There are two main types of pool tables out there: Slate and MDF. MDF, which stands for Medium-Density Fiberboard, is the umbrella term for pool tables with playing surfaces made from different kinds of wood. Slate tables, as the name suggests, have playing surfaces (sometimes called beds) made from rock. Any savvy consumer would consider their options when it comes to getting a pool table. When considering between slate and MDF one of the major questions they ask is, “How long do MDF pool tables last?”
Saying exactly how long MDF pool tables last is hard because of the wide range in quality of MDF pool tables. When kept in a temperature and humidity-controlled room, most MDF pool tables usually last between 6 to 8 years. However, when exposed to humidity, MDF pool tables can warp quickly and become unplayable.
The Wide Range of MDF Tables
Just like not all slate pool tables are created equal, not all MDF pool tables are created equal. There are a number of different types of non-slate that all have different properties. While not all of these are technically MDF, most of the pool world lumps non-slate surfaces under the MDF heading. So, let’s talk about the different options on the market.
Medium-density fiberboard is made from a bunch of small wood fibers that are compressed together under pressure and sealed. Unlike particleboard, which is made with large wood chips, MDF comes out smooth, which is why it’s an attractive alternative to slate.
Plus, MDF is relatively cheap. But it has its drawbacks. It’s susceptible to humidity and moisture, making it at risk for warping. It’s also fairly lightweight, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on the table itself. Many people prefer a table heavy enough to lean against without it moving.
Permaslate is made from particleboard covered in layers of plastic. Again, this is used because it’s smooth and the plastic provides some protection against moisture. But, permaslate can still warp if liquid is spilled on it and the particleboard can degrade over time, causing the table to warp.
Honeycomb is a kind of segmented plastic in between two layers of flat plastic to make a smooth surface. People complain that the surface of a honeycomb table isn’t quite as smooth as slate, which affects play. Although not as susceptible to warp as the two options above, honeycomb tables can warp over time.
MDF Pool Table Construction
Now that we’ve covered the playing surface, which is generally the most important part of any pool table, you can see why MDF tables don’t last as long as slate tables. Wood, plastic, or the combination of both don’t come close to outlasting slate rock. But, there are other reasons why MDF pool tables only last 6 to 8 years. One of the big ones is construction.
You see, slate is heavy, whereas MDF (and similar materials) are not. Since slate is heavy, the frame must be made to hold the weight. In other words, they must be sturdy.
Since MDF is so light, it’s not imperative to make the table super sturdy. This is not to say that you can’t find fairly heavy, sturdy MDF tables out there. You can. But the difference in price between a heavy-duty MDF table and a low-end slate table isn’t usually enough for people to go with the MDF. They’ll shell out a couple of hundred more dollars to get a table that will last two decades or more.
That being said, there are some good reasons why people would want an MDF table over a slate one.
Who Are MDF Pool Tables For?
I said above that, like anything else, you get what you pay for in an MDF pool table. However, for some people, that’s not a bad thing. Since MDF tables are fairly cheap (when compared to slate tables) some people are happy to lay down the money for a wood-bed pool table knowing full well they’ll probably only get a couple of good years out of it.
And that’s not the only reason you may want an MDF table. Here are a few more:
You’re Buying the Table for Kids
Maybe your kids have been bugging you about a game room or a pool table, but you don’t want to spend the money on a giant, heavy, slate table. Problem solved. Get a mid-range MDF table. The kids will love it and you’ll save some money while you’re at it. Heck, you could even have some fun messing around on the pool table.
You Plan on Moving
One of the biggest pains when it comes to slate tables is how much they weigh. Those things are heavy! I’m talking 800 to 1200 pounds. Since they’re so darn heavy, they’re a pain in the butt to move. So, I always suggest that people who move a lot get a lightweight MDF table instead. You may have to take off the legs to get it out the door, but you won’t have to pay a professional $300 or more to move it like you would a slate table.
You’re on a Budget
If you’re trying to save some money but you still want a pool table, you may consider getting an MDF table. They’re not quite the investment that slate tables are. Plus, having an MDF pool table is better than not having a table at all!
How to Keep an MDF Pool Table Lasting a Long Time
Now, if you do get an MDF table, you’ll probably want to keep it in good shape for as long as you can. How do you do that? Well, it’s not much different than maintaining a slate pool table. Here’s how you can do it.
Proper MDF Pool Table Care
- Avoid Humidity
- As mentioned briefly at the beginning of this article, you’ll want to avoid humidity and if at all possible. Humidity is every pool table’s worst enemy, but especially MDF tables. So, keep the table in a temperature and humidity-controlled room.
- Keep Food and Drinks Away
- Make sure the food and drinks stay away from the table. The last thing you want is to spill something on it and cause the surface to warp!
- Use a Pool Table Cover
- If your table doesn’t include a pool table cover (like this one), get one and put it on when you’re not using the table. This will work wonders for keeping your table clean, the colors popping, and the balls rolling.
- Clean Regularly
- Along with a cover, you’ll want to utilize a pool table brush and the occasional vacuum on low with a soft-bristled brush.
Can You Still Play on a Warped MDF Pool Table?
Once people know that MDF tables can warp, they often wonder if they can still play on the warped table. The answer is yes, you can, technically, still play pool on a warped table. And for people who simply enjoy hitting balls around, a slightly warped table won’t be that much of a hindrance.
But, for those people who are trying to get better at pool, or those who play in tournaments, a warped table is no good. In order to play on a warped table, you must compensate for the way the balls are affected. In doing so you become used to the specifics of the warped table, which can affect your game when you play on a table that isn’t warped.
So, for kids or those who aren’t too worried about developing their skills as a pool player, a warped table isn’t such a big deal.
But, given enough time, the warping of the table will likely become so bad that playing on the table becomes more trouble than it’s worth. At that point, you’ll probably want to replace the table.
Can You Refelt a MDF Pool Table?
On most pool tables the felt is the first thing that needs replacing. Depending on how much you use the table, it could be years before your felt needs replacing. Still, it’s nice to know if you can refelt an MDF pool table.
The truth is that it depends on the table. Not every MDF table out there can be refelted, although most full-size tables can. You’ll want to check with the manufacturer or the seller to see. And you’ll also want to consider if replacing the felt is worth it. If you’re going to hire someone to do the job, you’ll spend somewhere between $200 and $400 dollars, all told. For prices like this, you may just want to purchase a new MDF table.
Do the Pros Use MDF or Slate Tables?
You can probably guess the answer to this one, given all we’ve gone over in this article.
10 out of 10 pros will choose a slate table over an MDF table. Slate is the gold standard of pool table playing surfaces, and it has been for almost 200 years.
However, most pros will also say that any table is better than none. So if an MDF table is the best option for you, there’s nothing wrong with that. Develop your skills on an MDF table while you save up or plan for a slate table. Once you get on the slate, you’ll already have the basics down and you can excel from there!
MDF Pool Table Recommendation
Here’s an MDF table that I recommend to anyone looking for a quality table that won’t break the bank:
- 2 Cues
- 15 Numbered Balls
- 1 Cue Ball
- 1 Triangle Rack
- 2 Pieces of Chalk
- 1 Felt Brush
This table comes with everything you need to start playing. The playing surface is laminated to help prevent warping and it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
It’s easy to assemble and weighs just under 223 pounds so it’s sturdy without being extremely heavy. If you keep this in a humidity and temperature-controlled environment, you can get many years of play out of it.