Do Pool Table Bumpers Go Bad?


Often overlooked pieces of equipment on a pool table are the bumpers. But if you’ve ever played on a pool table with low-quality bumpers, you know how much they affect the game. They make bank shots and trick shots possible. In some billiards games, they must be used for every shot. Still, it’s not just low-quality bumpers that can sour a game of pool. Many people who take their pool table out of storage for the first time in a while find themselves asking, Do pool table bumpers go bad?

The answer is yes, pool table bumpers do go bad. Heat, humidity levels, improper storage, and extreme temperatures can all cause bumpers to go bad over time. And there are a few issues, like loose railings, that can make it seem like the bumpers are bad when they’re really not.

Read on to discover how to prevent your bumpers from going bad, and how to test them if they do. 

Note: Pool table bumpers are also called cushions. For the purposes of this article, I’ll be using the terms interchangeably

How The Elements Make Bumpers Go Bad

You’ll often see pool tables set up in garages, backyard sheds, or uninsulated basements. Sometimes you’ll even see them on a back porch or deck. These places are often the only areas with enough room for the large table and the space needed to play comfortably. Unfortunately, the elements can make the cushions go bad prematurely. This is because they’re not made to last in the elements. 

What Are Pool Table Bumpers Made Of?

If you feel the bumpers with your fingers through the cloth, you can probably guess what they’re made of. Rubber. But not just any rubber. Quality bumpers are made from pure gum rubber for long life and a consistent bounce. 

Although rubber is a tough material, it will degrade faster when exposed to the elements and extreme temperatures. To help avoid this, there are a few things you can do. 

How to Keep Your Bumpers From Going Bad

First off, I would advise against placing a pool table outdoors. There’s not much you can do for a table that sits outside all day, even if it’s under an awning and out of the sun. It would be better to keep it in the garage or basement, both of which can afford it some protection. 

For those pool tables in the garage, basement, or shed:

  • Put up some cheap insulation. It will protect the table and will make the space more comfortable. 
  • Install a portable HVAC unit. 
  • Get a dehumidifier for humid climates. 
  • Use a pool table cover.
  • Avoid having food or drinks around the table. 

For those tables in the house or another air-conditioned area:

  • Use a pool table cover when not in use. 
  • Keep food and drinks away from the table. 

Liquid and direct sunlight are enemies of your bumpers when the elements have been dealt with. Luckily, keeping drinks away from the table and using a table cover can ensure a long life for your cushions. 

How Long Should Bumpers Last?

Most pool table bumpers have a lifetime of 10 to 20 years. Top-of-the-line bumpers made from 100% gum rubber can last for 25 years or more with proper care. 

Like everything else, you get what you pay for. Some bumpers are better than others. 

Not All Bumpers Are Created Equal

Pool table manufacturers have been using cheap rubber for years on pool tables. And for most casual players who keep their pool table in a climate-controlled room, they work just fine. But for those who play more than a few times a month, quality cushions are the way to go. 

However, the price tag for some high-quality cushions can be a little daunting. This is why I suggest these Uylin pool table cushions. They’re great for players on a budget who want the most bang for their buck. 

How to Test Your Bumpers

If you’re not sure whether your bumpers are bad, there are a few different tests you can perform to see. However, to make sure the problem is actually your bumpers, I suggest doing this before anything else:

  • Loose rails can trick you into thinking your cushions are bad. Check to see for any give with your hands along the rails. Even the smallest amount of give can affect the ball’s bounceback. You can simply tighten down the railing bolts to remedy this issue. 

The BCA Test

According to the Billiard Congress of America (BCA), you should be able to shoot a cue ball from the head spot to the foot spot (like you’re breaking, but without any balls there). Do this with a firm stroke and aim to keep the ball centered. The ball should travel the full length of the table at least 4 times. 

The Hand Test

You can squeeze the cushions with your fingers to get an idea if they’re good or not. Squeeze them every 2 or 3 inches. You should be able to press them in no more than a quarter of an inch, and no less than an eighth of an inch. They should feel like strong, bouncy rubber. If they feel more like wood than rubber, they’re probably bad. 

Of course, it’s possible for only one cushion to be bad, but it usually follows that the rest of the cushions will be bad before too long. Luckily, most people find that replacing their cushions is fairly easy with the help of YouTube and other resources on the internet. 

YouTube video

In Conclusion

Cushions are like anything else: they can go bad when not taken care of properly. Extreme temperatures, fluctuations in humidity, and direct exposure to the elements can all cause bumpers to go bad prematurely. The best bumpers should last 25 years or more in the right conditions, whereas others are inferior from the get-go.

It’s easy to keep your cushions from going bad when you place the pool table in an insulated and temperature-controlled area. Use a pool table cover and keep liquids away from it, and you’ll enjoy bouncy cushions for a long time to come.

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