Pool tables seem to range so drastically in price, how do you know what to think when buying one? The answer is very simple. Pool table cost can be broken down into a few main areas.
When considering purchasing a pool table a person should consider the life of the table and think about the cost over that period of time. Internet retailers, and others, sell tables they falsely claim are made out of maple or oak. The reality is, they are made in China out of the most easily available materials to keep costs low. Southwest China birch, commonly referred to as maple by retailers, and Chinese rubberwood (looks like oak) are high-fire kiln dried materials that are clear cut, milled, and dried as quickly as possible to keep the price of it low to manufacturers (approximately 55 cents/board foot after milling). The material is very prone to cracking and warping, as most of us have seen with many products that we have bought that are made in China, because when it is kiln dried so rapidly the moisture content in the wood is very inconsistent. The spray finish used to hide the inferior wood looks good to start with but in a very short time frame the wood begins to dry out, resulting in cracking and shrinking. Soon the spray finish chips off and looks terrible.
North American rock maple and oak are selectively logged and low-fire kiln dried over the course of weeks to ensure very consistent moisture content and allow for a nice rub finish that will never peel off or crack. Of course this process is much more time consuming and costly than the Chinese method so the cost of it is also much higher ($5-$7 per board foot after milling). These woods are also by nature much harder than Chinese woods so they withstand much more impact from balls, cues, belt buckles, etc. and therefore last much longer.
This difference in cost of these woods translates into $200-$400 per table, but the tables made out of these superior woods will literally last generations. As a result, the relatively low up front cost of the upgrade to real North American oak or maple pays dividends over the life of the pool table.
Many retailers tell customers their tables are made of North American materials. Ask for proof, if they can't provide it, they are lying about the material. Seeing the components of the table unfinished is one way to tell what the wood is, assuming you have knowledge in different woods. Seeing the actual invoice at time of purchase of the material is the only true way. Internet retailers and others do not buy the material for the tables they sell, the Chinese factories do. As a result, these retailers actually have no idea what the table is made of! North American materials are even more expensive in China than they are in North America, so Chinese factories simply cannot buy the material, build the table, and sell it to retailers that offer it for Bargain prices. Simple math makes it impossible to do and remain profitable.
Labour costs are another factor that affect table prices. Chinese wages are much lower than wages in North America, so products can be built for less in China. The manufacturing done in China can be very poor or very good, depending on the factories and workers in them. The biggest problem with buying products from Chinese factories, other not supporting the Canadian economy, is that it is a roll of the dice on whether they were built in an old factory or a state of the art one, and, of course, the fact that they use exclusively Chinese woods.
Also, more elaboarte tables tend to require more labour; therefore the cost of them is higher.
Often retailers will make claims that they are cutting out the middle man and that is how the price is so low. The reality is, they are a middle man! Buying a table directly from the manufacturer is the only true way to cut out the middle man. While there is some truth to middle men, it is only for very large name brands that have regional distributors that this applies. Most very large name brands go through several regional distributors before they hit the showroom floor so they are marked up considerable along the way. As a result, to get a comparable table to a Pathmark custom, for example, can cost more than twice as much.
Another factor in the price of a pool table is the slate (Chinese versus Brazilian and Italian). Slate is very simple: rock is rock! The hard part is diamond honing it to perfection to a truely level playing surface. While Chinese slate is cheaper, the machinery used to diamond hone it is typically very dated and requires a ton of maintenance to keep it preforming at the level required to produce truely level slate. The Italians have the most state of the art machinery for diamond honing slate and are the owners of the reputable Brazilian factories so either country's slate are comparable.
Cloth is the next highest cost in a table. North American and Italian made cloths are the best. The weave is much tighter than Indian and Chinese cloth, but, as with most things, the cost is much higher for North Amerian or Italian cloth. The life of the cloth warrants getting better cloth, though, as high quality cloth will likely last 10 times as long as low quality cloth.
Finally, the installation of the table cannot be overlooked. If a company other that the company you are buying the table from is installing the table for you, we suggest you think twice. The two companies play "pass the buck" if there is a warranty issue. Here's the most common scenario when somebody contacts the retailers over a warranty issue: "Sorry that's an installation issue, call your installer." Then the customer calls the installer and hears: "Sorry, I don't warranty your table".
We hope this helps your decision in purchasing a pool table. Please Contact Us if you have any further questions.