Pool tables come in many shapes and sizes. You can get a mini pool table for under $100 dollars or a 9-foot pool table for upwards of $5,000. But, most quality pool tables are somewhere between $1,800 and $3,000. To many, those kinds of prices are a little steep. So in this article, I aim to answer the question: Why are pool tables so expensive?
Pool tables are expensive for a variety of reasons. There’s a wide range of prices for slate tables. Some tables are collectors items and others are made with exotic materials. But for the most part, pool tables are made from slate, which is a heavy type of rock. This, combined with the other materials of the table, make them a little pricey.
But, with proper care, slate tables can last a very long time, making them an investment instead of an expense.
Expensive Pool Table Materials
To give you a better idea of why pool tables are so expensive, let’s take a look at the materials that are essential for a long-lasting and quality pool table.
Does Slate Increase the Cost?
The pool table’s playing surface is a large portion of the cost of a table. Slate has been used for over 200 years and we’ve yet to find a better playing surface. Pool is a game of precision, so the table must be flat and level all the way across. Otherwise, the balls will start doing strange things and consistency will go out the window.
The typical slate for a pool table weighs around 450 pounds. Harvesting and transporting these heavy pieces of slate is one of the big reasons for the high cost. Now, let’s look at the other materials and their cost contribution.
Most home pool tables are made with a wood frame, built to support the weight of the slate for years to come. This wood must be sturdy and of high quality. Although not as significant as the slate, this adds to the cost.
Without good, heavy-duty hardware, the wood frame wouldn’t be able to stay together to hold up the slate and keep the table level. This is another factor that contributes to a pool table’s price.
Pool table felt, sometimes called billiard cloth, is another price factor. Quality cloth will resist stains and can go years without needing to be changed. Good pool table felt generally retails for $150 to $200.
Bumpers are also an important factor. The best bumper material is 100% rubber. Other synthetic rubbers are often used, but they can affect how the balls bounce. It’s also common for inferior bumpers to lose their elasticity over time.
Pool Table Design and Engineering
Aside from materials, the design and engineering of a pool table also contribute to the cost. Like any other product, the cost of design and construction are included in the price.
Leveling the Slate
A pool table is a piece of furniture, but it’s not like a couch or a desk. Since the whole point of the table is to have a level and smooth playing surface, pool table manufacturers need to make sure this happens. The best slate tables are designed so that the playing surface is level to within a thousandth of an inch. Although this is typically done by machines, it does contribute to the high cost.
In addition, most home tables come with three separate pieces of slate. This makes the table easier to move when disassembled. But it also means that the three pieces of slate need to be perfectly level with each other to avoid having a crease or small ledge in the table. This is part of the engineering that goes into a pool table, and it definitely contributes to the cost.
Bumpers and Pockets
The bumpers and the pockets are also important when it comes to design and engineering. The bumpers need to be able to line up straight with the pockets so that there’s consistent bounce all across the table. If one bumper is slightly off, it can change the trajectory of the balls that hit it.
Pockets also need to be designed with certain specifications in mind. If a pocket is too large or too small, it can affect gameplay. Needless to say, pool table manufacturers have this down to a science, but it still costs a pretty penny to have it all come together.
A stable pool table is one that will last a lifetime or more. From the legs to the frame to the slate and rails, stability is essential. A table that moves or wobbles when you bump it with your hip is a table that is poorly made or improperly assembled. So this factor must be considered throughout the entire manufacturing process.
Pool tables come in a wide variety of different styles. They can come with different features that can affect the price. Exotic woods and custom designs on the legs and rails can raise the price. So can a ball return, specialty felt, custom LED lighting, and dozens of other features.
Some companies even include the price of delivery and installation in the total cost of the table, raising the price significantly. But not every company does this, so make sure to check.
My point is that it’s possible to find tables in the tens of thousands of dollars. But at a certain point, you’re no longer paying for the table itself, you’re paying for bells and whistles and custom features. Nothing wrong with that, just realize that you don’t have to break the bank to get a good pool table.
Are Cheaper Pool Tables Any Good?
At this point, you may be wondering if an expensive table is really worth it. There are cheaper tables on the market. Tables under $1000 that are made with MDF (wood), plastic, or a combination of the two instead of slate.
Since these tables are made without slate, they are generally made to be less sturdy. Instead of pure wood for the frame, they’re often made with engineered wood products. So whether you buy an expensive table comes down to what you want out of the table.
Should You Buy a Slate Table?
A good non-slate table will run you somewhere between $500 and $900 and will last you ten years or so if you take excellent care of it.
- Distinctive arcade-style designed 7-foot billiard table with distinguished electric-blue playing surface
- Play as if you were at your pool league, in the comfort of your home, with the easy ball return outfitted on this tasteful table
- Equipped with 3/4" MDF playing surface, rubber bumpers, and leg-levelers to keep your pool table level even on uneven flooring
- Includes two pieces of chalk, resin triangle, two 57" two-piece billiard cues, and set of 2-1/4" billiard balls
- Dimensions: 84" L x 46-1/2" W x 31" H; Playfield measures 75" L x 37-1/2" W
A mid-range slate table will run you around $2300 and last you a few decades or more with minimal care.
When you think about it this way, many slate pool tables aren’t really that expensive. If you’re looking for the real deal and you plan on using the pool table for years to come, invest in a slate table. Otherwise you’ll find that you have to drop another $700 or so when your non-slate table warps or becomes unplayable.
Of course, if you’re only looking to get a few good years out of the table, and you’re on a tight budget, going for the non-slate table may be the best bet for you.
I hope this has helped you in some small way. Thanks for reading!