limits the size of top that can be created. Anything over these sizes will require joining sheets and having a visible seam on the top, as shown below:

metal table tops with join

Max Top Size Possible Without Seam (Wrapped Tops assuming 30mm Thick):

Brass and Copper

  • Round – 1100mm dia
  • Square – 1100x1100mm
  • Rectangular 2900x900 or 2400x1100mm

Zinc

  • Round – 1000mm dia
  • Square – 1000x1000mm
  • Rectangular 2900x1000

Max Top Size Possible Without Seam (Trim Edged Tops – assuming 30mm Thick):

Brass and Copper

  • Round – 1200mm dia
  • Square – 1200x1200mm
  • Rectangular 3000x1000 or 2500x1200mm

Zinc

  • Round – 1100mm dia
  • Square – 1100x1100mm
  • Rectangular 3000x1100mm

Unlimited by sheet size is the very laborious Patchwork table top, which requires the joining of several sheets and hammering many rivets to fix in place before edging.

Types Of Edging:

There are only 2 types of edge profiles to metal wrapped tops, Straight or Bullnose.  Trim and Band edging is applied when sheets are not large enough to wrap (join seam) or as preference.

types of metal edging

Rivets, studs and screws

Rivets, studs and counter sunk screws are necessary to holding trim edge in place, however, they are usually added to create a decorative feature on all metal table tops (examples below). They are all available in many finishes and sizes and the location /distance between each fixing can be specified to the users preference.

Patchwork table top

Patchwork table top

Patchwork table top

Patchwork table top

Rivets on metal top

Rivets on metal top

patterned-rivets-on-metal-table-top

Patterned rivets on metal top

Rivets on metal top

Rivets on metal top

Rivets on metal top

Rivets on metal top

Domed studs for metal tables

Domed-studs-for-metal-table-tops.jpg

Metal can also be used as a decorative edge on marble, timber, and laminate table tops. Refer to our blog Wooden Table Tops – Edge Profile (Other Edging) and read why you should Never Apply Metal Edging to Solid Wood.

Metal table surface finishes: Waxed or lacquered? 

The surface finish on metals such as brass, zinc and copper, can be either waxed or lacquered.  Both presenting their-own advantages and disadvantages, as shown below:

Note: Lacquer can only be applied to flat surfaces and will exclude the below:

  • Patchwork tops – the top surface can be lacquered but not the edge or nails.
  • Band or Trim edging
  • Mirrored and Hand Beaten tops are kept natural, nothing is applied to them as Brasso can be applied to polish them up.

metal table top stain test resultsThe left image shows the waxed finish, the right the lacquered

Both surfaces stain and there is no way of preventing this, however, lacquer does seem to offer more protection and a slower rate of patination. To learn more, view the full results of our metal table top tests.


waxed vs lacquered table of pros and consMetal table tops such as Brass, Copper, Zinc and Aluminium are non Ferrous metals (contain no iron), and therefore suitable for outdoor use, with either waxed or lacquered finish.  The most important thing to remember when using metal tops outdoors, is that they will get hot in direct sunlight and may be uncomfortable to use.  Also, the core needs to be made from Marine Ply and is not glued to the metal as when the metal heats it will cause movement.

Glass Table Tops

Glass tops are available in a wide range of finishes, shapes and sizes, but are rarely used for dining table tops, being vulnerable to damage and noisy. Metal bases can be glue-bonded to the underside of glass table tops.

Marmoleum Table Tops

Marmoleum (like linoleum or lino) is a rugged floor covering made from natural materials. It is available in a wide palette of finishes and colours and can be used for table tops, much like a laminate surface. Its colour runs the whole way through it, but its depth of a few mm’s mean that its edges are usually protected by an edging strip; hardwood edges in particular work well. This material is also available in a ‘self-healing’ variety.

Upholstered Table Tops

Table tops upholstered with a thick, soft layer are specified for fine dining and are covered by a table cloth. They give the surface a more luxuriant, VIP feel and help stop tablecloths slipping as well as improving the acoustics in the venue. In restaurants where the acoustics are a particular issue, felt sheets can also be added to the underneath of the table tops, to assist absorbing some of the sound. Usually, these tops consist of an MDF core with a faux leather or Bulgomme wrapping (image below).

bulgomme table top

Table Edges

Table tops can be edged in many different ways (other than using wooden edges). For some tops, edging is not needed, not least if the core is laminated (the strips of laminate can be attractive). Lamination is better on deeper edges, as if it is glued it will come off if there is insufficient surface area for the glue.

Edge strips are available in coloured PVC or black buffering, and metal edges are also popular. Metal will expand and contract, so will tend to slightly pull away from the surface it surrounds, so great care has to be taken to fix them correctly.

For laminated table tops, if the edge is to be a feature, the top of the table is fixed before the edge, otherwise the edge of the table is fixed first, followed by the laminate. Get a full guide to table top edge profiles here.

Further table top reading

Download our hospitality furniture guide for more images of table top styles or visit our showroom in Hammersmith which has hundreds of different samples and swatches available for you to view. Please get in touch with our friendly and helpful team by calling freephone 0800 8494 135.

Alternatively, download our Hospitality Furniture Knowlege book and learn pros and cons of furniture materials, current style trends and tips and tricks of the trade.

Topics: Tables, Furniture knowledge

By Paula Stanbridge-Faircloth Paula Stanbridge-Faircloth on 30/10/17 11:58
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