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What Top? Types of Wooden Table Tops

wooden table tops in Drake & Morgan's Devonshire Terrace

We love wooden table tops - they are robust, last for ages, look better with a bit of wear and can be made to match pretty much any interior design scheme. Solid wooden tops are warm, wear well and may be re-sanded to remove the wear and tear marks. This is our guide to most common types of wooden table tops.

Wooden table top materials

Character oak wood table top

Oak

Oak has an attractive grain that comes in two types:

  • European Oak with few if any knots and available in 25mm or 32mm thickness.
  • Character Oak with more knots and splits which are supplied filled for practical reasons. Character Oak is around 20% more expensive and only really available 32mm thick. (Character oak pictured here.)
ash wood table top

Ash

Around 20% cheaper than oak, ash is a great alternative with good grain detail, but often stained (to mimic other woods) rather than used in its natural state. Ash is also more sustainable than oak because it produces a high quality and durable timber from fast growth.

beech-wood-table-top

Beech

Inexpensive, but can be unstable and bland relative to the alternatives. Young beech is also not as stable as ash or other alternatives.

iroko wood table top

Robinia & Iroko

Hardwoods suitable for outdoor use, often in a slatted form with gaps. Now also being used more widely indoors. (Iroko pictured).
teak wood table top

Teak

Was widely used for outdoor furniture but Teak trees are now better protected so Teak table tops have become rare.
walnut wood table top

Walnut

A rich deep brown, with character, but usually prohibitively expensive. Because the history of the reclaimed timber is unknown, they do have the tendency to split.

Reclaimed Timber

Typically from scaffolding boards, giving a random mismatch of colours. Because the history of the reclaimed timber is unknown, they do have the tendency to split.

scaffold board table top from reclaimed wood and picture of split

Veneered Tops

A veneer is a thin layer of wood glued to a cheaper wooden core. It is typically half the cost of a solid wood alternative. 
A wide range of wood-veneers are available and can be laid at different angles creating interesting patterns or just straight.

veneered table tops with patterns

Thickness

Wooden tops, usually come in the following thicknesses, although other thicknesses can be supplied. In our experience 32mm is the perfect thickness for hospitality settings.

diagram showing different thicknesses of wooden table tops

Battens

Solid timber tops tend, by nature, to move and react to temperatures around them. To prevent this movement and tops from warping or splitting, wooden battens are applied to the underneath of the tops. This is not necessary on generated timbers such as MDF, Chipboard, Ply.

battens on wooden table tops

Battens installed underneath different table tops

warped table top and split table top

The left image shows a warped table top, the right a split table top.

Floor Boards and Engineered Flooring:

Floor and engineered boards look identical to solid wood and are now commonly used to make table tops. They are an alternative to veneer and generally the preferred option for heavily used tops, as the material is thicker (15mm–20mm) than veneer (0.6mm–2mm); which means it can be sanded back and reused if need.  The only difference between the two is how they react, floor boards are made from solid wood cut to single pieces of timber and can react to moisture or heat, where engineered boards are made from several layers of wood pressed together and therefore tougher and more durable.

Laminate Tops

Laminate literally means layered. A laminate is a sheet material glued to a cheaper, wooden core. What appears to be a single layer is actually a number of even thinner layers of which one is the colour or pattern. Laminate tops are available vast ranges by various suppliers. Suppliers include: Polyrey, Formica & Egger.wooden table tops - laminates diagram

Pros and Cons of Using Laminates & Veneers

Laminates and veneers tend to give a smoother finish and are less likely to split than solid wood as they do not warp. This also makes them an ideal option for adding metal edging. Note that as laminates are produced in sheets there will be size restrictions or joining lines for large table tops.

The core of a laminated or veneered table top can be MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard), plywood or chipboard. Chipboard is the least satisfactory option, as it’s a poor fix for screws connecting the top to the base and should be avoided for this reason. It may also be worth considering moisture resistanant MDF for outdoor purposes as MDF will expand when wet; even indoor tables are susceptible to moisture through the edges.

Table Top Heights

Always consider the total height of a table which has to combine the height of the base and the thickness of the top. In extreme circumstances the central underside of wooden tops can be routed to reduce this height, however, typically table bases are cut down to achieve the required overall height. See our blog on table heights for more information.

Max Table Top Size

Solid timber tops can be made up to 3600 x 1600mm in size, but more often than not, it is not be possible to get a top of this size on to site.  For this reason and the sheer weight of the material, large table tops are manufacture in two sections, which can be joined together on site given the appearance of one top.

Example of How Two Sections of  a Table Can Be Joined To Make One

dog and bone connector for joining tables

Dog and Bone Connector

Laminate tops can be made up to 3000 x 1200mm in size, depending on the core material, some of the core material is only available as 2440 x 1220mm boards so the max size would be 2400 x 1200mm.

It’s important to note, when 2 pieces are joined together, there will always be a visible joining line and veneers/patterns will not always meet or match 100%.

Finishes

There are many ways to finish solid wood tops; simple seals and lacquers are most popular, but you can also choose from a long list of unusual finishes. These include distressing, scorching, band-sawing, liming and sand-blasting.  Read our blog on table top effects for more.

Table Bases

Solid wood tops can be fitted to most bases, but as many solid wood table tops require reinforcing strips underneath (these can be visible, particularly on smaller tables) the base must be considered when tops are specified. Read our blog on table bases here.

Outdoor Wooden Table Tops

Solid wood is a good material for table tops for outdoor use - as long as the tops are manufactured for this use, and we recommend slatted tops for outdoor use to allow water to drain . Traditionally, outdoor furniture was often made of teak, but this is getting harder to responsibly source and therefore is going up in price. Alternatives include less-well known hardwoods such as Robina and Iroko. Outdoor solid wood tops require regular oiling and even then may weather, usually to a grey colour. Learn more about outdoor furniture here.

Make better, quicker, decisions by viewing wooden table tops in person

We have many solid wood table tops and samples on display at our Hammersmith furniture showroom. Please get in touch with our friendly and helpful team by calling freephone 0800 8494 135. Alternatively, if you're looking for more information about tables but don't want to speak to us direct, simply 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 01/08/17 10:58
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