Pool Table Buyers Guide

Our buyers guide is designed to help you define the quality of any pool table. Knowing what to look for before you buy is the best way to make the right decisions. When considering buying a used or pre-owned pool table, we have 5 points of concern we would like to show you that will help you save money immediately.

5-Point Inspection
(Cloth, pockets, slate, cabinet and cushions)

Billiard Table Cloth “Felt”
There are many types of billiard cloth on the market. The majority of what you are going to see is recognized as the standard. This is usually a 21 oz. weight and is a wool-blended material. This material is easy to see as it has a “nap” to it. You can feel this as a “fuzzy” material when you rub it with your palm.
The second material that is seen on pool tables is a worsted material. This is growing in popularity as it plays more consistently, is easier to clean and is generally more durable than a standard cloth.

Now that you know a little about billiard cloth, learn what to look for in billiard cloth when buying a used or pre-owned pool table.
A few of the signs to look out for are easy to find. First you should inspect the play surface. Look for cleanliness and holes in the surface. If the billiard cloth you are looking at has any kind of hole in it, you should consider replacing it to improve the playability you would have when the table is installed in your home.

Can the cloth be reused? Installation error is one of the biggest problems you will see. Wrinkles are no big deal as they can usually be fixed at minimal cost. However if you look into the edge of the pockets and see anything other than a smooth surface, you should count on needing to replace the cloth, as it is very difficult for an installer to re-stretch the cloth enough to install it properly in the pockets.

The last thing to consider is the age of the cloth. Ask the seller of the billiard table how old the cloth is. If the cloth is anything older than 3 years, you can save money buy recovering the table when it is moved or set-up as most service companies will give you a break in their labor fees when you combine 2 jobs on the same service trip. If the cloth is anything older than 5 years, it needs to be replaced. Billiard cloth deteriorates as it ages. It is likely to tear when a table mechanic attempts to re-stretch it. If this happens you will more than likely be charged for an additional trip to get new cloth, and you will have to take more time to get the job done.

Billiard Table Pockets
There are many types of pockets on pool tables. Generally speaking, there are 2 types of pockets on pool tables. The first found mostly on “recreational style” tables is called a drop pocket. These are also found high end commercial tables so do not walk up to drop pocket and consider it as being cheap or of a lesser value. A drop pocket is surrounded the rails to enclose the pocket. These pockets are nailed or bolted into the rails to hold them in place. Usually quite indestructible there is not much to consider when looking at this style of pocket.

The areas of concern are the top rim to make sure it is not torn or becoming brittle. The front edge of the pocket, right next to the cushion, is usually cut by the original installer to make sure it fits the table correctly. Inspect this area to make sure it is to your liking. If not, these will need to be replaced. Generally $50 - $75 will cover the cost of this type of pocket unless the pockets you are looking at are on a higher end commercial table.

The second type of pocket is found on most styles of billiard table. This style pocket forms the top corner of the rails and are generally made of leather with an iron casting that runs through the pocket. This type of pocket is found on the most common type of pool tables. These tables are called “furniture style” for their wooden make with stain and carvings.

Inspect the top of the pocket to make sure the leather is soft. If you see scratches or rubs in the leather you may consider replacing these. You can partially repair a scratched pocket with shoe polish of the same color but the repair is rarely perfect.

The second thing to look at is the webbing to make sure they are not torn. If they are you might have to replace the pockets depending on the location of the tear. Tears in this type of pocket’s webbing will usually result in losing its ability to hold pool balls.

The third thing to inspect is the iron. You want to gently pull on the center of each pocket to make sure the iron is not broken. If the pocket moves when you give it a quick tug the bolts have probably loosened up. This is common to see on pool tables with this type of pocket and should not cost anything to tighten up. However if the center of the pocket collapses when you tug on it, the iron is broken. The cost to repair this type of pocket varies. Generally, you can count on $300 to $400 to replace the set.

Billiard Table Slate
There are many types of slate provided by pool table manufacturers. Chinese, Brazilian and Italian slate, are most commonly used. Regardless of where the slate comes from the purpose of using slate on a pool table is for flatness, rigidity and weight. Optimally you want to see the industry standard 1-inch thickness with a ¾ inch backing of wood, particleboard or MDF.

Slate is difficult to fully inspect without taking apart the pool table you are looking at. With that information given, the most practical way to inspect the slate is to look at it from underneath the pool table. When you look up at it, you should see a gray material. If you do not see gray, chances are you are not looking at a slate surfaced pool table. You want to feel the slate with your fingertips. If you feel any sharp edges on the flat surface under the slate you may have found a crack. Look closely at this to inspect what you are feeling.

Occasionally you might find a marble vein that you can feel. These are easily seen as white lines running through the gray slate. These are not optimal to have but usually do not effect play. If you feel a sharp edge count on needing to have the table taken apart for further inspection. Cracked slate is rare if a pool table has been treated properly but is worthy of checking for. Slate is costly to replace and is not easily repaired to factory specs. If you find this problem you are better off looking at another table.

Billiard Table Cabinetry
There are many different materials that pool table cabinets are made of. Each of the materials are intended for suiting different customers needs. As an example, if you are looking for a family heirloom, you want to buy a hardwood cabinet. This information is getting harder to discover. May manufacturers have found ways to conceal the fact that they are using MDF, plywood or particleboard. Looking at the edges is a good way to learn what you are looking at.

To inspect the type of material you are looking at, it is best for you to look at the bottom edge of the cabinet. When looking at the edge you should not see layers or multiple lines running through the material. This would indicate that you are looking at a material other than solid hardwood. Manufacturers will often use cross-grained plywood to build their cabinets. This is a pretty good material to use but it is not considered an hierloom product.

Next inspect the sides of the cabinet for scratches, nicks and cracks. Cracks are not an easy fix but scratches or nicks in the wood can be fixed at a fairly low cost if they are minor. In many areas they can fixed for roughly $50 to $100 per scratch. It is safe to say that you should not buy a pool table with a cracked cabinet. Cracks may create a structural flaw that may prove the table to be unstable.

Legs are another area to inspect. Look at them closely for cracks. The nature of a carved pool table leg makes finding water damage very easy. A water-damaged leg will usually split wide open. Very small lines can be seen and felt on most pool table legs. Usually this is nothing to worry about.

Stability is also something worthy of checking on. Give the table a slight but quick nudge with your hip. A table that is lacking quality cabinetry or contains one or more broken supporting structures will have a wobble when bumped into. It is probably not going to fall over. However, it might not be able to be perfectly leveled and stay that way. Closer inspection of the structure might be needed to discover the problem. A table that contains metal brackets will almost always have this problem. Very few manufacturers will use a type of metal that is strong enough to keep a heavy pool table perfectly stable.

Billiard Table Cushions
Just as in the cabinetry, pool table cushions are made of different materials. Most cushions on pool tables that have been made since 2005 will probably outlast the pool table and are of not much concern. You do need to know a few things that are important to check for. Using your palm, gently push down on the end of the cushion towards the table’s play surface. If it moves they have probably come unglued. This situation requires re-cushioning the table. Usually done at a cost ranging from $250 to $400. Important know, when you re-cushion a pool table you have to recover it as well. The cost for this ranges from $250 to $500 depending on table size and material used.

On an older table check the rebound of the cushion. They should rebound consistently with the next. To check the speed of the cushions, roll the ball firmly at the opposing cushion. You want the ball to roll at least 2 ½ lengths of the table. The same rule applies for the tables roll from side to side. If you see any failure in either of the areas concerning cushion speed, you should consider re-cushioning the pool table.

CBS highly recommends you to hire our professional service if you feel the need to inspect a pool table further than our 5-point inspection.