How to Tell If a Pool Table Is Slate: 5 Things to Check

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Last updatedLast updated: June 09, 2021
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There is a wide range of pool tables on the market, from affordable pool tables to the more expensive, professional models. There are also several brands to choose from, giving you a huge selection of pool tables to consider if you want to get one for your home game room. Though you should look at all of the features on the tables you’re looking at, one of the most important is what the play area is made of, which will be either slate or wood.

Not everyone knows how to tell if a pool table is slate or wood, though, so it is a good idea to learn the difference between these two before you pick your new table. Luckily, there are a few different ways to determine which one is used, without taking the table apart to peek under the felt. Once you learn the differences between these two options, you’ll be able to tell which one of these materials is used on any pool table you come across.

Slate or wood?

Before discussing the differences between slate and wood for pool tables, it is a good idea to first learn what each of these materials is and why they are used. Slate is the most common material used for the playing surfaces of pool tables for a few reasons.

First of all, slate is a type of rock that has been cut carefully to create a smooth, flat surface. The slate used on pool tables is usually ¾ to 1-inch thick, depending on the size of the table. Older models will likely have slate for the playing surface since this is the more traditional option. Slate can also be one solid piece or cut into three pieces that are fitted together to form the smooth surface.

The wood used in pool tables is usually Medium-Density Fiberboard or MDF, which is created by compressing small wood fibers together to form a flat piece. Though this still makes a decent playing surface, wood is more likely to warp if spills happen on your pool table, so it is best treated with a great amount of care. It does still have its place, depending on what you’re looking for in a pool table.

Weight

If you’re trying to decide whether a pool table uses slate or wood, one of the best ways to do so is to check out the weight of it. Slate is extremely heavy, which you may have noticed if you’ve ever had to move any of the Olhausen pool tables. All of their pool tables, including the Olhausen Billiards 8 ft Belmont Pool Table, use slate for the playing area. This makes them difficult to move without a few extra hands to help you lift them.

How to Tell If a Pool Table Is Slate: 5 Things to Check

So, how heavy is pool table slate? Well, the full surface of the table, whether in one or three pieces, usually weighs about 450 pounds in total. As well as the heavy slate, the materials needed to support this material also add to the pool table’s weight. A heavy-duty wood frame combined with thick, strong legs and heavy slate can result in tables weighing anywhere from 650 to 1000 pounds.

The pool tables that use MDF for their playing surface, which is used on a few of the Mizerak pool tables on the market, are much lighter than the slate models. Not only does the wood playing surface weigh less than slate, but they also don’t need as heavy materials for support, which reduces the overall weight of the pool table significantly. You can find a decent wood table that’s under 300 pounds, with some weighing only half or a third of that.

Touch

You’ve likely touched both stone and wood at some point in your life, so you know that stone tends to be cool, hard, and smooth while wood is dense and a bit rough. The same goes for the slate and MDF materials used for a pool table playing area.

Of course, it is hard to find a place that allows you to touch this area since it is covered with felt and surrounded by the rails of the pool table. There is one area that you may be able to access this material, though, which is the pockets. If you reach into one of them and find the edge of the cloth covering the playing area, you may be able to feel what’s beneath it. Anything cold and hard will be a slate table while a dense material will be the MDF.

Cost

If you’re walking around a pool table showroom, you don’t even need to lift or touch the pool tables to know if they are slate or wood. This also helps when shopping online since not every site displays all the necessary features in its descriptions. For these instances, the best way to know which material is used for the pool table is to look at the price tag. Good slate pool tables will cost between $1800 and $3000, so even these cheaper models are rather pricey and likely out of some budgets.

MDF tables are much more budget-friendly since they are priced at about $1500 for the high-end tables but can also be purchased for half of that or less if you are willing to sacrifice a bit on the features to save some money. Of course, if you want a long-lasting table, cheaper isn’t usually the best option, so a slate table or a more expensive MDF model will be a better choice.

Gameplay

How to Tell If a Pool Table Is Slate: 5 Things to Check

Anyone picking up a pool cue for the first time likely won’t know the difference between a slate pool table and a wood one but professionals have the experience needed to determine the material from the way the balls roll on the table during a game.

When you take a shot on a slate table, no matter how much power you put into it, the balls seem to roll more smoothly across the surface. Balls also seem to go farther with more powerful shots on a slate table when compared to an identical shot on a wood table.

This is likely because slate is a much smoother surface than wood, due to the parallel grains in the rock. Wood grains are irregular, expecially when you consider that the MDF is formed wood. Though the differences are subtle and likely unnoticeable to the untrained eye, those who know what to look for will choose a slate table every time.

Look

Though you may not usually choose to get down on your hands and knees and crawl around on the floor, if you want to see the material that is used, this is the only way to do it. Once on the ground, you can look beneath the table to see which one it is.

Slate and wood are different colors, so this is the best way to tell. Slate is gray, varying from light to dark, depending on the pool table. MDF is colored light brown, so even with minimal lighting, you should be able to distinguish one material from the other. You can also reach up and touch them if you’re already beneath the table, feeling the material used to help you figure this out.

1-piece or 3-piece slate?

Pool tables that use wood for the playing area will use one solid piece for this. When it comes to slate, there could be a solid piece or it could be three pieces that fit together to form the smooth playing surface of the pool table, like what is used for the Mizerak Donovan II 8-foot Billiard Table. So, how do you tell if a pool table is 3-piece slate?

The first thing to do when checking out the slate in the pool table is to position yourself next to the center pocket. Slide your finger to the left of this pocket until it is centered between the two markers on the rail. Look beneath the table at this spot.

If there is a visible seam or gap in the slate here, this tells you that there are 3 pieces of it used to make the playing surface of the table. If there are no visible gaps, then it is a 1-piece slate pool table. 1-piece models also include 2 solid leg panels beneath the table instead of 4 corner legs for extra support for the solid slate piece.

Final thoughts

With so many different types and styles available, you may not know how to tell if a pool table is slate or wood. Not every brand or website is overly forthcoming with its product descriptions, so it can be hard to figure out if you don’t know what to look for. Luckily, there are several ways to determine which is which, as long as you know what to look for.

Slate tables are heavier, more expensive, gray in color, and offer smoother gameplay, while MDF tables are light brown, with a low cost and higher portability. Though more advanced players may prefer the slate models, the wood ones do have their place, so be sure to consider what each one has to offer before choosing one for your home.