Most of us don’t give much thought to how pool tables are constructed – we’re too busy practicing and playing on them. But when it comes time to move one, we quickly realize just how heavy and bulky they are. That’s when we start looking for any possible ways to make the table smaller (and lighter). Whether you’re buying or selling a pool table, moving your table to a different room or a new house, or you simply want to know what makes them so sturdy, you’ve probably wondered, “Do pool tables come apart?”
Yes, pool tables do come apart – but not as easily as you might think. Pool tables are designed to be sturdy, durable, precise, and long-lasting, so their individual components are fixed quite firmly in place. However, with careful attention, knowledge, and the right tools, a pool table can be disassembled and reassembled in a few hours.
Types of Pool Tables
Some pool tables are a little easier to take apart than others. This is primarily due to certain design features, but also has to do with the table’s intended use. For instance, certain types of tables are not meant to be taken apart, as they’re more cheaply made and considered “disposable” – meaning you’re better off buying another one than going through the trouble of taking it apart.
Here’s a rundown of the basic types of pool tables and why some present more of a challenge in terms of disassembly and transportation.
Three-Piece Slate Table
This is the most common type of pool table, and dismantling one is no small task. The playing surface is made up of three separate slate rock tablets glued to a wooden backing frame. The slate sections are typically ¾” to 1” thick and each one can weigh as much as 250 lbs.
One-Piece Slate Table
Not as common as three-piece slate tables, these feature one single slate slab as the playing surface. Professional 9-foot tables feature 1” slate or thicker, which makes for an absurdly heavy slab – often upwards of 800 lbs. The immense size and heft of the slate bed make these tables significantly more difficult to take apart and move than their three-piece counterparts. Luckily these one-piece slate tables are increasingly rare and are most often commercial pool tables.
Some smaller, less expensive pool tables have a playing surface made of wood, most typically MDF (medium-density fiberboard). These are not usually designed to be thoroughly disassembled the way slate tables are. Fortunately, MDF tables are not nearly as heavy. With the help of extra muscle, they can usually be moved in one piece or after removing only the legs. This Mizerak Dynasty 6.5’ is a perfect example of such a table.
Some models even have foldable legs for portability, like this Rack Drogon 5.5’ Table.
Mechanical/Coin Operated Table
These kinds of tables are commonly found in bars and pool halls. Most feature a one-piece slate bed as their playing surface, but there’s a distinction here worth mentioning. Instead of simple leather pockets, these tables have complicated ball return systems to deliver the balls to the foot of the table.
Attempting to dismantle and reassemble a ball return assembly is a recipe for trouble. The likelihood of damaging the pieces or altering their calibration is very high, which is why these kinds of tables should only be taken apart by a professional. After all, few things are more frustrating than a stuck ball!
However, some coin-op tables can be propped on their side and transported fairly easily using a furniture dolly – after the legs are removed.
How Long Does it Take to Disassemble a Pool Table?
Disassembling anything is usually much easier than reassembling. The same can be said for pool tables. However, to do it right, it can take a little while. If you’ve disassembled a pool table before, I would set aside 2 to 2 ½ hours to be on the safe side. If you have the owner’s manual for the table, it should tell you how best to do it. If not, you’ll have to rely on YouTube or other online guides, like this one.
If you’ve done it before, you can probably take it apart in an hour. However, this depends on the kind of table and any features it may have. Taking apart a table with a ball return system can complicate things, adding as much as an hour to disassembly.
The same can be said for a coin-operated table or other types of commercial tables that are particularly heavy-duty. But, for most residential pool tables, it shouldn’t take more than 2 hours or so.
What Tools Are Needed to Disassemble a Pool Table?
The tools you’ll need to disassemble a pool table will depend on the type of table you have. Again, if you have it, check with the owner’s manual. Fortunately, most pool tables use similar hardware on assembly, so you should be able to manage with the following:
- A power drill with different bits or a selection of different screwdrivers.
- Needle nose pliers
- Staple remover.
- Socket wrench set.
- Plastic bags in which to place the hardware.
- Allen wrench set.
- Sheers or a cutting tool.
- A black marker to label the different pieces for easy reassembly.
These may vary depending on the pool table, but these should do it for most tables. If you’re moving the table to a new location, you may need some additional supplies like moving blankets to protect the slate and a carpenter’s level getting the slate level upon reassembly.
How To Take Apart a Pool Table
If you can find manufacturer instructions for disassembling and reassembling your specific pool table, simply follow those to the letter. But I know we aren’t always so lucky, so below you’ll find the basic guidelines for taking apart a slate pool table. It may seem like a daunting and tedious task, but it certainly beats a hernia or wrenched back.
Step 1: Remove the Pockets and Rails
Starting at the head of the table (where you break from) and working your way around, use a socket wrench to undo and remove the rail bolts underneath the table. As you come to each pocket, take out the staples or screws that are holding it to the rail.
Place all the hardware from the rails into one clearly-labeled bag, and all the hardware from the pockets into another. Close the bags tightly to ensure no pieces are lost.
Using a removable label such as masking tape, label each rail and pocket according to its position. For example, “head right pocket,” “foot rail,” “left foot rail,” and so on – whatever keeps you from getting confused. Remove the loose rails and pockets, being careful not to damage them.
Step 2: Remove the Felt
The felt is usually stapled or glued to the wooden backing underneath the slate. If it’s glued, you may be able to simply peel it back. If it’s stapled, you’ll first need to remove every single staple – there will be quite a few.
You can then peel the felt off the slab. If you intend to reuse the felt, be very careful not to stretch or rip it as you pull it off, then gently fold it and set it aside. If you plan to have the table re-felted, just tear it off – but be careful not to be too rough with the slate.
Step 3: Remove the Slate
If the table has a three-piece slate top, label each piece with a permanent marker.
Next, locate the screws. They’re usually covered with wax or putty to make the slate perfectly smooth. This can easily be removed with a flathead screwdriver. Using a screwdriver or electric drill, remove the screws.
Carefully slide the slate pieces apart, being careful to avoid gouging or chipping the slate. The pieces will typically be stuck together with a thin layer of putty, but they should separate with little effort. With the help of a friend (or 2 or 3), remove the pieces and wrap them in moving blankets or another type of protective padding.
Once the above steps have been completed, all that’s left will be the basic frame, which consists of the aprons, crossbeams, and legs. If you need to break it down even further, just keep going with that socket wrench – the bolts should be visible and accessible.
Be sure to label everything, however, and keep the hardware from each component together in designated sealed bags. It’s also a good idea to take pictures of everything during each step of the process, for reference.
Reassembling the table is essentially just repeating the process in reverse. However, you’ll also need to reapply putty between the slate pieces and over the slate screws, along with re-leveling the table both before and after the felt and rails are re-installed.
Taking apart a pool table is no small task. Taking the DIY approach can be rewarding, but it always comes with an increased risk of damaging the table or compromising its functionality.
If you’re thinking about breaking down your pool table (with the intention of putting it back together again), it’s always better to follow the instructions of the manufacturer. There are also loads of resources and videos out there with detailed instructions.
If you have any doubts whatsoever about your ability to do it safely, however, it’s worth it to hire a professional to take apart, transport, and reassemble your pool table for you.